Bridging the gap in Zambia’s water network

Bridging the gap in Zambia’s water network

The town of Kazungula, Zambia, located at a convergence with Botswana, Zimbabwe and Namibia, is poorly serviced by water infrastructure. Yet its proximity to the world-class tourist attraction of Victoria Falls and the impending replacement of the ferry with the Kazungula Bridge means that expansion of existing services is urgently needed. This is especially critical in light of the impacts of climate change in the Zambezi river basin, which is already experiencing reduced water levels.

In May 2019, a five-person team from UK Aid visited the Kazungula Immediate Measures project, currently being implemented with CRIDF support, to monitor the progress being made with regard to the phased interventions leading up to 2030. The team toured the water treatment facilities with CRIDF staff and representatives of the local utility, Southern Water & Sewerage Co. (SWSCO).

The project aims to ensure the climate resilience of Kazungula as well as transboundary socioeconomic activities by improving water security and sanitation. The team had the opportunity to visit the water treatment plant, which has been upgraded with a new lab, dosing equipment and water tanks. A safe supply of water will offset the water and carbon footprints associated with imports and boost livelihood opportunities for local communities.

The team also visited the new, solar-powered ablutions block open 24 hours for traders and the truckers who will be using the new bridge (projected at 255 trucks/day). Its placement at this crucial border point will improve sanitation and reduce the disease burden, boosting commercial activities across the sub-region. Users were keen to share their appreciation with the team. A trucker at the site declared that the facilities were ‘very beautiful’, observing that they were much cleaner than the toilets they used previously, as well as being reasonably priced.

The volume of traffic makes for good business. As John Mukatamwene, the entrepreneur managing the block, said, ‘The customers are very happy. They are asking us, why can’t you extend? They’ve asked us to keep up the standards.’ The women workers who ensure the ablutions block meets such high standards benefit from the employment provided, too. ‘I used to really struggle before,’ one of them told the visitors.

The team then toured the intake site, where CRIDF has supported the installation of booster pumps. This will facilitate the expansion of the distribution network by 48 km to supply water to over 5,000 inhabitants in town, and a projected direct beneficiary population of 22,300 by 2030. Wallace Shawa, Acting Operations Director of SWSCO, informed the visitors that the current leakage rate stands at about 40%. ‘The immediate need has been to improve the quality of water provided,’ he explained, ‘but in doing that, we will see some improvement on the operational side.’ Conservation of water resources has never been so important, and with CRIDF support, the Kazungula Immediate Measures project aims to do just that.