Climate-proofing water and energy supplies in the Zambezi River Basin

Climate-proofing water and energy supplies in the Zambezi River Basin

In May 2019, UK Aid representatives visited Livingstone, Zambia, where CRIDF is helping the Southern Water & Sewerage Co. (SWSCO) prepare a feasibility study as part of an application to the Green Climate Fund to climate-proof the city’s water supply and sanitation network.

Livingstone is especially vulnerable to climate change due to reductions in the water levels of the Zambezi River. The visiting team was able to confirm this by examining the existing infrastructure as well as gauging station markers and sewerage ponds. As Goodson Masheka, SWSCO Regional Manager, explained as he indicated the low water level in the storage tank on-site, ‘At this time of the year the water level used to reach right up to the top. But as the dry season approaches, the pump starts struggling because of the low water levels.’

In fact, Livingstone’s water supply network was not designed for such low levels. River run-off is predicted to reduce between 20% to 40% within this century – and demand is increasing in the city of 134,000 inhabitants. CRIDF hopes to support SWSCO in securing funding to ensure that water availability to Livingstone does not vary with fluctuating river levels. The project will improve the efficiency of the water supply network by reducing water losses and improving cost recovery. Greenhouse gas emissions will be reduced by the capture and use of methane as a source of affordable renewable energy, and the project aims to strengthen the institutional and technical capacity of SWSCO.

The team also visited the site of a water reservoir. A second reservoir has been proposed here to service the expanding population of Livingstone. This will be part of SWSCO’s extension of services to an area of Livingstone it doesn’t currently reach.

Wallace Shawa, Acting Operations Director of SWSCO, noted that the problems of water supply that the visitors observed are being experienced in other places as well. A more efficient approach to an increasingly scarce resource, including the conversion of waste to energy, could thus inspire other water utilities in the country to shift towards low carbon climate-resilient pathways. Capacity building under the proposed project will strengthen SWSCO’s ability to undertake climate-responsive planning, and knowledge-sharing through the Zambezi River Authority (ZRA) will disseminate lessons learned and best practices across the river basin. With CRIDF’s support, SWSCO’s application to the Green Climate Fund will be submitted in late 2019.