Rapid population growth to worsen water scarcity

Friday November 3 2017

Residents of Gatsata in Kigali queue for water at a stream on September 28, 2017. Photo by Cyril Ndegeya

Residents of Gatsata in Kigali queue for water at a stream on September 28, 2017. PHOTO | CYRIL NDEGEYA | NMG 

By JEAN-PIERRE AFADHALI
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Rwanda is facing a water scarcity due to rapid population growth, and inadequate investment in infrastructure in water storage, conservation and sustainable access.

A study presented at the recent Nile Basin Development Forum, which brought together experts to discuss water challenges in the Nile region, shows that Rwanda’s water scarcity started in 2007 and warns that shortages are likely to become more acute if interventions are not implemented now.

According to the figures presented last week, the country’s per capita water supply in 2007 was 1,002 cubic metres. But this reduced to 670 cubic metres in 2015.

According to indicators used to measure water availability, a per capita supply standing of between 500 and 1,000 cubic metres is considered scarcity status, while less than 500 cubic metres is considered absolute scarcity.

“The country does not have enough water to meet the population’s demand,” said Omar Habimana, a water data analyst for the World Bank and a lecturer of hydrology and water resources at University of Rwanda.

Dr Habimana led the data collection project, which was a partnership between the Ministry of Environment and the World Bank.

Official figures from the same study show water demand is projected to rise from 283 million cubic metres in 2012 to 2.2 billion cubic metres by 2040.

This means demand will increase by 791 per cent as the population is projected to double by 2050 and the quantity of water per person will reduce considerably.

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Meanwhile agriculture, industry, households, recreational and environmental activities have been cited as the main consumers of water.

Some measures suggested by experts include investment in water infrastructure such as construction of dams to store water and increase household water harvesting systems.

Rwanda Today learnt that the government got a loan from African Development Bank to invest in water infrastructure and increase access to water.

The country targets 100 per cent water access by 2017/2018, from the current 86 per cent access, according to data from Utility regulatory agency.
The study also recommended an increase in water productivity and conservation in addition to investment in infrastructure.