In 1998, a new Water Act and the Zimbabwe National Water Authority Act (ZINWA Act) were passed (SADC 2003d), representing a shift from centralised water management to a decentralised system of water management based on river basins and a strong degree of stakeholder participation. The Zimbabwe National Water Authority Act of 1998, Section 5(1)d, states a primary goal to (Mapedza & Geheb 2010):

“Promote an equitable, efficient and sustainable allocation and distribution of water resources”

The 1998 Water Act and the ZINWA Act replace the 1976 Water Act and mark the end of a controversial system of water rights allocations, which allowed for water for water rights to be granted in perpetuity and take precedence over new users (SADC 2003d).

The 1998 Water Act vests all water in the President, thereby removing the concept of private ownership of water. Water allocations are allocated through a permit system, which grants water use for a specific period of time (SADC 2003a). Other important elements of the 1998 Water Act are outlined below.

Key Aspects of the 1998 Water Act

“The 1998 Water Act This Bill introduced a number of new features in the management and use of the water resources of Zimbabwe. The essential features include:

  • The vesting of all water in the President, thus removing the concept of private ownership of water;
  • Removing the concept of water rights being real rights issued in perpetuity and attaching to the land in respect of which they are granted and in place of this a permit system under which sanctions the use of water for a specified period of time, but subject to review as circumstances may demand;
  • The recognition of the integrity of the hydrological cycle and hence removal of the differentiation in approach to the management of water between surface water and ground water;
  • The removal of the preferential rights to water previously held by riparian owners;
  • The conferring on catchment councils, set up to manage the use of water in the catchment areas under their jurisdiction, the power to issue the permits required for certain uses of water thus decentralising and removing this function from the Administrative Court to which appeals will now be made in certain circumstances;
  • Ensuring that catchment councils set up to manage river systems in their catchment areas are representative of all water users in the area concerned, the intention being that people in communal and resettlement areas be involved in water management;
  • Stipulating fees for applications for permits to use water and for the commercial use of water, the moneys from which will be used for the development of water resources;
  • Introducing charges for the permission to discharge any effluent into streams or water bodies and the revenue will be channeled into matters relating to water quality control.

Source: SADC 2003d

In 1995, the government initiated the Water Resources Management Strategy in order to introduce reforms within the water sector. The Water Resource Management Strategy process, initiated in 1995 and completed in 2000, resulted in a new national Water Policy and a National Water Pricing Policy and Strategy (SADC 2003d).

The reforms within the water sector were designed to reflect key Integrated Water Resource Management (IWRM) principles, including stakeholder participation, decentralisation, and making resources available for water development and water management (Nhira & Derman, 1997; Swatuk 2002).

The overall goal of the National Water Resources Policy is to (SADC 2003d):

“Promote the sustainable, efficient and integrated utilisation of water resources for the benefit of all Zimbabweans”.

This resulted in the division of the country into seven Catchment Councils, consisting of (Mapedza & Geheb 2010):

  • Gwayi
  • Manyame
  • Mazowe
  • Mzingwane
  • Sanyati
  • Save
  • Runde
Zimbabwe Catchment Councils


Under decentralisation, the Catchment Councils develop water outline plans, issue permits, regulate water use and perform other water-related activities as required by the central government (Mapedza & Geheb 2010). The Catchment Councils delegate some activities to the Sub-Catchment Councils, although these activities do not include allocating water permits. Water User Boards are below Sub-Catchment Councils and designed to be the most responsive to local water users, although they are not legal entities.


Institutional Responsibilities

The Department of Water in the Ministry of Rural Resources and Water Development maintains responsibility and oversight for the water sector. The Zimbabwe National Water Authority (ZINWA) is a parastatal, which acts as an operator and a regulator (SADC 2003a). ZINWA is responsible for the following functions at the national level (SADC 2003a):

  • Water planning and implementation
  • Management of public dams
  • Supply of bulk water to the agriculture, industrial and mining sectors
  • Supply of bulk water to urban centres
  • Coordination and supervision of the five catchment councils

The Ministry of Rural Resources and Infrastructural Development (MRRID) is the custodian of water rights and develops policies on water development (FAO 2005).

ZINWA is responsible for water supply to urban centres, while the municipalities supply water to smaller urban settlements. Rural water supply and sanitation is coordinated by the National Action Committee for Water and Sanitation, which is an inter-ministerial committee chaired by the Minister of Local Government (SADC 2003c.). Separating rural and urban domestic water supply into different ministries was identified by SADC (2003a) as leading to the rural water supply perspectives being isolated from the national water program.

The seven Catchment Councils established under the Zimbabwe National Water Authority Act are responsible for all aspects of water management within their responsive catchment areas. The Catchment Managers are employees of ZINWA, and not employed by the Catchment Council, which hinders the devolution of authority (Mapedza & Geheb 2010). Sub-Catchment Councils are under Catchment Councils and Water User Boards are the lowest tier.

Note: Please provide diagram showing institutional structures in Zimbabwe

Decentralised water institutions under the 1998 Water Act – insert diagram pending from Christina


Regulatory Framework for Transboundary Water Management

Zimbabwe is working closely with other members of SADC towards the cooperative management of the region’s river systems (FAO 2005b). The country is actively participating in the formation of the Limpopo and Zambezi basin commissions which will oversee joint management of these international rivers


Regulatory Framework for Disaster Management

The 1998 Water Act and the Water Policy also address the issue of natural disasters, including floods and droughts. However, the Civil Protection Act of 1989 is the legal instrument for disaster management and is focused on the prevention of disasters, and the linkage between disasters and development (UN Habitat/UNEP 2007). Under this Act, the responsibility for disaster management coordination is placed upon the Ministry of Local Government, Public Works and Urban Development, which advises the President regarding natural disasters. Currently, an Emergency Preparedness and Disaster Management Act being developed (UN Habitat/UNEP 2007).



The on-going political and economic instability is jeopardising the implementation of water resource management policies within Zimbabwe (SADC 2003a). ZINWA’s dual function of providing services and performing a regulatory role presents challenges. There was movement prior to the passing of the Water Act and ZINWA Act to establish an independent, professional regulatory body for water resource management and a water services regulator (SADC 2003a).

The decline in the agricultural sector due to the political and economic instability has significantly altered water demand and negatively impacted many of the fledgling catchment and river basin institutions, which has impacted the financing of water resource management due to the reduction in projected levy income (SADC 2003a).

The Catchment Managers are employees of ZINWA, and not employed by the Catchment Council, which hinders the devolution of authority (Mapedza & Geheb 2010).

Current ongoing initiatives.

LIMCOM's current ongoing interventions being undertaken