Water is a core development issue in Zimbabwe, a mostly semi-arid country with limited water resources. It is also an emotional topic.
Over the past decade, newspaper headlines have reflected a wide range of water challenges, from shortages to breakdowns in wastewater services to falling groundwater levels. Droughts affect rural and urban water supplies, food security, and energy production and industrial output and disrupt livelihoods. Recurring floods and cyclone-driven flooding damages property, infrastructure, livelihoods and lives. The country has also dealt with epidemics of cholera, typhoid, and other water-borne diseases, and surface and ground water pollution has been a concern.
Because of the intimate relationship between water and the country’s major economic sectors, sustainable water development and management is a necessary condition for economic recovery.
The World Bank Group is working with the Zimbabwe government to address climate threats and their implications for water availability by integrating sustainable water development and management into the country’s National Climate Change Response Strategy and into the proposed National Climate Policy.
Water, agriculture and energy sector impacts
A new World Bank Group paper on climate change and water resources planning, development and management in Zimbabwe, requested by the government, reviews the broad links between climate and the hydrological cycle and water management and case studies from cities, irrigation and hydropower projects and recommends a range of adaptation measures.
It projects by 2050 significant reduction is rainfall, river flows and groundwater recharge, with the highest impacts on the driest water catchments of southern Zimbabwe.
It encourages policymakers to develop an integrated climate change strategy for those sectors most affected by climate change: water and agriculture. It also recommends rehabilitating and expanding water supply and water resources infrastructure, focusing greater attention to the management and development of groundwater as well as improving water use efficiency, encouraging conservation and water recycling, and improving design standards to build resilience into infrastructure such as dams, levees and bridges, among other steps.
Promoting climate-smart rain-fed agriculture and rehabilitating and improving irrigation are urgent priorities for food security, particularly for the country’s most water-stressed areas in the south. About 80 percent of Zimbabweans depend on rain-fed agriculture, and the sector employs the majority of the population. The World Bank has agreed to support the preparation of a National Water Resources and Irrigation Master Plan integrating detailed climate change modeling and analysis into the planning process.