Over the years, users of raw water, especially irrigators have been questioning the rationale behind paying for the untreated water they draw from Zinwa managed dams or other Zinwa controlled water bodies around the country.
A number of them have even resisted paying their water bills or to at least sign water abstraction agreements, arguing that water was a natural resource, which does not need to be paid for, let alone managed and controlled by any one.
On the other hand, the same quarters were also arguing that Zinwa was not doing any visible work in maintaining dams dotted around the farming areas.
In essence, the last bit of this argument answers all the other questions that the farmers raise.
It is quite important that water users pay for the water and services they get from Zinwa as the same money they pay is channelled towards the maintenance of water infrastructure from which their economic and social activities rely.
In terms of the principles of the Integrated Water Resources Management, water should be seen not only as a social good but as an economic one.
This entails water users contributing towards the maintenance and upkeep of the water bodies and water infrastructure they derive an economic benefit from through paying their bills. In short water bodies should be self financing and self sustaining. This self sustenance can only be achieved when raw water users pay their water bills.
It is therefore quite disheartening to note that of the over $100 million that Zinwa is owed by it various clients, raw water users in the form of local authorities and irrigators continue to account for more than 50 percent of the amount.
It will be folly and unsustainable for raw water users to expect Zinwa to invest resources generated from other endeavours such as clear water sales into the maintenance of dams and other raw water conveyance infrastructure.
Users should also fully appreciate that they had to meet the Government and Zinwa half way especially after the Government has already invested hundreds of millions of dollars in the construction of dams since independence.
Government has invested in the construction of dams such Tugwi- Mukosi, Bubi-Lupane, Mutshabezi, Matezva, Osborne, Ruti and is currently constructing Gwayi-Shangani Dam, Marowanyati Dam, Semwa Dam, Tuli-Manyange Dam and Chivhu Dam. These projects present a massive investment in water resources infrastructure by Government.
On completion, it is quite ideal for the people using water from these water bodies to then play their part in making the assets self sustaining and self maintaining.
When dams are not maintained, there is a risk of them breaching and getting washed away.
When dams breach, such a happening usually result in massive damage to infrastructure such as buildings, energy and transport infrastructure. When dams give, in, they also pose a serious risk to both human and animal life.
Cases where dams have breached are always a sad tale of destruction of property, loss of human life and the reversal of all the investments that would have been made towards putting up that infrastructure.
To this end, all these calamities can only be avoided when water users pay for water and contribute to the maintenance of the water bodies they use.