At the opening of the water year, raw water users, inclusive of irrigating farmers are required to sign water abstraction agreements which allow them to draw water from the dams.
So as we approach the water year, farmers should use the month of March to draw up their water budgets for the year as they prepare for winter cropping. Fully appreciating their water needs for the year is a critical step towards controlling their raw water bills.
In the past, quite a number of farmers have found themselves saddled with huge irrigation water bills which some are now failing to pay owing to their inability to appreciate and understand the water requirements for their crops.
These farmers ended up committing themselves to water in excess of their real requirements and in turn accrued huge bills.
In terms of Statutory Instrument 206 of 2001, all people using raw water from Zinwa managed dams are required to enter into water abstraction agreements with Zinwa.
When one applies for an agreement, he or she states the amount of water which he or she expects to use during the period concerned and if the water is available in the dam, Zinwa reserves the corresponding allocation in the dam for the farmer. The water becomes exclusively available to the agreement holder and cannot be released to anyone else.
The agreement holder is therefore required to pay the full amount for the water allocated to him even in the event of him not using the full allocation. The principle behind this is for people not to unnecessarily hold water to the prejudice of others.
It also guards the resource against speculative tendencies by potential water users. This therefore requires that farmers and any other raw water user apply his mind well when applying for water allocations in dams.
However, over the years Zinwa has been facing difficulties convincing some raw water users to pay for their allocations as they argue that they would not have used the full allocation.
The bulk of these raw water users usually apply for more water than their actual requirements out of lack of knowledge or little appreciation of their real water needs.
At the end of the day, the user finds himself saddled with a water bill for the water he did not use but was committed to him to the prejudice of other potential users.
It is therefore prudent that before any raw water users, in particular farmers seek expert advice from agriculture extension officers in their respective areas on how much water they would require in a particular season.
Water requirements, even for the same crop, varies due to factors such as soil type and the obtaining weather patterns for a particular area and the extension workers are in a position to come up with authentic and useful figures to help farmers.
Of course there are some unscrupulous farmers who apply for huge amounts of water so that they can use the agreements to access bank loans and other inputs when at the end of the day they know they would not be needing the whole allocation.
Farmers are encouraged to desist from such practices and appreciate that water is a very strategic and finite resource which needs to be managed properly and should not be subject to speculative tendencies.
So as we navigate the current water year, raw water users should strive to make sure that they apply for the correct amounts of water to avoid the inconveniences associated with holding more than one can use.
Under the circumstances it is highly imperative that all raw water users adhere to the dictates of the country’s water laws, which compel them to have agreements and water permits to abstract water.
Raw water users should therefore approach their respective ZINWA Catchment offices for their agreements.