Malawi: Wet land, dry taps, and plenty of opportunities

 Malawi: Wet land, dry taps, and plenty of opportunities

Malawi: Wet land, dry taps, and plenty of opportunities.

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Twenty percent of Malawi’s total area is covered by 18 water resource areas comprising of key river basins that are further sub-divided into individual river catchments. Lake Malawi dominates the country’s water catchments with a total size of 28,750 km2 and accounting for 95 percent of all surface water resources in the country.

The mean annual rainfall in Malawi ranges between 500 mm in low-lying marginal rainfall areas, such as the Shire Valley and some areas along the Lakeshore plain, to well over 3,000 mm on high altitude plateaus, such as Nyika plateau.

Basking under such statistics, the country’s annual water availability stands at 65,341 mega-liters per day, or approximately 1.7 mega-liters per person, figures which fluctuate during the dry or wet seasons. This makes Malawi “water vulnerable” according to international standards.

Of the ninety percent of the water runoff that occur in rivers and streams, only 0.1 percent is estimated to be captured for later use

Despite the country being endowed with significant volumes of water in its lakes and rivers, climate change and human activity have seriously affected critical water resource use such as public water supply and sanitation, hydropower generation and irrigation schemes.

Rain unreliability limits agricultural productivity and access to water for people in a country, where “ultra” poverty rate is 22 percent and economy is largely dependent on agriculture. The country is currently exploring groundwater for irrigation, industrial and domestic purposes, according to the Water Association of Malawi (WASAMA).

It is now more important than ever that as population increases and irrigation expansion plans materialize, government must identify types of investments necessary to meet water demands and put in place strong water resources management tactics.

Responding to the need, government has in the past year focused on water resources management and development through increased coverage of the population with safe drinking water in urban and town centers serviced by the Water Boards from 3.4 million to 3.6 million.

In his 2021/2022 budget statement, President Lazarous Chakwera announced plans to:

  • Rehabilitate and extend Mangochi Water Supply Scheme and upgrade Liwonde – Balaka Water Supply Scheme under Southern Region Water Board;
  • Implement the Lilongwe Water Supply and Sanitation Project and the raising of Kamuzu Dam 1 to increase water supply and coverage within Lilongwe; and
  • Commence the construction of a new water source to augment the existing water sources for Blantyre City

Meanwhile, according to the Malawi Investment Trade Centre (MITC), the country also a number of water projects that interested investors can pounce on. These include;

  1. The Bwanje Valley Dam which is touted to be one of the biggest dams in the Southern Africa region.
  2. The rehabilitation and upgrading of Likuni water supply system estimated to cost US$ 5.4 million) which is intended to address the water supply market for Lilongwe Water Board which has grown tremendously over the past years due to rapid urbanisation as well as population and economic growth of Lilongwe City.
  3. The Lilongwe Water Board infrastructure development project aims at increasing the production of potable water with 30,000 cm³ /day (from 125,000 m³ /day to 155,000 m³ /day) in order to meet the water supply requirements of Lilongwe City up to 2022.

The USD20 million project will enhance an increase in customer base with additional 250,000 population equivalents in Lilongwe City requiring extension of water supply services. The project in which the Lilongwe Water Board is prepared to retain 20% of the investment cost seeks private sector participation on build Own Operate and Transfer (BOOT) or Build Operate Transfer (BOT)

  1. Due to supply deficit against projected demand Lilongwe Water Board intends to construct (through a public private partnership in which the board will retain 20 percent of the investment cost) a US$ 45million dam and associated treatment works on Ntofu River to improve the water supply continuity for the Northern part of the Lilongwe City.
  2. Construction ofU$378.9 million Diamphwe River, Lambilambi River and Mzimba river multipurpose dams on a build, operate and maintain basis to be paid under a Public-Private Partnership framework. This opportunity entails the construction of multipurpose dams to supplement water demand for domestic use, irrigation, energy generation, industrial use, tourism and fisheries in designated places in Malawi.
  3. Blantyre Water Board intends to increase daily water production and water storage for its industrial, commercial, institutional and domestic customers. In order to achieve this it is seeking a financier for a project estimated at US$ 165.57 million involving construction of a new raw water intake on Shire River including an additional water treatment plant, two high-lift pumping stations at Walkers Ferry on Shire River and Chileka in Blantyre and transmission mains to water storage reservoirs.
  4. TheCentral Region Water Board under the Kasungu Water Supply Scheme proposes to develop a Build Operate Own and Transfer US$ 48,401,500 reliable multipurpose water dam on Bua River at Kwengwele, install 22,500 m3/day capacity water intake and treatment plant, 4800m3 storage tank and a pump station to meet the water demand of Kasungu district.
  5. The Central Region Water Board proposes to embark on a dam construction project on Kasangadzi River at Kanyungu confluence in Dowa district for the population of the districts fastest growing trade centre Mponela under a Build Operate Own and Transfer after 20 years partnership.
  6. In 2007, the Central Region Water Board (CRwB) established Dwangwa Water Supply Scheme to supply water to Dwangwa residents in Nkhotakota district. However, the Scheme is experiencing a lot of problems like deteriorating water quality and high quantities of iron and manganese. The Board therefore proposes to enter into a 15 year Joint Venture to construct a USD 6,690,400.00 dam, treatment plant and water storage tank where government and the private sector will each own shares in the investment. After this period the government will retain its full management control of the water supply system.
  7. To increase coverage of safe potable water, CRWB intends to invest US$ 4,073,821 in development of reliable water source, water transmission and treatment improvement at Nkhande under the Ntcheu scheme of Central Region in Ntcheu District.

Charles Mkula

Charles Mkula has over 15 years of working as a Malawian newsroom news reporter and editor as well as a freelance journalist for a number of international news outlets, Charles Mkula has worked as a Public Relations Officer for a Malawi/Germany urban development project. He co-founded Hyphen Media Institute, a platform for sharing information generated from policy debate and advocacy activities. Charles likes reading, writing, traveling, exercises, making friends, listening to music, watching TV, documentaries and cartoons.

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