South Africa and Zimbabwe sign water sharing agreement

22 Mar 2024 by The Water Diplomat

Beit Bridge

On the 14th of March, South Africa’s Minister for Water and Sanitation Minister Senzo Mchunu and Zimbabwe’s Minister of Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries and Rural Development, Dr Anxious Masuka signed an agreement for the transfer of treated water from Zimbabwe to South Africa.

In terms of the agreement, the Beitbridge Water Treatment Works in Zimbabwe will supply Musina Local Municipality in South Africa with 15 million m³ of treated water per year. The water will be transferred through a 20 km pipeline Beitbridge Water Treatment Works to Musina, which is located at some 15 km from the border. The capacity of the Beitbridge Water Treatment Plant 35 million m³/annum and this capacity is currently not fully utilized in Zimbabwe: only 10% of its current capacity is being used for Beit Bridge, a rapidly growing border town on the Zimbabwean side of the border. South Africa’s Department of Water and Sanitation had previously indicated that the construction of water storage infrastructure and water treatment plants would be a relatively expensive option in comparison with importing water. 

The agreement is the product of the bilateral agreement of cooperation on water resources management, and the establishment and functioning of the Joint Water Commission established by the two countries in 2015.

The transfer of treated water from Beitbridge Water Treatment Works in Zimbabwe to Musina, Limpopo, is a medium-term solution to address water supply challenges in the area. The population of Musina – approximately 132,000 people had been suffering from water supply challenges for a long time due to ageing and problematic infrastructure. In 2022, protests broke out in Musina following an unannounced water cut-off by the Vhembe District Municipality. This cut off had been the result of leakages along the main pipeline that supplies Musina with water. The municipality has a total of 36 boreholes which supply the town’s water reservoir, but 19 of these boreholes are out of service.  In 2023 residents confronted the minister, who was on a visit to the town to discuss the water problems, following weeks of water shortages, demanding a solution.

South African water Minister Mchunu has welcomed the signing of the present agreement and assured the community of Musina that the transfer of water from Beitbridge will alleviate water supply challenges in the area.

In terms of the agreement, an implementation plan will be set in motion in which the construction of a pipeline and pump stations will commence, to enable the water transfer to commence. The two implementing agents to oversee the construction projects include the South African Development Bank and the Zimbabwe National Water Authority. The project is expected to be completed in 2026.