Uganda is not a country suffering from water shortage or water stress. Indeed, as many countries in Africa, Uganda has lot of water resources. However, 98% of these water resources are international and a water resources management with riparian countries is necessary.
Ugandan climate is equatorial with 2 wet seasons of 3 months each (March-April-May, the main one and September-October-November, the small one). Concerning rainfalls, they range from 900 mm per year in North-East, semi-arid area and 2000 mm in Victoria Lake. Moreover, Uganda has 3 big lakes in its boundaries (Lake Edward, Lake Albert and Lake Victoria) and one in its own territory (Lake Kyoga). Also, in the West of the country, on the border with Congo, the Rwenzori Mountain range rises over 5000 meters above sea level with everlasting snow. It’s also in this Mountain range that many tributaries of White Nile have their source before flowing into Uganda, Sudan and Egypt. This same water is bottled to be consumed in the whole Uganda under the name Rwenzori.
On average, Uganda has 66km3 of renewable water resources per year that means approximately 7000 liters per day and per inhabitant. Nevertheless, water resources distribution is spatially and temporally uneven. But, this unequal repartition doesn’t explain that in the mid of 2000, Ugandan inhabitant had only 12 to 14l/day in rural area and 17l/day in urban area. That amount is starling.
There is obviously a real lack of water resources management because water is not a scarce resource in this equatorial country. For the last 10 years, actions were carried for every Ugandan has access to drinkable water and toilets.
In Kampala, inhabitants buy bottles of water for their own consummation. Pipelines bring also non-drinkable water to town which is generally available 20 to 24 hours per day. However, when there are works on these pipelines all the network is cut for several days with the consequences we can imagine.
In rural area, women go to the nearest wells or source to collect water in canisters. After that, they use this precious water for laundry, cooking, washing or cleaning. This water is not drinkable. Moreover, sometımes women have to waıt a couple of hours to fill canister as in Nansana village, a few tens kilometers from the capital and where 50% of the population is living under the poverty line. Although the water is not potable, many Uganda people drink it without getting short-term bad effects.
In the poorest villages, there is only one dry toilet for a whole district (100 to 200 persons) and only one shower, like in Nansana. Also, people living close to White Nile or a lake use directly it for cleaning or washing in.
However, in the bigger institutions such hospitals or schools, large water collecting rain are sometimes installed to get rainfalls during wet seasons. In these cases, water is stored and used for daily life without going to wells. These large collecting rains are mostly used in Kampala and other big cities where it’s possible to get ones. .
Water Resources Management
Uganda has a water policy but is still in its infancy. Indeed, it’s a bit more than 10 years that Uganda has implemented a policy of Water Management at national level through the Ministry of Water and Environment that includes, among other Department of Water Resources Management (DWRM) and the Directorate of Water Development (DWD).
At the national level, EU funds have been mobilized to enable better management of the resource. For example, Germany (KfW Entwicklungsbank), France (French Development Agency), the European Investment Bank, the financing institution of the EU, and the EU-Africa Trust Fund have teamed up to improve water supply of 2 million people in Kampala. Also, another project funded by the same institutions has already begun and will strengthen the capacity of wastewater treatment and the overall distribution of drinking water for the majority of the inhabitants of the capital (European Investment Bank).
At the international level, management is much more important as 98% of water resources are transborder. Uganda is therefore getting part of the Nile Basin Initiative (NBI) and the Lake Victoria Basin Commission (LVBC).
Concerning the management of the White Nile, a hydroelectric dam, Bujagali barrage was completed in June 2012. This dam is the second one after the Owen Falls dam, which dates from 1954 and Uganda plans to build two more dams in the near future, in Karuma Falls and in Ayago, near Murchison Falls. These dams have the primary purpose of supplying electricity in the country but also for future agricultural projects and in case of drought. These constructions are now possible due to the treaty signed in 2010 by Ethiopia, Tanzania, Rwanda, Uganda, Burundi and Kenya (upstream countries of Nile).This treaty reorganized the terms of Water Management of the White Nile and decisions on the construction of large hydraulic structures.
The government’s priority in the near future is to provide to every Ugandan an access to a source of drinking water and sanitary.
Problems caused by lack of Water Management policy
On health: Cholera, diarrhea, typhoid, hepatitis … diseases related to unsafe water is the main cause of death worldwide.
On Environment: the majority of the waste water is discharged directly into the river which causes pollution of rivers also used for other activities. Also, erosion is very important when heavy rainfall as well as floods. Better management would also reduce these negative effects.
On Education: Access to clean water would save considerable time for all women going to wells or spring. This time could be spent on education.
On Development and Economy: Development of Uganda cannot improve if the water resource is not managed. This is a fundamental element for any development.
Climate changes are already being felt in Uganda. These changes cause a time lag in the beginning of the rainy season. In 2012, the main rainy season began in late April when it starts generally in the beginning of March. The consequences are poor harvests due to the difficulty of farmers to anticipate these changes; almost half of Ugandans depend on agriculture.
Another effect caused by climate changes is the emphasis in the difference of rainfalls: more near Victoria Lack and less in semi-arid areas.
Ugandan Development cannot progress if the water resource is not managed. This country is not in water stress given the many water resources available in its territory and in its borders. It’s therefore important that Uganda establishes a real management of water resources at the national and international perspective. Steps have already been taken, but this is insufficient to allow each Ugandan access to safe drinking water and sanitation.