Freshwater (Rivers, Lakes, fisheries and Wetlands)

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Zambezi River, Upper Zambezi
© WWF/Frans SCHEPERS
Freshwater is one of the key thematic areas of focus for WWF Zambia’s interventions in Zambia. Freshwater can be defined as water with less than 0.5 parts per thousand of dissolved salts. (Seawater or Brine has more than 50 parts per thousand).

The ultimate source of freshwater in Zambia is rain and catchment areas.

Freshwater systems consist of rivers, streams, lakes, ponds, groundwater, cave water, springs, floodplains, and wetlands (bogs, marshes, and swamps).

Freshwater provides water for drinking, sanitation, agriculture, industry, transport, electricity generation and recreation. It also creates habitats for a diverse range of animals and plants species.

We cannot live without freshwater.

Zambia is endowed with the most abundant surface and ground water resources among the Southern African countries with about 45% of the water supplies of the total water resources of Southern Africa.

Zambezi River Basin
The mean annual runoff is around 100 billion cubic metres while 60 billion cubic metres is stored in rivers, lakes, streams and wetlands.

The current water potential in the country is enough to meet the present water demand of a population of 13 million.

However, most of the country’s water resources need to be developed if they are to meet the demand for different productive uses in all areas.

The poor distribution of surface water in many parts of the country especially the southern half results in local shortages.

Access to sufficient and clean water is critical to the general development of the country, as it contributes to wealth creation, poverty reduction and disease prevention.

Challenges
Among the key challenges faced by the water sector in Zambia include:
  • Ineffective land use planning;
  • Alteration of natural flow regimes of rivers as a result of dam constructions.
  • Inadequate systems to monitor and control water pollution, river bank cultivation, deforestation and destruction of catchment areas/headwaters;
  • Inadequate protection and management of catchment areas and wetlands;
  • Increasing threat of invasive species;
  • Increasing threats from climate change and variability;
  • Inadequate waste management systems (dump sites, waste water treatment); and
  • Overfishing and use of wrong fishing gear
     
WWF Zambia is committed to ensuring that catchment areas and wetlands as sources of clean water are protected. Through strategic partnerships with the private sector such as industries, WWF Zambia is determined to stop the pollution of freshwater sources such as rivers, lakes and catchment areas.

WWF Zambia’s interventions in freshwater includes the Joint Zambezi River Basin Environmental Flows (E-Flows) Programme covering Zambia, Zimbabwe and Mozambique and the Zambia Wetlands Programme.

The Zambezi River Basin E-Flows programme aims to restore the natural flow of the rivers in the wake of dam constructions along the main rivers for the benefit of the environment, and the people.

Through Zambia Wetlands programme, WWF Zambia is committed to ensuring that wetlands as important sources of clean water and habitats for important species are well managed for the benefit of local communities and ecosystems.

Partners for Freshwater
  • National Heritage and Conservation Commission (NHCC)
  • Zambezi River Authority
  • Ministry of Energy and Water Development
  • Department of Water Affairs (DWA)
  • Fisheries Department (Ministry of Agriculture)
  • Zambia Electricity Supply Corporation (Zesco)
  • Zambia Environmental Management Agency (ZEMA)
  • WWF Netherlands (Funding partner)
  • Universities in Zambia, Zimbabwe and Mozambique

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