Clean and safe water touches every day aspect of life. It is unfortunate that there is uncertainty over access to and the availability of this basic resources in some parts of Zanzibar, both urban and rural areas.
Since Zanzibar is now undergoing dramatic shifts caused by growing economy and population, naturally the demand for this precious liquid will increase in the future.
In some areas, it is normal to see long queues of men, women and children with plastic water pots. This highlights the problem of water scarcity and the long waits that people endure to get a few liters of clean water.
In other areas, water is occasionally supplied in the middle of the night and as a result women and children are deprived of sleep and this affects their productivity and studies.
At times, as we recently witnessed at Nungwi in Zanzibar North, between the villagers and the hoteliers, the water shortage can threaten peace in a community during the scramble for the few liters available from the pumping station which is a few kilometers from the village.
Apart from the problems experienced for lack of water for home use the water shortage has wide-ranging implications for the country’s future politically, economically and socially.
If no immediate action is taken, there could be dire consequences, such as the spread of communicable and water-borne diseases related to unsafe water.
Water shortage leads to poor sanitation, lack of safe drinking water, and overcrowding at water sources. This is a perfect combination for epidemics of infectious diseases like cholera, typhoid and diarrhea.
A simple survey shows the serious shortage of clean and safe water in some areas of the islands is caused by a combination of factors, some of them simple but have very serious consequences.
When children, especially girls, have to drop out of school to help their mothers collect water and perform other household tasks, they are denied their right to education, a fundamental human right.
There is no argument that Zanzibar receives enough rain every year to meet the needs of its population of around 1.6 million people.
But too much water is wasted because of inefficiency and misuse.The situation is particularly dire in many parts of the towns and their suburbs,as well as in some villages which have springs and thousands of liters of water underground.
There are water leakages almost everywhere and the Zanzibar Water Authority(ZAWA) sometimes take months to repair and this leads to waste of thousands of gallons of clean water a day.
It seems there is little seriousness to reduce the leakages despite public responses of informing ZAWA about the problem.
In some places there are pools of dirty and stinking water for as long as three to four weeks due to leaking pipes tap and toilets which are unhygienic due to bacteria formation thereby causing a threat to the health of the people living around.
On the other hand, leaking taps, toilets and hidden pipes behind the walls are a serious plumbing problem, yet many household owners or those supposed to look after them choose to turn a blind eye to that constant dripping until the water gets above their heads.
Tanks of some of the vehicles which supply water to homes, hotels, offices and factories which experience water shortage also have leaking tapes which waste several liters of water on the way.
Perhaps they drop as many as 50 to 60 liters of water on a single trip, depending on the distance they cover and the time they use to reach their distribution point.
Unless these problems are solved Zanzibar will for long continue to experience serious water shortages which can be put to a halt if serious efforts are made to control the situation.
A single dripping tap can waste more than 10,000 liters of water every months! Imagine how much water is being wasted with your multiple taps, toilets and pipes leaking in your home, office or on the main distribution pipe line.
Leakage problems demands comprehensive solutions, not only quick fix repairs.
There should be a well planned inspection programme of burst pipes and leakages which demand comprehensive solutions, not only quick fix repairs.
Sometimes these pipes burst simply because of high water pressure from the pumping station to the households.
But there have also been reports that some of the pipes used in the distribution system are of poor quality.
We have to keep an eye on the procurement process because latest reports have given indications of corrupt practices in many public sectors.
At the same time Zanzibar must now, like many other countries with a growing economy and population explosion to take water-harvesting during both the short and long rains as a priority, along-side mechanisms for groundwater replenishment.
ZAWA and the media must also make joint efforts of educating the public on the need to change consumption and lifestyles. These include practice of ignoring the leakages inside and outside our homes.
Many countries nowadays recycle waste water. Zanzibar must also think of having such a project in the future so that the recycled waste water can at least be used to wash cars and for irrigation