| Green Growth Strategy |
04 February 2022

Six ways Rwanda is being water wise in the face of climate change

Access to water underpins public health and is critical to sustainable development. Availability of water is also critical for any country’s prosperity. In Rwanda, significant progress has been made  to improve access to water by protecting water resources, preventing pollution, and mitigating flooding.

The progress made on water access and supply has been achieved through Integrated Water Resource Management, which has contributed to achieving Rwanda’s Green Growth and Climate Resilience Strategy.

Here are six ways Rwanda is being water wise in the face of climate change.

  1. Establishment of the Rwanda Water Resources Board 

The Rwanda Water Resources Board was established in 2020 to ensure the availability of sufficient and well managed water resources for sustainable development. The government institution is implementing national policies, laws and strategies related to water resources, overseeing integrated planning of water resources, catchment restoration and erosion control, flood management and water storage development. 

The board will also oversee water use efficiency and quality management. The creation of the Rwanda Water Resources Board demonstrates the government's commitment to being water wise and the importance of water resources in the country’s socio-economic transformation.

Learn more about the Rwanda Water Resources Board at www.rwb.rw

  1. Creation of Water Permit System

Rwanda’s water resources are under increasing pressure and the country needs to know how much water is used, by whom, and where. Once known, this can be measured against how much water is actually available for use and manage use efficiently and sustainably.

Rwanda’s water law on the use and management of water resources gives the Rwanda Water Resources Board the tools to gather the information needed for the optimal management of water resources. The water permits system is one of these tools.

Why Water Permits?

  • Water Resources Management: To manage the water resources effectively and efficiently for optimal beneficial use of water for economic development of the country.
  • Fair Share Allocation: To be able to allocate water, the water resources managers must know both how much water is available, and how much is already being used.
  • Environmental Protection: Water resources managers must ensure that water use is efficient, is well planned, and that pollution is reduced to a minimum. When allocating water resources for different uses, water resources managers have to make sure that water for environmental flow remains available.

The Water Permit System is a web application that enables water users to apply for a water permit. The permit system aids in the proper management of water resources. Rwanda’s Water Permit system can be accessed at www.waterpermit.rwb.rw

  1. Water storage capacity initiatives

Rwanda has a relatively high average rainfall of 1,200 mm annually, making rain water harvesting an attractive alternative source of water to meet increasing demands for human needs, socio-economic development as well as environmental protection. Despite this, Rwanda is considered a water scarce nation due to limited storage capacity.

A number of projects have been implemented to deliver on this priority and have

informed the potential scale-up of rainwater harvesting across the country. 

 

According to the recent Water Storage Status Report, three main artificial storages are considered in Rwanda. These include water ponds used for small scale irrigation, valley dams for livestock watering and dams used for irrigation and hydropower generation.

The report showed that Rwanda currently has 1,414 water ponds with a storage capacity of 131,603 m3, 77 valley dams capable of storing more than 8 million m3 of water volume, and 50 dams with an estimated water storage capacity of more than 75 million m3. Efforts are underway to scale up the country’s water storage capacity, and improve rainwater harvesting from residential areas.

  1. Impact of Water for Growth and IUCN Programmes 

Water for Growth Rwanda

The Water for Growth Rwanda programme was a four-year, joint Rwanda-Netherlands initiative that supported the Ministry of Environment to implement an integrated approach to water management. The goal was to achieve equitable, efficient and environmentally sustainable water resources.

W4GR developed catchment plans for 30% of the country’s surface area, including detailed water allocation plans that are mapped out across different time horizons up to 2050. Rwanda now knows exactly how much water can be allocated to irrigation, industry, livestock, domestic water supplies and to the environment. This quantitative information illustrated likely water scarcity, and the need to revise the irrigation master plan and policy on food production.

The programme also helped to establish the new Water Resources Board, which is managing water allocation to prevent disputes, improve water quality, restore catchment areas, control erosion and plan for floods and droughts.

Integrated Water Resources Management Programme - IUCN

The goal of the Integrated Water Resource Management (IWRM) programme is to implement sustainable water and wetland management and mainstream ecosystems approach into IWRM processes in order to support poverty reduction, equitable development, resilience to climate change and conservation of biological diversity.

The programme will implement sustainable water and wetland management and mainstream ecosystems approach into IWRM processes in order to support poverty reduction, equitable development, resilience to climate change and conservation of biological diversity. The programme has six strategic focus areas:

  • Water governance and management
  • Investment in natural water infrastructure
  • Water for development
  • Knowledge development and management
  • Collaborative partnerships
  • Climate change, gender, people and rights
  1. Improving flood management in urban areas

A number of initiatives have been carried out to address flooding in Kigali and other major cities. The Rwanda Water Resources Board has established 15 telemetry stations that provide data on water levels in real time. This helps to monitor drains and other flood hotspots, which enables early warning systems to be activated. 

More than 40 drainage systems have been constructed, a city-wide assessment to identify vulnerable households living in flood prone areas has been conducted and more than 5,000 families living in high-risk zones have been relocated to safer areas.

  1. Protection and restoration of urban wetlands

Wetlands degradation and pollution has significantly impacted water quality and quantity. A declining capacity of wetlands to provide critical ecosystem services results in increased flooding and lives lost, damage to infrastructure, reduced productivity, and silting of water bodies. That is why Rwanda has prioritised wetland restoration, especially in urban areas. 

The country has recorded a number of achievements in wetlands management, including:

  • Restoration activities of important wetland ecosystems. For example, the restoration of Rugezi Wetland since 2005 has seen it gain its status as a Ramsar Site and earned a Green Globe Award in 2010.
  • Major ongoing wetland rehabilitation projects including the Rwanda Urban Development Project II (RUDPII), the Mapping and Categorization of all Wetlands and the relocation of Gikondo Industrial Zone out of the wetland to a more suitable location. 
  • More than 6,000 commercial activities (car garages, vehicle parking and factories) and household activities have been relocated from urban wetlands for them to be rehabilitated.
  • The development of a wetland masterplan has shown that at least 15 square kilometres, accounting for 20% of city wetlands, will be rehabilitated, while 29% have been recommended for sustainable utilisation, 38% for conservation, and the remainder for recreational purposes.

Another key achievement is the creation of the Nyandungu Urban Wetland Eco-Tourism Park implemented by Rwanda Environment Management Authority with investment from the Rwanda Green Fund, UN Environment Program and the Italian Government. The eco-tourism park sits on 120 hectares of land in Kigali and features ornamental ponds, gallery forests, medicinal plant gardens, paved walkways and cycle lanes, restaurants, information center, and other recreational services.

The project is designed not only to provide social and economic benefits to the community but also support innovative approaches to restore and conserve wetland ecosystems, and promote the sustainable management of natural resources.

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