Publication Date

Spring 2012

Program Name

Tanzania: Zanzibar: Coastal Ecology and Natural Resource Management


Zanzibar has been struggling with water scarcity issues over the last few decades due to an increase in consumption on the island and a deterioration of existing supply infrastructure. Poor distribution has affected rural communities most, due to their absence of tourism development, which has gone hand in hand with infrastructure establishment. Foreign aid has begun to address the issue by investing in alternative forms of water supply. On November 15, 2011, The Minister for Housing, Lands, and Water, Ali Juma Shamhuna inaugurated the Mörk desalin® RO 100 SW desalination machine, a solar and wind powered desalination unit in Chwaka village, which, previous studies have shown, suffers from salt contaminated wells (Sultan 2011) (Hansson 2008). This study sought to assess the viability of this alternative source of water in Chwaka. Research was conducted in Unguja, Zanzibar in the form of interviews with residents of the village of Chwaka, interviews with other individuals involved in rural water supply, and research of previous relevant studies. This preliminary research showed that Zanzibar’s issues with water scarcity stem more from mismanagement of the resource than lack of the resource itself. Soon after Zanzibar gained independence the government instituted a policy of free water distribution, which, in the long run, created an unsustainable standard of water as a free good. This ultimately led to a deterioration of the island’s water infrastructure. At the time of this study the villagers of Chwaka purchased freshwater from trucks transporting 20-liter jerry cans. This study found that desalination in the form of Mörk’s unit is not a viable source of freshwater for the entire village of Chwaka compared to piped well water. Installed with the best intentions for the people of Chwaka, the presence and purpose of the machine is unknown to most of the village and its production capacity could only hope to supplement drinking water. Relative investment costs of distributing similar volumes of water show that piped water is the cheaper option. The intentions of the project are nonetheless laudable and this type of innovative investment should be encouraged as long as the government is not asked to take the bill. Zanzibar has access to freshwater and must look to efficient consumption before turning to alternative forms of water production, but Mork's desalination machine could potentially prove to be useful in other areas that suffer from water scarcity. Ultimately, it is difficult for desalination as an alternative source of water to establish itself currently in Chwaka while the government heavily subsidizes the resource without aiming for full cost recovery.


Natural Resources and Conservation | Natural Resources Management and Policy | Water Resource Management


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