Background About Our Work in Tanzania

About Tanzania

The United Republic of Tanzania is located in East Africa, in the African Great Lakes Region. Home to over 47 million inhabitants, Tanzania is politically governed as a presidential constitutional republic. The country has numerous and diverse water resources in the form of rivers, lakes, wetlands and aquifers, yet many of its largest water bodies are shared with neighboring countries and the subtropical climate results in high temporal variability in rainfall and river flows. Tanzania is divided into nine river basins which are the Pangani, Wami-Ruvu, Rufiji, Ruvuma, Lake Nyasa, Internal Drainage, Lakes Rukwa, Lake Tanganyika and Lake Victoria, and shares eleven international lakes and rivers with other nations including the three East African Great Lakes of Victoria, Tanganyika and Nyasa.

Despite its numerous water bodies, Tanzania faces water shortages in many areas: the distribution of water availability and population is uneven across the country and presents considerable water resource management challenges. The general trend is that river flows and lake levels are declining. This is reported to be caused by a range of both natural and manmade factors such as declining rainfalls, unsustainable water uses such as operational rules at hydropower plants, over abstraction of rivers and unsustainable agricultural expansion. Tanzania must meet and balance the increasing water demands from a broad range of pressures: a growing population, with water needed for food security, economic growth, and energy production. These pressures must furthermore be balanced against maintaining some of the most important ecosystems on the planet.

Water Challenges

With extremely low level of water storage capacity, and water availability that is highly variable in space and time, the country faces major constraints in securing enough water for its environmental, social and economic needs. This must be done in the context of a variable and changing climate, limited technological choices, constraints on infrastructure and investment; and multiple institutional, political and human resource challenges.

The economy’s susceptibility to flood and drought events is illustrated by a loss of approximately 1 percent of GDP resulting from a drought in 2005/6. During this period, the agriculture sector experienced an almost 20 percent decline in growth and growth in the electricity and water sectors declined from 5.1 percent to -1.8 percent (URT 2007). Recent government analysis estimated that overall GDP growth in 2011 was reduced from 7 percent to 6.4 percent due to drought affecting water and hydropower. A 0.6 percent reduction in GDP corresponds to $142 million in 2011 prices and, based on average GDP per capita figures, is equivalent to contribution to GDP of over a quarter of a million people.

Several examples are emerging from Tanzania of unreliable access to water resources imposing severe operational, financial and reputational risks to business. Some enterprises have closed due to water insecurity, reducing much needed employment and export revenue earnings. Competition over water causes regular conflicts and in the worst cases violent clashes have resulted in fatalities. Improved water resource management is essential to future stability and growth in Tanzania.

The sectors with the most significant water requirements in Tanzania are: (i) Agriculture for irrigation of crops and for livestock use; (ii) Domestic use in urban and rural areas; (iii) Industry and commerce; and (iv) Environmental requirements.

Taking into account environmental flow requirements, during dry periods, national demand is 150 percent of accessible water. Under a business as usual scenario and factoring in economic growth projections this increases to 216 percent by 2035.