Water Resources Management and Information

Water Resources Management and Information is a department which consists of five (5) units and six (6) Catchments. The department is managed by the Director of Water Resources Management and Information. 

The objective of the department is to manage, develop, protect, conserve and preserve the water resources for both surface and groundwater both in terms of its quantities and quality of the water resources by;

  • Obtaining, compiling, store and disseminate surface and ground water data concerning the water resources of Zambia;
  • Exercise planning functions as provided in this Act in relation to the Catchment Planning and Water Allocation Plans;
  • Provides Technical recommendation to the Board in allocation water resources in conformity with the provisions of the WRM Act;
  • Control the quality of both surface and groundwater resources in accordance with the provisions of WRM Act;
  • Provide to any department or agency of Government, at its request, technical assistance in respect of any projects, programmes or activities which relate to the development, conservation and use of water resources;
  • Monitor, regulate and enforce compliance on the Water Users;
  • Provide to the public or any government agency, information in relation to the water resources
Departmental Units 
  • Hydrological Unit
  • Groundwater Unit
  • Hydro-Informatics Unit
  • Environment and Water Quality Unit
  • Regulation and Compliance
  • Zambezi
  • Kafue
  • Luangwa
  • Chambeshi
  • Luapula
  • Tanganyika


This unit oversees the country's surface water resources pertaining to Hydrometric stations operations, design and construction of surface water development infrastructure, surface water quality and quantity monitoring and protection to ensure sustainable use of the nation's surface water

  • The Unit provides guidance in the Planning and Development of catchment surface water resources.
  • Oversees and reviews Designs for operating and maintaining Hydrometric stations for surface water management.
  • Monitors catchment Plans and their execution for regular field monitoring programmes for hydrological observations.
  • Advises on the effects of development on the availability of surface water and Water allocation.
  • Manages and checks hydrology and hydraulic analyses and design procedures on projects in catchment areas
  • Conducts flood studies, Geographical Information Systems (GIS) mapping

The WRM Act has mandated WARMA, in consultants with any appropriate authority, to specify the environmental flow requirements of any water resources (Section 43). Section 44 has mandated WARMA to specify the reserve for all or part of a water resource and that such determination of the reserve shall ensure that adequate allowance is made for each component of the reserve.

The Act has mandated WARMA to develop water conservation management practices that minimise waste of water, encourage sustainable and efficient use of water and improve the quality of water. Section 46 stipulates that a person shall not use any water purposes of diluting any effluent with a permit issued under the WRM Act. Discharge of any effluent into any water resource shall be done according to the Environmental Management Act No 12 of 2011.

Section 47 has mandated WARMA, to collaborate with the Zambia Environmental Management Agency (ZEMA), recommend to the Zambia Bureau of Standards (ZABS) ambient water quality standards and ensure that the standards are maintained. Section 47(2) has mandated WARMA to, in collaboration with ZEMA, monitor the resource quality and control the pollution of any water resource. Sections 48 and 49 have outlined steps WARMA will take to control and prevent pollution of any water resource and proposed penalties for persons failing to comply with the requirements. Section 50 has mandated WARMA, in collaboration with ZEMA, to establish resource quality objectives for any water resource and publish the same in tabloids of daily circulation.

What is Water Quality?

Water quality is a term used to describe the chemical, physical, and biological characteristics of water, usually in respect to its suitability for an intended purpose. These characteristics are controlled or influenced by substances, which are either dissolved or suspended in water. The quality of water that is required for irrigation is not the same quality that is required for drinking water. Therefore, the general meaning of water quality is to know if the water is good enough for its intended purpose or use, be it for domestic, irrigation, mining or industrial purposes. Good water quality contributes to a healthy ecosystem.

What is Water Quality Management?

Water quality is changed and affected by both natural processes and anthropogenic or human activities. Generally, natural water quality varies from place to place, depending on seasonal variations, climatic changes and with soil types, rocks and surfaces through which it passes.

A variety of human activities e.g. agricultural activities, urban and industrial development, mining and recreation, potentially significantly alter the quality of natural waters and changes the water use potential. The key to sustainable water resources is, therefore to ensure that the quality of water resources are suitable for their intended uses, while at the same allowing them to be used and developed to a certain extent. Effective management is the tool through which this is achieved. Water quality management, therefore involves the maintenance of the fitness for use of water resources on a sustained basis, by achieving a balance between socio-economic development and environmental protection.

Why do we need to manage Water Quality?

The effects of polluted water on human health, on the aquatic ecosystem (aquatic biota, and in-stream and riparian habitats) and on various sectors of the economy, including agriculture, industry and recreation, can be disastrous. Deteriorating water quality leads to increased treatment costs of potable and industrial process water, and decreased agricultural yields due to increased salinity of irrigation water. On the other hand not all health, productivity and ecological problems associated with deteriorating water quality are ascribed to man's activities. Many water quality related problems are inherent in the geological characteristics of the source area. The water qualities that may affect the integrity of the environment and the water's fitness for use

Groundwater resources have been a very important resource both for human consumption as well as ecosystem support. Zambia experiences one rainy season in a year running from around November through to March/April the following year. Many rivers and streams in Zambia are however perennial due to the contribution of groundwater from base flow. Groundwater also serves as an immediate source for rural populations as well as a source of water for municipal water supplies across the country. In Zambia, an average of 30% of municipal water supplies is drawn from groundwater. This entails that groundwater is an important and indispensable resource when it comes to contribution to the national growth domestic product. While groundwater occurrence and importance has been acknowledged in all sectors of the country, there has been no legal framework for its regulation from the time the country was colonized up until 2011 when the country reclassified groundwater as public water and hence amenable for regulation. It is this regulation that will provide the much-needed information on groundwater abstraction and use. The country is now in the process of developing subsidiary groundwater regulation that will enforce the Water Resources Management (WRM) Act No. 21 of 2011. The Zambian law now provides for registration of all boreholes. This is a process that has been embarked on by WARMA. The Authority currently has currently records of up to 16,000 groundwater points, 3,000 of which are not georeferenced. These are records for both commercial and domestic purposes.
Groundwater Aquifers
Groundwater aquifers in Zambia are mainly composed of the carbonate, alluvial and schist aquifers. The carbonate aquifers are usually highly productive and form an important source domestic and industrial water supply. These aquifers are part of the kundelungu geological formation and span from the Copperbelt though to Lusaka plateau following the famous Lufilian Arc orientation. The dolomite aquifer is generally unconfined with preferential horizontal flow direction. Most of the karsts are developed between 50 -90m below ground. The degree of fracturing and Karstification is progressively diminished below 90m above ground. This restricts significant flow process of groundwater below this depth. Transmissivities within the Kabwe dolomite range from 1100 to 4500m2/d). This scenario repeats itself in the carbonate rocks of Lusaka and Mpongwe. Zambia also boasts of vast stretches of alluvial aquifers indicated in the map. These are mainly found along the banks of existing river channels as well as old river channels. Typical examples are the Barotse floodplains in the western part of Zambia, the Kafue flats and the Luapula basin in the Northwestern part of Zambia. The schist aquifers are subordinate aquifers and are known to be generally poor in terms of water resources production. Geologically, the composition is mostly Schists, Phylites and shales of the Lower Roan formation series. It is a thick sequence which follows the basal group with no marked unconformity. It also exhibits common stripes of quartz veins. As mentioned earlier in-situ chemical weathering since the mid tertiary peneplanation has produced a thick saprolite layer from these rocks. In some areas, the schist aquifers are composed of Feldspathic granitic gneiss with minor schists. This is a basement complex which is an unconformity. It is of Precambrian age with an isotope dating of 1200 to 3000 million years.
Groundwater Abstractions
Documentation on groundwater abstractions remains a gigantic challenge for Zambia. This is because of the non-regulation of the groundwater sector since pre-colonial times. In 2015, WARMA recruited more staff in the groundwater Unit in order to pick up pace in the collection of Data. The WRM Act. Mandates WARMA to issue abstraction licenses for commercial entities. The Groundwater Unit participated in the stakeholder-led process of development of a Pricing Strategy. Once adopted, the strategy will feed into the process of data collection through issuance of abstraction fees. As mentioned only pockets of abstraction data is available in the possession of a number of players in the groundwater sector.

The Regulation and Compliance is a unit comprised of Inspectors and headed by the Regulations and Compliance manager (RCM). The core function of the unit is to undertake regular inspections of water users by checking their compliance with terms and conditions of their permits and the provisions of the Water Resources Management (WRM) Act No. 21 of 2011.

  • To monitor the use of water resources in Zambia through robust inspections;
  • In conjunction with Hydro Informatics, the unit helps maintain an up to date clients’ database;
  • Carrying out awareness and sensitization on water permitting and compliance  in line with the WRM Act;
  • Identify any potential activities that may be at variance with WARMA regulations;
  • To generate vital information from the field to facilitate planning and decision making by WARMA management;
  • Recommend penalties of non- compliant water users;
  • Investigate on reports from  members of the public regarding suspected illegal water users;
  • Enforcing regulations among water users to ensure compliance with the WRM Act;
  • To verify clients’ compliance with terms and conditions on their water permits;
  • Monitoring and evaluating the levels of compliance by undertaking follow up inspections;
  • With reference to section 174, subsections (1) and (2) of the Act, to prosecute erring water users.
The unit manages the WARMA Information Technology (IT) infrastructure, water resources information systems and databases including the electronic capturing of water permits as well as hydrological and groundwater data into the water permit and Geodin databases respectively.
  • Informatics unit ensures that water level data is collected and entered into hydstra database.
  •  Water Permits are scrutinised and updated in the water permitting database
  • Hydro-Informatics also disseminates and publishes data into brochures, maps and reports.
  • The unit also ensures that the newly installed 65 telemetric stations transmit data to the main server at WARMA and data is analysed for further hydrological forecasting and planning. The informatics unit manages the Integrated Water Resources Management System (IWRMIS) and ensures that all the data from core databases are integrated into IWRMIS software to allow the Hydrological unit and Water environment and quality unit carry out the hydrological duties efficiently.
  • The unit also ensures that Integrated Water Resources Management Information System (IWRMIS) establish data links between them and be able to flexible react on requirements of future systems and services. The receipt of incoming measuring data to the system and forwarding them to relevant databases is one of the core functionalities of IWRMIS