History of WARMA

Combined team from ZEMA, WARMA and KCM carying out polution incident investigation on the copperbelt

Over the years, Zambia’s water sector has undergone reforms that led to the establishment of the Water Resources Management Authority (WARMA). Before this, the two phases of water sector reforms in Zambia commenced in late 1980s and early 1990s respectively. This led to the development of the National Water Policy of 1994, which provided guidelines for reorganising the sector into two sub-sectors, namely;

  • The Water Supply and Sanitation Sub-sector; and
  • The Water Resources Development and Management Sub-sector.

The National Water Policy was later revised in 2010. This was then followed by the second phase which was the enactment of a new Water Resources Management Act No. 21 of 2011. It replaced and repealed the Water Act of 1949 which offered a very limited approach towards water resources management. The Act came into effect by an Order of Government on the 1st of October, 2012. The inaugural Board was appointed by the Minister in March, 2013. The Board appointed its first Director General in May, 2014 who started populating the WARMA structure in 2015.

The emerging focus in Water Resources Management has prioritized decentralization using the catchment as a management unit in recognition of the unity of the hydrological cycle. Since the establishment of the Kafue Catchment Office in 2016 five additional catchment offices became operational:


On 9th March 2018, the Minister in charge of MWDSEP, Dr D.M. Wanchinga launched three Statutory Instruments (SIs) which were commenced on 7th March:

  • SI No. 18 Fees and Charges Regulations,
  • SI No. 19 Licencing of Drillers and Other Constructors and
  • SI No. 20 Groundwater and Boreholes Regulations.

The regulations were developed together with multiple stakeholders, including Drillers, Commercial Farmers, the general public and various other interest groups. The stakeholders not only advised on the formulation of these regulations but although on a sustainable pricing strategy that will ensure further economic growth.

In a nutshell, the newly introduced SIs bring in inclusiveness in the management of Water resources by not only trying to safeguard surface water but groundwater as well by banning the drilling of boreholes without authority. It entails submission of applications prior to drilling as well as registration of all existing boreholes and should the water be utilised for non-domestic purposes the usage will attract fees. The SIs further provide prescribed for specifications for a  standard borehole design and distances for siting boreholes from potential sources of pollution such as pit latrines soakaways, garage, fuel tanks, cemeteries etc.  Prescribed distances are also listed for minimum distances between boreholes with respect water quantity as dictated by the hydrogeological conditions.

In here the benefits include the fact that clients will be protected from substandard jobs and services from unknown contractors and personnel. Enough information will also be collected and borehole owners consulted before further drilling can take place to assess impacts in the area.

The regulations for groundwater and boreholes are also aimed to regulate groundwater de-watering that is normally associated with mining operations. This implies that mining firms need to obtain licences for conducting dewatering.