Dar es Salaam. Two decades ago rushing through Dar es Salaam traffic in the mornings was a wetly affair.
Trucks carrying water could be spotted speeding like ambulances as they sorted out one customer after another.
The vehicles, popularly known as bowsers, were a common sight throughout the day but more so in the mornings because of the huge demand at the beginning of the day. Most of them had leaky tanks that made the roads wet.
Fast-forward twenty years later the nature of traffic in Dar es Salaam has changed. In the Morogoro Road leading to Kimara the biggest change is not only the long blue buses speeding in their special lanes; the change can also be noticed in the shortage of the bowsers.
Even the most skeptic of the critics never imagined that a day will come when the perennial water supply problems in Dar es Salaam would largely be put under control.
Water supply problems might have taken too long to be fixed. The city has, definitely, not achieved 100 per cent water coverage status. The supply is far from being 24/7/365.
Factories, hospitals and other such facilities still complain that intermittent water supply affects their operations.
But as Dar es Salaam city attains the ripe age of 60, this year it is only dutiful to reflect on the long, arduous journey the city fathers have travelled to supply water to the homes of over five million residents. Dar es Salaam attained city status on December 9, 1961.
Pre-independence water supply
A first formal water supply system in Dar es Salaam was established by the colonial government in 1951, ten years before independence. The Mtoni Water treatment plant was commissioned to feed south eastern parts of the city such as Chang’ombe and Kurasini as well as areas of central business district of Dar es Salaam. The Mtoni plant was being fed by the Kizinga and Mzinga Creeks (rivers).
According to varying historical accounts, the piped network had been developed in the city centre since the 1920s and 1930s drawing water from the Gerezani treatment plant.
This was later abandoned due to high water salinity. Significant additions were made in the 1950s after commissioning of the Mtoni water supply system.
Eight years later, in 1959, the Upper Ruvu treatment plant with a capacity of 18,000 m3/d (cubic metres per day) started operations. And then in 1975 the Lower Ruvu plant was commissioned with a nominal capacity of 180,000 m3/d.
Water supply authority
After independence water supply in Dar es Salaam was directly overseen by the central government through the Dar es Salaam Water Supply department.
In 1977 the department became a parastatal and was named Dar es Salaam Water Supply Cooperation Sole. The main objective was to make the corporation financially and managerially independent. Sole performed dismally and in1984 a new entity, the National Urban Water Authority (Nuwa), started operations in 1984.
Originally Nuwa was meant to be one huge water authority with the mandate to manage water supply in all urban centres in the Mainland Tanzania.
That became difficult and Nuwa remained managing water supply in Dar es Salaam only.
When the city started expanding to the seams in the late 1980s water supply started, slowly becoming a crisis. This was also a time when Tanzania was experiencing a long term economic crisis that had started in the late 1970s, aggravated by the Kagera War (Ugandan War) and continued well into the 1980s.
The crisis, reflected in acute shortage of foreign currency and lack of basic commodities, meant that the government could not get the spare parts to repair the water system machinery, let alone expand the existing system.
The rapid expansion of the city and the economic crisis curtailed the gains in water supply system made during Tanzania’s golden years of the 1970s.
Dawasa is formed
In 1997 the government re-organised Nuwa and added to it the sewerage and sanitation functions that were being carried out by the then City Commission (Tume ya Jiji), to form the Dar es Salaam Water and Sewerage Authority (Dawasa).
Dawasa’s mandate was expanded to satellite towns of Kibaha and Bagamoyo in 2001. Transformation of Nuwa into Dawasa did nothing to improve the precarious condition.
Lack of funds made it impossible for Dawasa to overhaul the infrastructure and meet the demands of a growing city population. City residents continued to spend more time and a huge chunk of their earnings to ‘purchase’ from ‘water mongers’.
In 2003, in the middle of the wave of privatization in the country, water supply in the city was privatized. A consortium of private investors from the UK, Germany and Tanzania contracted to supply water in a commercial venture that proved failure two years later. The new company, City Water Services (CWS), was formed and started operations in August 2003.
In the arrangement, Dawasa remained as the host of the infrastructure and City Water as the lessee that was supposed to pay rental fees to the former.
In May 2005 the City Water contract was terminated by the government the investor failed to improve the services and for breaking terms and conditions of the contract.
A new company, the Dar es Salaam Water and Sewerage Corporation (Dawasco) was incorporated by the government and was ‘contracted’ in July 2005in a 10 year lease to supply water to the city in terms very similar to those of City Water.
Dawasco was supposed to pay rental fees to Dawasa. Despite huge operational costs, lack of adequate funds to overhaul the dilapidated water infrastructure Dawasco made significant progress in improving and expanding water supply in Dar es Salaam.
In 2015 the Dawasco contract was extended for three years till 2018 to allow the government to merge the two utilities.
In September 2018, Dawasa and Dawasco merged and continued to perform functions and duties under the Dawasa Act number 20 of 2001.
This piece of legislation had given Dawasa legal powers to lease its assets and infrastructure to a third party to provide water and sanitation services to the Dar es Salaam city and all the service area.
But in 2019 the merged entity was named Dawasa and started operating under the terms of the Water Supply and Sanitation Act no 5 of 2019.
The Government Notice No 660/2019 extended Dawasa mandate to Kisarawe and Mkuranga Water Supply and Sanitation authorities in those townships were abolished.