Catchment and Subcatchment councils are statutory cooperate bodies under the auspices of the Ministry of Environment, Water and Climate. These were enacted by an Act of Parliament, the Water Act Chapter 20:24 of 1998. Sub-catchment councils were established in terms of the Water Act, CAP 20:24 as read with SI 209 of 2000, Section 4 (a). A Subcatchment Council is a lowest level water management institution that is made up of a number of stakeholders such as; industrialists, A1 famers, A2farmers, Communal farmers, large and small scale miners, local authorities (Rural and Urban) and any other group of water users that can be identified in the Subcatchment. Generally, Subcatchment councils undertake some of the following water resources related activities, namely; recommend sustainable water allocation, use monitoring, monitoring river system flows, regulation of water access/use, water conflict resolution, education and awareness raising, catchment protection, management of dam water releases and facilitating water permit applications.
The idea and concept of stakeholder participation in water management has been part of the water management set-up in Zimbabwe for many decades, but not all stakeholders were included as River Boards which were mainly white dominated mainly had those with water rights as members. This meant that other water users were excluded and also the Water Act of 1976 did not consider the environment as a user of water. In the Water Act Chapter 20:24 Catchment and Subcatchment Councils took over from River Boards which existed under the old Water act of 1976. The Subcatchment Council being the lowest legally constituted entities which facilitated the transition from the previously white-dominated River Boards to a broad-based approach that includes all water users for example permit holders and non-permit holders.
Subcatchment Councils are therefore responsible for the day-to-day water regulation and management at the lowest level (i.e. farm, village and household level). State agencies such as the then provincial based department of water development and currently ZINWA have not been designed to operating at this level but the operational linkages provides the platform of water-sector institutional integration to the best advantage of the water users and related stakeholders in Zimbabwe. The Catchment and Subcatchment councils system also conforms to the principles of Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) that forms an integral part of the underlying philosophy of the new water policy. IWRM promotes and encourages stakeholders to participate actively in the management of water in their respective areas. This model is pivotal to the water sector institutionalization of stakeholder participation thereby enhancing the checks and balances inherent in the current Water Act and the enabling statutes.
The institutional framework is made of two players, the Water Authority and Stakeholder institutions (Catchment and Subcatchment Councils). These two sets work together to manage water resources in the country. A schematic of the water sector is outlined below:
Although the entities appear independent from each other they are all under the Ministry of Environment, Water and Climate, and work towards a common goal. The Water Act (CAP 20:24) is the domain of Catchment Councils and Subcatchment while the ZINWA Act(20:25) is the domain of ZINWA only, though it is subservient to the Water Act,1998,(CAP 20:24).
The interrelationship between parent ministry, the national water authority, the Catchment Councils and the Sub-catchment Councils is that the national water authority runs a secretariat role through the catchment manager’s offices as provided in section 30 of Water Act 20:24.