Acute water shortages are now a scourge in every city of Zimbabwe. Most of it stems from dilapidated water treatment infrastructure, amongst several other issues. For some there is no water infrastructure at all – remember there is a lot of home construction occurring in fallow regions. Construction also is presenting an ever-present need for water as well. Being in a position to source and disburse water can thus be a worthy business undertaking. In this article, my attention will be on starting a bulk water deliveries business.
This type of business basically involves supplying clients with bulk water. So it is mostly straightforward but a lot is involved in running this business though. You have to adhere to certain regulations – you even have to be licensed by relevant authorities e.g. ZINWA. I have noticed that some players use makeshift approaches where they use bulk tanks (i.e. your “Jojo tanks”) to transport the bulk water. Though that can actually work it is expedient that you use water hauling trucks. The good thing about such trucks is that there is a wide range of capacities to choose from. There are many players already active so you can always learn a lot about the trade from them.
The primary things to have are the means to carry and transport the water. Most players use specialized water hauling vehicles – typically trucks with a fitted onboard water tank. In some cases it the water tank can be rigged separately in the form of a trailer. There really is an array of options to pick from when looking to acquire such equipment. Hiring is one option though if you can buy your own equipment that would be great. It can be strategic to have a base of operations so you might have to lease or purchase a piece of land, building or whichever comes in handy. You will also need certain things that will come in handy during operations e.g. disinfectants, water treatment chemicals (e.g. chlorine), and so on.
I cannot outright say this is a labour-intensive business or it is not, it varies. Generally, not much labour is needed though; it will depend largely (as always) on the extent of your mechanization and your scale of operations. Otherwise, you will find that just two people can be enough to oversee the transportation and disbursement of water for a single truck or vehicle.
One of the, if not the most significant cost is getting water hauling trucks or trucks. Hiring is of course an option to try to reduce costs. The prices of brand new ones vary but you can find something in the range of US$9000 to US$20000. Basically, the startup costs can be somewhat steep but it gets better once you settle into the business.
The market for bulk water deliveries is inexhaustible; you just have to do your homework. Let me just give you some perspective on this. I recall some time when I saw formal notice where the US Embassy was looking for a company that could deliver bulk water to its 70 houses that are in Harare. This was to be a tender where the incumbent was expected to deliver bulk water to all these residences 6 days of every week. This is just one unique market angle but there are also construction companies or construction projects, institutions (e.g. schools) and even entire neighbourhoods. Suffice to say there is a broad and diverse market – you just have to conduct thorough market research. Generally, the broad categories of target markets are commercial entities, municipalities, residential, and miscellaneous ones.
Important Things To Consider
You don’t just decide to start a bulk water deliveries business out of nowhere. You must adhere to certain regulatory frameworks otherwise you will get into trouble with the authorities. You have to approach ZINWA and comprehensively understand what is needed for you to be compliant. This is very important because bulk water is basically collected from official water bodies such as rivers or dams. If you visit the ZINWA website you will even notice that there is a bulk water supply register.
Just some tips I can share with you based on the US Embassy example I gave. Make sure every aspect of your business is formalized in every way possible. When the US Embassy issued its formal notice it pointed out that the vehicles used had to be properly registered and the drivers had to be properly licensed. They even pointed out that anyone involved in delivering the water would have to be subject to background security checks. I know this might sound too extreme but imagine you land a client like that. If your things are not in the order you will miss a great opportunity. So, make sure all aspects of your business are above board always.
The other important thing to bear in mind is hygiene. High levels of hygiene should be practised especially if the water is going to be for human consumption. In fact, most stipulations state that such water should not exceed 3 days sitting in the storage tanks (or water bowsers, for use of a common term with many). This might not really apply for purposes where the water will be for uses other than human consumption. Nonetheless, proper hygiene is always a noble thing to uphold.
So there goes what you need to know about starting a bulk water deliveries business. No matter the purpose, no matter the source – always ensure the water you are using is safe. Even in cases where it is not for human consumption that does not negate the vital importance of it being safe. For instance, water infested with toxic chemicals can be dangerous even when it is not for drinking. Like I always say, do not take shortcuts!