The Kingdom of Lesotho

Published by Wade Publications CC

Water & Energy

Lesotho’s water and energy networks are being expanded and upgraded to provide electricity, water and wastewater services that are reliable, sustainable and competitively priced – for economic growth as well as social wellbeing.

Metolong Dam wall nearing completion with partially filled reservoir © Metolong Authority


Lesotho constitutes one of southern Africa’s principal water catchment areas, capturing around 50 percent of the total catchment run-off. The mountain ranges experience approximately 1 000 millimetres of rain per year and give rise to the major river systems of the Senqu (Orange), Mohokare (Caledon) and Makhaleng. Every year, rainfall and winter snowfalls provide an estimated 5.5 billion cubic metres of water and renewable groundwater resources of some 340 million cubic metres. Since the implementation of the Lesotho Highlands Water Project (LHWP), water has become the country’s most valuable natural resource as well as being its largest single source of non-tax revenue; and the start of the LHWP Phase 2 has reinforced its central role in Lesotho’s economy.

Currently, Lesotho possesses abundant water resources that exceed national requirements. However, limited access to these resources – particularly in the lowlands where about two-thirds of the population live – has been an obstacle to growth and development as well as efforts to prevent waterborne diseases. Improved supplies are especially important for Maseru and its surrounding areas, which are the site of the majority of textiles and light manufacturing firms. The expansion of the garment industry has also driven rural-urban migration, and as this population has grown, so has the demand for reliable residential supplies.

The supply of potable and reliable water and energy are a commitment under the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), and to this end the Government has embarked on an elaborate programme for the improvement of the water supply and sanitation across the country. Considerable support has been received from Lesotho’s development partners, most notably the European Union (EU), the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) and the Arab Funds.

Water for industry
It was reported in the Central Bank of Lesotho’s (CBL) June 2014 Quarterly Review that water consumption by the industrial and other categories had increased by 9.9 percent and 0.3 percent, respectively. The increase was consistent with the rise in new water connections, amounting to 959 in the period under review compared with 886 new connections in the quarter ending March 2014. It also corresponds to the 34.7 percent increase in electricity generated at the ‘Muela Hydropower Plant over the same period.

Much has been achieved in the recent past with respect to improving water supply and sanitation in the urban and rural areas. The end of the 2013/14 financial year saw works around the construction of Metolong Dam drawing to a close, with 95 percent of Phase II advance infrastructure concluded, 75 percent of the dam and raw water pumping station finalised, 95 percent of the water treatment works finished and 50 percent of downstream conveyance systems completed.

During 2013/14, 6 000 urban households were connected to potable water. In the rural areas 97 water supply systems were constructed and 500 hand pumps maintained to serve 60 738 people. With regard to sanitation, 8 000 VIP latrines were constructed to benefit a total of 58 000 people in the rural areas, while there were 600 sewer line connections in the urban areas. Water systems were maintained in 64 community councils and 11 urban councils through Local Authorities.

Government is busy developing a long-term strategy for the water supply and sanitation sector to address the challenge of increasing service coverage and ensuring sustainable management and development of water resources. While completion of the Metolong Dam will ease water shortages in many urban areas, it is essential that water supply is extended to those locations not covered by this project. Provision of basic utilities in rural locations will continue to be a priority as Lesotho addresses the stark inequalities between urban and rural communities.

Budget commitments over the 2014/15 period include the construction of 90 water supply systems and 8 000 ventilated pit latrines in rural areas to serve a total 58 000 people. Furthermore, 6 070 households will be connected to potable water and 200 sewer line connection will be made in the urban areas. The proposed 2014/15 allocation for the water and sanitation sector is M1 344.8 million, of which M157.0 million is for watershed management.

2015 Millennium Development Goals
The United Nation’s Millennium Development Goals call for the number of people without access to clean water to be halved by 2015. While only some 50 percent of the population had access to potable water when the MDGs were promulgated, access to clean water and sanitation has subsequently improved considerably.

WHO/UNICEF water supply statistics for 2014 put the percentage of the population using improved drinking water sources at 81.3 percent, with this figure standing at 93.2 percent for urban communities and 76.7 percent for rural dwellers. Furthermore, 65.6 percent of the urban population are served with piped water. In the realm of sanitation, 29.6 percent of the population overall have access to improved sanitation facilities, comprising 37 percent of urban residents and 26.7 percent of those in rural areas.

Water resource management
The Department of Water Affairs (DWA) keeps and provides records, information, results of monitoring activities research and analyses to the offices of the Commissioner of Water (CoW), who acts as the custodian of raw water resources. The DWA is currently not involved in raw or treated water production. Other raw water usage, which is presently very low, is licensed by the DWA. The Department of Rural Water Supply (DRWS) provides small settlements with water, while the operation and maintenance of these schemes is the responsibility of local authorities and committees.

During 2013 the Lesotho Electricity and Water Authority (LEWA) took over the regulation of urban water and sewerage services, including water treatment, production, transmission, distribution and supply, storage of water for treatment, distribution or onward supply, the delivery of water to trunk or main pipelines, and the treatment and disposal of waste water by the sewerage system.

Provision of potable bulk water supply to urban areas is undertaken by the Water and Sewerage Company (WASCO) under the licence issued by the Lesotho Electricity and Water Authority (LEWA). The regulator oversees services provided by WASCO, which operates several river intake works, water treatment and wastewater treatment plants, and their associated bulk water transfer systems into bulk water storage tanks.

The Lesotho Highlands Development Authority (LHDA) operates and maintains the Lesotho Highlands Water Scheme dams (Katse and Mohale), raw water transfer system and the ‘Muela hydropower scheme within Lesotho.

Supplying the Lesotho Lowlands
The Lesotho Lowlands Water Supply Project (LWSP) encompasses eight zones: Botha-Bothe is covered by the Hololo River; Leribe and Maputsoe will be supplied by the Hlotse River; Teyateyaneng, Maseru, Roma, Mazenod and Morija are to receive water from the Metolong Dam; the Makhaleng River will feed the Mafeteng and Mohale’s Hoek districts; and Quthing will get its water from the Senqu River. The project aims to ensure long-term, reliable water supply for domestic and industrial purposes in Maseru and other lowland districts, and should provide more than 1.2 million people with access to clean water by 2020.

Metolong Dam and Water Supply Programme (MDWSP) is the least-cost, long-term solution for bulk supply to Maseru and the surrounding lowlands towns of Roma, Mazenod, Morija and Teyateyaneng. It will make an average of 75 000 cubic metres of treated water per day available by 2015, enabling Maseru to meet domestic and industrial requirements for approximately 40 years.

The MDWSP includes water treatment works and a downstream conveyance system, with the water reticulation component to be operated by WASCO. A wastewater project will deal with liquid waste from industry. The first delivery of water from the dam was expected to take place by the end of 2014 to Mazenod, Roma, Morija and Teyateyaneng, while Maseru should receive potable water from the scheme by April 2015.

The MDWSP, whose total cost is currently estimated at M4.5 billion, is co-funded by the governments of Lesotho and South Africa, the European Investment Bank (EIB), the US’s Millennium Challenge Corporation and the World Bank, as well as a consortium of Arab funders including the Arab Bank for African Economic Development in Africa, OPEC Fund for International Development, Kuwait Fund, Abu Dhabi Fund and Saudi Fund.

Apart from guaranteeing a reliable water supply to thousands of people in the Metolong catchment area, the programme will leave long-lasting benefits for the communities along the pipeline route who have been directly affected by the construction. Water supply and sanitation services have been installed in the five villages of Ha-Seeiso, Hlakoaneng, Ha Ramakabatana, Takalatsa and Ha Sekantši, with the second phase to cover the remaining 35 villages in the catchment area.

Tertiary pipelines constructed as part of the MDWSP include the installation of branches and take-offs at certain points along the pipeline routes to facilitate future distribution of potable water to the surrounding communities. This infrastructure is being linked to the Lowlands Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Project, which focuses on supplying basic water and sanitation services to the rural districts of Berea and Maseru. The project, which should be completed by the end of 2017, will benefit some 65 000 inhabitants of the area – only a quarter of which currently receive adequate levels of safe water and sanitation services.

Funding for the project is provided by the African Development Bank, whose intervention will add value to the funding provided by Lesotho’s other development partners who have contributed to the foundation components of the water source as well as primary and secondary pipelines. The bank-supported component will target the rural population, bringing to them the benefits of the overall MDWSP.

Urban and peri-urban water supply
During 2008 it was established that 15 percent of the urban and peri-urban population in Lesotho had inadequate access to potable water owing to limited urban water systems coverage or interrupted services as a result of old pipes which were prone to burst, as well as leakages from reservoirs.

Lesotho’s Millennium Challenge Account (MCA-Lesotho) has worked in close collaboration with WASCO to implement the Urban and Peri-Urban Water Supply Network in the 11 urban centres of Maseru, Leribe, Mapoteng, Botha-Bothe, Mokhotlong, Qacha’s Nek, Quthing, Mohale’s Hoek, Mafeteng and Mazenod. The project has seen the rehabilitations of old infrastructure and extensions to the water supply networks as well as the construction of a new water supply and treatment system in Semonkong.

The Maseru and Mazenod component of the Urban and Peri-Urban Water Supply Project is expected to benefit approximately 124 248 out of 300 000 urban and peri-urban dwellers who did not previously enjoy access to reliable water supply services.

Maseru Wastewater Project
The aim of WASCO’s Maseru Wastewater Project is the expansion and rehabilitation of wastewater and sanitation facilities in the Maqalika catchment area, helping to protect the reservoir from pollution. The project has contributed significantly to Lesotho’s efforts to achieve sanitation-related MDGs in Maseru by 2015.

A total of 6 000 urban households were connected to potable water during the 2013/14 financial year.

Around 100 000 of Maseru’s inhabitants are expected to benefit from the project, which will provide a modern and environmentally friendly system of waste water collection and treatment, increasing sanitation coverage in the city from 49 to 85 percent. Funding comprises M100 million from the European Union (EU) under the Water Facility, M40 million from the Lesotho Government and M150 million from the EIB.

The baseline assessment for the two-year On-Site Sanitation Facilities Programme, which is also part of the Maseru Wastewater Project, began in May 2014. The programme will provide environmentally friendly on-site precast Amalooloo Dry Sanitation System toilets to 3 100 households located in the service area zones of Maseru North, Central, South and South East. To ensure the inclusion of poor households that cannot afford the M5 000 charged for the construction of each toilet, WASCO is liaising with traditional chiefs and the Ministry of Social Development to identify needy families.

Rural water supply and sanitation
The Department of Rural Water Supply has been working with the Ministry of Natural Resources to increase the percentage of rural communities with access to potable water to more than 75 percent by 2015. The completion of 13 water and sanitation projects in the districts will supply over 7 000 villagers with clean water. The DRWS encourages community ownership and management of completed water systems, with outsourcing of work to private contractors and NGOs.

The MCA-Lesotho’s Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Project, which was scheduled for completion in 2014, targeted a total population of 150 000, comprising 30 000 households. This has involved the construction, rehabilitation and/or expansion of up to 250 water systems, construction of up to 30 000 Ventilated Improved Pit (VIP) latrines, and public health and hygiene awareness training and support.

A new EU-funded water and energy programme
2014 marks the beginning of the 11th European Development Fund (EDF), which is set to end in 2020. The National Indicative Programme (NIP) for Lesotho identifies the focal areas of water, energy and governance for development cooperation, with some €142 million (about M2 billion) having been set aside by the EU for the implementation of development projects in these areas. This includes the expansion of water supply and sanitation infrastructure and rain water collection (€78 million), and energy production, electrification, conservation and efficiency (€28 million).

Lesotho Highlands Water Project
Identified more than 50 years ago as the most cost-effective water resource exploitation benefitting both Lesotho and South Africa, the Lesotho Highlands Water Project (LHWP) is one of the most ambitious engineering projects ever undertaken in Africa. The water transfer scheme provides water for South Africa’s domestic and industrial use, while Lesotho benefits from the associated infrastructure, such as roads, as well as hydroelectricity and royalties.

Phase I of the LHWP involved the construction of a series of dams, reservoirs and tunnels, with water travelling from a network of reservoirs at Mohale, Katse and ‘Muela through the trans-Caledon tunnel and then into the Vaal Dam in Gauteng, South Africa’s industrial heartland. It also saw construction of the ‘Muela hydropower station.

Phase 2 of the LHWP (LHWP2) entails the construction of the Polihali Dam at Tlokoeng in Mokhotlong below the confluence of the Khubelu and Senqu rivers, as well as additional transfer tunnels feeding water to the Katse Dam. This will increase the current supply rate to Gauteng’s Vaal System from around 10 billion to some 15 billion cubic metres a year, as well as boosting Lesotho’s existing hydropower generation capacity through the 1 200-megawatt Kobong Pumped Storage Scheme.

The LHWP2 was launched in an unveiling ceremony in Tlokoeng on 14 March 2014, officiated by Lesotho’s King Letsie III and President Jacob Zuma of South Africa. The procurement process is currently underway, and implementation of the project is scheduled to commence with the construction of advance infrastructure in 2015, followed by the dam and tunnel in 2017. The delivery of water and hydroelectricity generation is expected in 2023.

The cost of LHWP2, including the Kobong Pumped Storage Scheme, is forecast to be in the region of M17 billion, and will be carried by both South Africa and Lesotho. South Africa will bear the costs related to the construction of Polihali Dam and the water transfer component, while Lesotho will fund Kobong and its related social and environmental costs. Around 2 500 workers are expected in the area at the height of the project. This will entail the establishment of a township and development of an existing lodge to meet the accommodation demand.

As part of preparations for Phase 2, the LHDA conducted an extensive public sensitisation programme among the Mokhotlong community, and a Draft Compensation Policy was drawn up with their input. Furthermore, Community Liaison Structures were established to ensure the involvement and participation of the public and in particular the affected communities, households and individuals.


On 1 May 2013 the Lesotho Electricity and Water Authority (LEWA) assumed the responsibility for regulating the Water and Sewerage Company (WASCO) in addition to the Lesotho Electricity Company (LEC). This followed the promulgation of the Lesotho Electricity Authority Amendment Act of 2011.

The Vision 2020 energy target is to have at least 35 percent of the population connected to electricity by 2015, increasing to 40 percent by 2020.

The electricity sector activities regulated by LEWA encompass the generation, transmission and distribution of electricity, and the supply as well as import and export of electricity. Additionally, LEWA has taken over the regulation of the following urban water and sewerage services: water treatment, production, transmission, distribution and supply, storage of water for treatment, distribution or onward supply, the delivery of water to trunk or main pipelines, and the treatment and disposal of waste water by the sewerage system.

LEWA’s prime responsibility is to ensure that the supply of water and electricity is provided to industry and business, as well as domestic, public and government consumers, private education and health institutions, in a manner that is affordable, reliable and cost effective. This entails putting mechanisms and policies in place that encourage, promote, monitor and evaluate local private sector participation in the efficient financing and timely construction of water and electricity programmes, as well as the collection of data on water and electricity schemes in all constituencies. LEWA also protects the interests of all consumers of electricity, water and sewerage services in relation to access, quality and price of service, and makes appropriate recommendations to Government.


The electricity network covers major urban centres, and supplies have been extended through most parts of the lowlands and Senqu River Valley to reach all district headquarters in the mountains. Nevertheless, with electricity connections tending to be concentrated in the lowlands, rural areas remain heavily reliant on indigenous biomass fuels such as shrubs, firewood, crop residue and animal waste, as well as paraffin for cooking, heating and lighting.

The use of biomass is associated with environmental degradation in the form of deforestation and soil erosion. There is also heavy dependence on imported liquefied petroleum gas (paraffin), exposing consumers to high and unstable oil import prices. This scenario is likely to continue until renewable energy technology becomes economically viable in the country.

The electricity supply industry
The electricity supply industry in Lesotho is dominated by two state-owned entities. The Lesotho Electricity Company (LEC) is the monopoly transmitter, distributor and supplier of electricity, while the Lesotho Highlands Development Authority (LHDA) is the main generator of electricity through its 72-megawatt ‘Muela Hydropower Plant, which is part of the Lesotho Highlands Water Project. Changes took place in the electricity industry in the post-2000 period, when, as part of its programme to restructure state-owned assets, the Government decided that LEC would be privatised while ‘Muela would be ring-fenced within the LHDA to ensure that its costs were known.

The LEC is responsible for electrification within its service territory, with rural electrification efforts currently managed by the Rural Electrification Unit (REU) of the Department of Energy (DoE). The Lesotho Electricity and Water Authority (LEWA) has set up a Universal Access Fund which disburses monies in order to subsidise the capital costs of electrification in the country, with the goal of facilitating the development and expansion of electricity service infrastructure.

Electricity demand and usage
Lesotho experiences electricity shortages, particularly during the dry winter months, and the generally unreliable and inadequate power supply has proven a severe constraint on business development. The diamond mining industry, presently poised for further expansion, has also been held back by the lack of power supply to the less established mining areas.

Given the net power deficit in the region, Lesotho’s hydropower potential could be further exploited with the goal of exporting electricity, particularly to South Africa. Government plans to develop a comprehensive energy policy framework which will result in a systematic approach towards responding to national energy needs. Aggressive expansion of the existing power grid to otherwise remote areas must thus form part of the Government’s medium-term investment programme.

The electricity index increased by 13.5 percent in the second quarter of 2014, reflecting higher electricity consumption by the commercial/industrial and domestic categories, at 19.4 percent and 11.4 percent, respectively. This was in part due to the higher usage of electricity during the cold winter months, as well as rising electricity consumption by the industrial category, which is in line with increased production by the mining and the textile and clothing manufacturing subsectors. Electricity consumption by textiles and clothing firms and the mining industry increased by 3.0 and 11.1 percent, respectively.

Expanding electrification
Current Government endeavours take cognisance of the growth of industry and expansion of economic activity to remote areas, which requires reliable and cost effective energy supply. In addition, sustainability of energy sources needs to be ensured through the use of green technologies with limited negative impact on the environment.

During 2013/14, 15 000 new connections were made countrywide, covering both households and institutions. Furthermore, a solar street lighting project encompassing Mount Moorosi, Ha Ntsi and Pitseng has been completed with funding from the People’s Republic of China, and Moshoeshoe I International Airport has benefited from 280 kilowatts of solar electricity installed with the assistance of the Japanese Government.

For 2014/15, it is envisaged that a total of 16 000 households and institutions will be connected to the national electricity grid. This will include rural electrification covering Botha-Bothe and Leribe districts, while the construction of solar street lighting over a distance of 8 kilometres will be undertaken in Mapholaneng, Peka and Mapoteng. It is proposed that M80.0 million be allocated for the implementation of these projects.

Renewable energy
Lesotho presently boasts a low-carbon footprint and has successfully piloted a number of renewable energy solutions. The UNDP’s draft country programme document for Lesotho (2013-2017) has as one of its focus areas ‘Sound Environmental Management for Sustainable Development’. The document emphasises a low-carbon economy, conservation of natural resources to secure livelihoods and production, and better management of risks related to natural disasters. This will see, among other efforts, support given to the development and implementation of a rural renewable energy policy that can provide institutional, financial and technological incentives for using ‘green energy’.

In mid-2014, Lesotho was among nine African countries chosen to receive new funding and operational support from the Climate Investment Fund’s (CIF) Scaling Up Renewable Energy in Low Income Countries Programme (SREP). This increases the number of African nations piloting CIF climate-smart investment plans to 25, representing nearly half of all countries on the continent.

Power generation initiatives
Power generation options have been expanded to include clean energy and the promotion of private investment in the sector. Assistance in this regard has been forthcoming from the International Finance Corporation (IFC) for feasibility studies of three wind energy sites at Mafika-Lisiu Mountain Pass, Blue Mountain Pass and Lebelonyane, with the IFC also commissioning a consultant to undertake a regulatory and institutional gap analysis for the renewable energy subsector. A feasibility study to assess the potential for a wind farm in the Semonkong area is being undertaken by Mos-Sun Clean Energy Technologies (MOSCET), in partnership with the Lesotho National Development Corporation (LNDC). This has the potential of meeting the energy needs of Semonkong, while the remainder could be fed into the national electricity grid.

Part of Phase 2 of the Lesotho Highlands Water Project involves the proposed 1 200-megawatt Kobong Pumped Storage Scheme, which would comprise a new reservoir along the upper Kobong River, a tributary of the Malibamat’so River which flows into the Katse Reservoir. It is envisaged that Lesotho will sell the majority of the power generated at Kobong to South Africa (through a Power Purchase Agreement with Eskom) and the SADC region, with the remainder to be consumed locally.

The implementation of Kobong is subject to the outcome of a joint feasibility study. With the technical and economic feasibility studies now complete, further studies are to be undertaken, including:

  • A market study
  • An integration study
  • Geotechnical investigations
  • Legal and commercial arrangements

A 12-month prefeasibility study by consulting firm GIBB to investigate the viability of the Monont’sa pumped-storage scheme in northern Lesotho has concluded that it has the potential to provide significant power, totalling 1 200 megawatts, and is technically ‘very feasible’. While the short-term benefits of a large pumped-storage project such as Monont’sa are too small to adequately compensate for its cost, by 2035 Southern Africa will most certainly require the additional peak power capacity generated by the scheme.

The Mantšonyane Mini-hydropower Station was rehabilitated during the 2013/14 financial year.

PowerNET Developments (Pty) Ltd, a joint venture between South African energy consultancy NETGroup and Lesotho’s Powerdev Group, has been given the go-ahead to develop a 42-turbine wind farm in the Lesotho highlands near Letšeng diamond mine. This follows an environmental impact assessment and proposed mitigation measures by the developer in view of its potential impact on breeding populations of both Cape and Bearded Vultures. The facility will produce in the region of 25 to 35 megawatts of electricity.

Rural electrification
Improving access to electricity for rural communities continues to be a major challenge. Even though Lesotho is a relatively small country, around two-thirds of its land area comprises mountainous terrain which is sparsely inhabited, with small scattered villages on mountain sides. The majority of these villages lack electricity and the probability of connecting them to grid electricity in the foreseeable future is very low, given the commercial nature of grid electricity and the generally low income levels in rural areas.

The National Rural Electrification Fund and the Department of Energy’s Rural Electrification Unit assist in the implementation rural electrification, with projects including the development of sustainable energy sources such as solar power. A current electrification programme, funded by the EIB, is targeting communities affected by construction of the MDWSP. This will see electrification provided for over 70 villages, including some schools and clinics in the Metolong catchment area.

Go to top