Zimbabwean cities face more water woes
Growing populations, failing rains and aged infrastructure blamed
Residents of Zimbabwe's two major cities, Harare and Bulawayo, will face water cuts of up to 48 hours at a time because of low rainfall. And the rain forecast is looking bleak.
At the end of December, the Bulawayo City Council notified residents of the possibility of water rationing, but said water tankers would be made available to alleviate the situation.
The rainy season lasts from the second half of October to April.
Council spokesperson Nesisa Mpofu said this week that the city had been using a water-rationing programme for the past 35 years to satisfy growing demand.
"The city continues to grow at a higher rate than the sources of water, meaning the demand for water is higher than the supply. As a result, limits are put in place on how much water can be consumed by an individual household per month or per day. The current average daily consumption [for the city] is 135 megalitres," Mpofu said in an e-mail.
Six supply dams provide the city with water - uMzingwane, Inyankuni, Insiza, Upper Ncema, Lower Ncema and Mtshabezi.
According to the Zimbabwe National Water Authority, the city's six supply dams were at an average of 60% full as at December 24, down from 65% on November 6.
Mtshabezi Dam is 89%, Insiza 68%, Inyankuni 64%, Lower Ncema 59%, uMzingwane 38% and Upper Ncema 25%.
The Meteorological Services Department, in its national climate outlook for the 2018/2019 rainfall season, has indicated the recurrence of an El Niño weather phenomenon, characterised by extreme temperatures and little rainfall.
However, a lasting solution to the water crisis is widely seen by experts to lie in the drawing of water directly from the Zambezi River.
The project, the Matabeleland Zambezi Water Trust (MZWT), has in recent years met with resistance from politicians and been hard-hit by the lack of funding to construct the pipeline needed to draw water from the river into the city.
MZWT CEO Sarah Ndhlovu said when water supplies from the dams decreased, the local authority had no choice but to ration water to residents.
"The solution is for all stakeholders in the city and the region to rally behind the project.
"The Matabeleland Zambezi Water Project should be fully implemented as a matter of urgency," she said.
The capital, Harare, is faced with its own challenges of supplying water to its nearly 2-million residents.
According to the City of Harare, the city's water supply infrastructure was designed to supply 350,000 people. The infrastructure was upgraded progressively, with the last phase commissioned in 1994 to supply 1.5-million people.
Some of the infrastructure in use is more than 60 years old.
Earlier this month, the council said it had 15 months' supply of water left. The city's acting director of water, Mabhena Moyo, said during a tour at Lake Chivero this week that water levels at the lake had dropped by 10m from 28m due to siltation caused by urban agriculture.
Water supply in the capital currently is at 272 megalitres daily, against a demand of 450 megalitres.
The significant shortfall in water supply has resulted in most residents in the city going for months without running water.
Theresa Mhlanga, a resident in the high-density suburb of Mabvuku, said she last had running water in June and relied on unprotected shallow wells for supply.
"There is only one council borehole in my area which caters for everyone, and getting water is really a daily struggle," she said.
Precious Shumba, the co-ordinator of the Harare Residents Trust, said ratepayers were being short-changed by the local authority as they still had to pay water bills even though there was no reliable supply.
"Accessing water has become a huge cost to ratepayers given that water tariffs were increased to 70c from the current 25c, and now there is a proposed rise to 83c.
"The City of Harare has evidently failed to address the question of availability, accessibility and the quality of municipal water," said Shumba.
Harare mayor Herbert Gomba said residents also had a collective responsibility in the improvement of infrastructure and must meet their obligations by paying council bills.