Let us conserve underground water

EDITOR ? There is increasing public debate on the use of borehole water in this country especially to keep lawns and vegetation green during the dry season.

Watering lawns and vegetation with borehole water accounts for approximately 80 percent of borehole water usage.

We all know Harare City Council’s inability to supply us with adequate water, but even with the best will in the world and adequate funding, resolving this matter is going to take years.

It involves building dams, water treatment plants and replacing almost all of Harare’s underground water infrastructure.

In the interim (and in the future) we need to seriously conserve our only alternate source of water ? underground water.

Using over 80 percent of offtake from this source to keep peoples, gardens pretty is simply ridiculous.

The fact that underground water levels are already seriously depleted is indisputable.

The standing level of the water in my borehole (which is now dry) has dropped by well over 20 metres in the last 10 years. The equation is very simple. Underground water is replenished by rainfall.

The level of offtake is increasing on a daily basis, but rainfall is not increasing to compensate. Do the maths.

We also need to establish a degree of separation here between the issues of council-provided water and borehole water.

Even when water supply was normal people used borehole water to water their lawns because it is free. The city has grown immensely over the years and more boreholes have been drilled.

We have to accept that we live in a dry climate irrespective of availability of water, having green lawns is not a luxury we can afford any more.

Of course, given the unavailability of water, this practice is completely unacceptable. Borehole water usage must be restricted to household use and watering of vegetables only.

Moving on to the issue of those who sell mineral water, this is a tricky one.

These people are certainly drawing on underground reserves, but for many, including me, they are the only source of portable water.

They are, in fact, providing an essential service. It is my intention to propose to the city authorities that they should establish borehole facilities, well outside the city boundaries, where business can buy it at a concessionary rate.

I also think that it is essential that the city establish storage facilities (plastic tanks) in the high density areas and truck water in there for the residents of those areas. This will have to be provided as a free service. Borehole water should be used as it will require minimal treatment before delivery. Donor funds could be sourced for this.

Thanks to the kind efforts of the Mayor’s office, on the lawn watering issue has been forwarded to the relevant authority.

I am hopeful that progress will be made toward a ban on watering of lawns and vegetation using borehole water.

Edward Byrne

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