Let us conserve underground water

EDITOR — There are increasing levels of public debate about the use of borehole water in this country particularly where it comes to the use of this water to keep lawns and verges green during the dry season.

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

If this is to go any further we need to focus on what is achievable and keep our eye on the ball here.

We all know that the City Councils inability to supply us with water is a serious problem, but even with the best will in the world and adequate funding, resolving this is going to take years.

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

In the interim (and in the future) we need to zealously conserve our only alternate source of water which is 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 City water and borehole water.
Even during the era of reliable mains water people used borehole water to water their lawns because it is free.

The city has grown hugely over the years and many more boreholes have been drilled.

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

Of course, given the unavailability of mains water, this practice is completely unacceptable.

Borehole water usage must be restricted to household use and watering of vegetables only.

Moving on to sellers of water, this is a difficult issue. These people are certainly drawing on underground reserves, but for many, including me, they are the only source of 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 water sellers can go to collect water and 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 sourced for this.

Thanks to the kind efforts of someone in the Mayors Office, the lawn watering issue has been forwarded to the relevant authority and I am hopeful that progress will be made towards a ban on watering of lawns and verges using borehole water.

Edward Byrne

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