MASVINGO - The City Council here yesterday declared a state of emergency because of a severe shortage of potable water.
The water levels at Lake Mutirikwi are critical, amid fears water supplies in some areas will run out soon.
The Zimbabwe Republic Police’s sub aqua unit has been asked to open an emergency water intake valve in the drying Lake Mutirikwi, which is now at seven percent.
It has not rained well in Masvingo for years and meteorologists were forecasting the drought would continue.
Hubert Fidze, the Masvingo mayor, told a news conference yesterday that they had sought help from the police.
“We are in a state of emergency,” mayor Fidze said.
“The dam is now at critical level and pumping water for the residents is now a challenge. We have however engaged the police commissioner-general’s office to assist us with divers to open the emergency valve so that we supply the residents water.
“Our request papers are in his office and we await his response.”
The valve is only opened when the city can no longer pump water from shallow parts of the lake that would have dried up.
This is the second time that the dam has reached such low levels since its construction in the 1960s. The first time was during the devastating 1992 drought.
Some suburbs such as Mucheke, Rujeko and Runyararo West have gone for weeks without water, with residents resorting to a few boreholes drilled in the city by a local NGO.
The residents are spending long hours at the boreholes, with some even sleeping at the water sources.
Farai Guzo, the Masvingo city engineer, said council was looking for about $80 000 to refurbish old boreholes that were drilled during the 1992 drought.
“The situation is not likely to improve even if that emergency water intake valve is opened by ZRP sub aqua divers,” Guzo said.
“The levels are critically low and we need to repair some old boreholes and the process includes cleaning them and checking their water levels and that could cost us about $80 000. So the city council needs to look for funding.”
The Masvingo mayor called for calm.
“We are not yet pressing the panic button, residents should remain calm as we are working on this tirelessly to find alternative solutions, while we pray that the rains will improve and pour in our province to fill our lake,” he said.
The water shortages have sparked fears of an outbreak of diarrhoea.