Zim runs dry

HARARE - The devastating effects of the El Nino-induced drought are now being felt across the country with residents and officials warning of a potential national disaster if the critical water situation is not dealt with.

There are fears that Zimbabwe could slide back to the 2008/2009 period when a cholera outbreak killed more than 4 000 people.

With dams drying up and people now being forced to drink water from unprotected sources, residents groups in Harare, Gweru, Chitungwiza and Bulawayo fear an outbreak that could surpass the 2008/2009 era.

The activists went on to call on government to declare Zimbabwe’s water situation a national emergency.

According to the Harare City Council (HCC) spokesperson Michael Chideme residents are now using water sparingly.

“Demand management has always been in existence but now people should use water cautiously because there is very little water. Our water production is failing to meet the demand. People should use the available water sparingly as it is being spread thinly across the city,” Chideme said.

He said the stop gap measure of water bowsers is cognisant of the need to provide water so that residents do not become susceptible to waterborne diseases such as cholera and typhoid.

Chideme said HCC will continually review allocation of bowsers to cater for those that are in desperate need as well as drill more boreholes through the 10 percent retention scheme and partners.

But Combined Harare Residents Association (Chra) chairperson Simbarashe Moyo said the problem with Harare is that they did not warn residents of rationing.

He added that the city is on the brink of a serious health crisis and with introduction of prepaid water meters, they have to be prepared for anything.

“While they have started rationing water, they are also saying that prepaid water meters will be rolled out to the city. How do they expect people to buy a commodity that they will not be frequently getting?” he said.

Health minister David Parirenyatwa has also warned of the potential outbreak of cholera.

Parirenyatwa said as the rainy season approaches, possible outbreaks of waterborne diseases such as cholera, typhoid and diarrhoea are heightened.

“When water flows it scoops all the dirt and this dirt some of it goes into the shallow wells in the city here. Some people will take cholera infected water from those shallow wells,” he said.

Harare’s satellite town of Chitungwiza is also bearing the full brunt of water shortages with people now being forced to sleep in queues to access the basic commodity.

Chitungwiza Residents Trust (Chitrest) director Marvellous Kumalo said the situation has become dire.

“Chitungwiza does not have its own source of water and depends entirely on the city of Harare. This means that households that used to access tap water once a week are now accessing it once per fortnight or a month,” Kumalo said.

He added that the situation has forced many residents to resort to shallow wells and boreholes which are also drying up fast.

The residents advocate said some that cannot wait in borehole queues or walk to find water elsewhere have also resorted to paying $1 for a 25litre container of water, making residents pay double for water.

Kumalo added that women and girls are most affected as they are forced to abandon their economically productive hours in the search for water

“In view of the recently introduced water rationing in Harare and subsequently in Chitungwiza, an obsolete water infrastructure, an increasing urban population and the critical water shortages caused by the prevailing drought, we urge Government to declare the water situation in urban areas a national disaster. In the Harare Metropolitan province alone, close to three million citizens are negatively affected by the scarcity of water,” Kumalo said.

Gweru Residents Forum (GRF) director Charles Mazorodze said the water situation in Gweru is so bad that suburbs such as Mkoba 19 have not received any water in the last 10 years.

Mazorodze said the city also failed to supply other suburbs such as Mkoba 18.

The GRF director said there are also suburbs like Mambo and Mtapa were water meters are being removed by council prompting residents to resort to shallow unprotected wells.

“The quality of water is so appalling that people often find particulates floating in their tap water. Apart from that, public toilets are always closed because there is no water. You can see urine flowing along the sidewalks and that makes the spread of diseases very easy,” Mazorodze said.

Acting district administrator for Mudzi, Priscilla Muguto said with the drying up of Nyamuwanga Dam, the crisis would have resulted in a health disaster such as a disease outbreak had an alternative not been found.

“This area is prone to waterborne diseases, however, because of the new pipeline from Dendera Dam we managed to avert any diarrhoeal diseases. We, however, need a bigger water source as a long-term solution to the water crisis,” Muguto said.

The acting DA, however, added that there was need to construct another pipeline at Kudzwe Dam since it was bigger in size and would cater for a larger population.

Bulawayo South legislator Eddie Cross, who is also the MDC shadow minister of Local Government, told the Daily News on Sunday that water infrastructure in Harare was created for a population of 1,2 million but now it is being overstretched to more than 3 million because of areas such as Chitungwiza, Epworth, Ruwa and Norton which are supplied by Harare.

Cross said Harare has reached emergency levels and requires multi-faceted efforts if the situation is to be addressed.

He said despite having numerous sources of water, the only remaining source-Lake Chivero- is heavily silted and only has about 35 percent of useable water.

“Chivero is heavily polluted by Harare and Chitungwiza. The city’s only option for a clean source-Darwendale Dam-is being blended with Chivero, however, infrastructure problems are sabotaging the attempts,” Cross said.

The legislator also said that with Norton and Chitungwiza only receiving one third of their water requirements, there is need to harness Darwendale before the two towns dry up.

He added that if local authorities were availed their five percent budget allocation, they would be in a better position to deal with the situation.

“The rest of Zimbabwe is also facing water problems which government needs to declare a state of emergency. We are in very dangerous territory right now and we need to deal with it before we have a health disaster on our hands,” the Bulawayo South Member of Parliament said.

Admitting failure, minister of Local Government Saviour Kasukuwere said drilling boreholes in cities and towns should not be celebrated as an achievement because water should be accessed at taps in homes.

“If I drilled boreholes in a rural constituency then people would have a cause to celebrate because that is where it is supposed to happen not in urban set-ups. We cannot say we have made progress by drilling boreholes in Borrowdale or Budiriro,” he said.

Zinwa operations manager Runde Catchment area Jonathan Juma said the water levels in Mutirikwi Dam had become worryingly low as it supplies Masvingo and the sugarcane fields in Triangle and Chiredzi.

He said at the current rate, Mutirikwi is releasing five cubic metres of water per second downstream which will connect with canals that feed into the sugarcane fields, however, if the drought persists, Zinwa would have to reduce the downstream flow.

“The water we have is enough to last Masvingo city and the irrigation fields until May 2017. However, at the current consumption rate of 30 cubic metres per month for Masvingo we may end up completely ceasing the release of water into the Lowveld to ensure that the city remains with at least three years supply of water until the next rainy season.”

“The reduced release of water downstream has already begun to affect the sugarcane fields because currently we are supplying 43 percent of their water needs because most dams are almost empty,” Juma said.

The situation is bad in rural  areas like Kotwa where villagers are now sharing water sources with wild animals.

According to Unicef although, nationally, 73 percent of the population has access to safe water and 60 percent to improved sanitation facilities, urban water services have also deteriorated.

In September, Tunisian activists warned of a ‘‘thirst uprising’’ as the country’s rainfall patterns dropped by 30 percent.

Two weeks ago, Harare began rationing water to ensure that the little available is spread across the city, with Chitungwiza and other cities and towns having to also cut down on their water uptake.

The capital city also introduced water bowsers in many high and low density suburbs to ensure that those in areas that have gone dry access the precious liquid.

According to a Harare water supply dams report for August, using Lake Chivero as the sole source of water, Harare had 164 days or five months of supply left.

The report showed that there is a further 100 megalitres per day that can be accessed from the Lake Chivero old intake for an additional 100 days.

Harare requires 800 megalitres (Ml) of water per day, however, council can only supply 450 Ml.

According to the latest Zimbabwe National Water Authority (Zinwa) schedule of dam levels, the highest is Nyambuya in the Mazowe catchment at 83,8 percent full, while the lowest is Upper Ncema in the Mzingwane catchment at 0,8 percent full.

Other dam levels include; Manyame Dam at 79,6 percent full, Chivero 57,6 percent, Bulilima at 44,1 percent, Mtshabezi 58 percent, Mzingwane 2,8 percent, Mutirikwi 9,7 percent, Gwenoro 36,1 percent, Osborne 28,9 percent and Whitewaters at 40,1 percent full.

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