'Residents drinking polluted water'

HARARE - Harare residents are drinking polluted water as most of the city’s supply is recycled from the sewer treatment works, an environmentalist and professor with the University of Zimbabwe, Christopher Magadza, claimed.

He said the problem was mainly due to the prevailing drought, which has left dams at dangerously low levels, coupled with over-pollution of Harare’s major water sources.

Magadza warned that the pollution levels were so high that drinking the water could cause serious illness for some.

“Water coming in from our flush system is actually what people are drinking right now . . . very little is coming in from Manyame and Mukuvisi. There are so many harsh chemicals and pollutants in our raw water,” he said.

“The most common method of treating water for consumption is applying chlorine but if the water has a lot of organic material from pollution, chlorine will combine with that material to produce chlorocarbon that is far much more dangerous. You produce water that may be free of bacteria but is full of chemicals that cause cancer,” he said.

Magadza added that the problem was exacerbated by the destruction of wetlands, which disturbed natural water purification.

Apart from the recycling of sewer water for consumption, he said there was also a growing problem of siltation of water sources due to stream bank cultivation.

“By allowing stream bank cultivation to become some-what a norm in Harare, Lake Chivero has lost about 18 percent of its water to siltation and this prejudices council of $45 million every year in water revenue,” Magadza said.

The environmentalist said unless the problems of siltation and pollution are addressed, Chivero would not be able to provide water for Harare in the event of a drought.

Due to the deepening water crisis, Harare City Council has been compelled to impose a rationing programme schedule that sees suburbs going for three days without the precious commodity.

According to the latest statistics, unless significant rains come, Chivero is left with four months of water supply.

“Lake Chivero was constructed in such a way that the water stored in it should be able to supply the city for at least three years in the event of a drought, however, due to siltation, the lake lost about six months of water storage,” Magadza said.

Magadza added that engineering in the form of waste water management will take away a lot of money to reduce phosphorus content to make the water suitable for consumption.

He said there is need to stop completely relying on recycled sewerage water, if a significant change is to be realised.

Comments (3)

What does the learned prof advise people to do to the water before drinking it??

dankay - 17 November 2016

jut look at all the filth dropped next to the river what runs across montgomery rd in prospect to many people got no respect for theyr own country all caused by bad planning of so called FBC DREAM HOUSES

jack - 18 November 2016

Yes the article is largely true except that the real problem is not about the water from sewage but that of Harare's dysfunctional sewage treatment systems. Under normal circumstances the waste water can be treated to very quality levels and use again for potable purposes. There are many factors including global warming that are affecting Chivero's capabilities to supply drinking water. Last, the government has for long be taking about Kunzvi Dam which could supply cleaner water that requires less treatment. But nothing seems to be moving. Yes, the situation is going to be even worse given that at present only 40% of the treated water pumped from water treatment works reaches the residents, the rest is lost through leaking pipes. simonbere@yahoo.com

Simon Bere - 18 November 2016

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