|26. March 2016
Bulawayo tightening water supplies
The Council of Bulawayo is tightening water supplies to residents in anticipation of very little improvement in the city’s water supply dam levels.
Despite the heavy rains that fell in the country in the last three weeks, breaking a record dry spell that began late last year, the local authority has indicated that it will not let up its guard on the management of the city’s precarious water supplies.
Director of engineering services, Simela Dube, said high density suburbs are now entitled to 450 litres per day as at January, down from 500 litres per day.
The low density allocation has been reduced from 750 litres per day last year to 550 litres per day. “Hotels, hospitals and clinics have their allocation now reduced from 100 percent to 90 percent average of water they used in the six month-period ending January 2016. Police stations, army barracks and prisons have their allocation reduced by 20 percent to 60 percent of average water of the six month-period ending January 2016,” he said.
A look at the city’s major supply dams earlier this month showed that Insiza held 101 165 046 cubic meters of water, representing 58,31 percent of its capacity; while Mtshabezi had 36 583 000 cubic meters, constituting 70,36 percent of its capacity. Other supply dams were as follows: Inyankuni 14 039 850 cubic meters, representing 17,38 percent; Lower Ncema 8 993 200 cubic meters, representing 49,31 percent; Umzingwane 5 247 500 cubic meters, representing 11,75 percent; and Upper Ncema at 1 885 600 cubic meters, representing 4,15 percent.
Bulawayo’s worst water supply situation was in 2011/2012 period when council introduced water cuts of up to four days weekly.
The Meteorological Services Department (MSD) has cautioned that the prevailing wet spell might not last until April. The MSD has also discouraged farmers from planting any more crops, after much of their crop planted last year was written off.
MSD head of weather services, Tich Zinyemba, said in past seasons, farmers would be harvesting crops and consuming the green harvest during this period. “However, due to the poor rainfall season that has been experienced there are some farmers that are still planting this time. This may not be recommended since there are indications of a short rainfall season.
“The wet spell that has been experienced for most of February into March has seemed to revive farmers’ hopes and there are expectations that there will be an extension of these rains into April because of the late start. This may not be the likely case if the seasonal forecast is taken into consideration,” said Zinyemba.
Bulawayo has perennially been affected by water shortages as an increasing population, estimated at over one million residents, puts pressure on the available water sources.
A permanent solution to the city’s water crisis is seen in drawing water from the Zambezi River through the Matabeleland Zambezi Water Project. Former water resources minister, Samuel Sipepa-Nkomo, said there has not been any political will to turn the more than 100 year-old plan into reality. With no new water sources, the city has been forced to hopscotch between gruelling water rationing and decommissioning of its supply dams.
The city now has an estimated 19 months’ supply of water, which technically should be able to take it through to the next rainy season.
(Financial Gazette, Harare)