Metropolitan authorities remain adamant about low dam levels

Despite claims by Harare City Council that its water sources are running out, a Water Supply Dams’ Report gleaned by The Sunday Mail Extra shows that the dams still have enough water to sustain the city for almost a year-and-half. The Harare Water SupplyDams’ report of August 2016, which was compiled by Harare City Council, shows that Lake Chivero and Manyame Dam can sustain a daily output of around 700 megalitres of water per day.

Harare requires about 800 megalitres of water a day. This follows a dreadful water rationing schedule published by the municipality last week advising residents in most middle and high-density suburbs that they could experience water cuts that can last up to five days a week. According to acting Harare City water director, Engineer Hosiah Chisango, “The schedule will be reviewed in December when the city hopes to receive significant rainfall”.

Meanwhile, the impact has already been felt across the capital as residents in suburbs such as Kuwadzana, Budiriro and Mufakose had to scour for water last week. In the case of Chitungwiza, which gets its water from Harare, residents have already gone for months without running water after the capital city cut supplies to the town from 27 to 15 megalitres a day, the bulk of which is going to service centres.

The report shows that as of end of August, Lake Chivero and Manyame Dam had a combined capacity of 523 457 megalitres of water.
After subtracting the allowance for evaporation, the figure of available water was pegged at 418 765 megalitres. Using an average abstraction of 650 megalitres a day, the report notes that the city can be sustained for a period of 21 months.

“Using Lake Chivero only, Harare has 164 days of supply (five months),” reads the report, adding that there is a further 100 megalitres a day that can be accessed from the Lake Chivero old intake for 100 days. Considering that it is barely a month since the report was compiled, observers say the dams could not have deteriorated to levels claimed by council in such a short space of time.

Therefore, critics are arguing that council might be facing water treatment capacity rather than low dam levels. But the metropolitan authorities remain adamant that dam levels are too low.

“We are being limited by production capacity,” said council spokesperson Mr Michael Chideme. “Right now we have lost about 60 million litres per day from the Prince Edward plant because dams that supply this plant are almost dry. Our water levels have gone very low.

“Our production is currently at around 400 million litres a day against a demand of 1 000 megalitres per day.”

Whatever the case, experts argue that council appears ill prepared to deal with the water shortage following last year’s drought and remarkably high temperatures as well as the capital’s growth.

They concur that council has particularly failed to come up with more water bodies to keep up with the demands of new settlements.

“The city has been growing,” said Mr Percy Toriro, president of Zimbabwe Institute of Regional and Urban Planners.

“We have new suburbs each year and it’s obvious that you are bound to have shortages if you do not upgrade your infrastructure.

“So it is clear that water is not being given the priority it deserves because council has not been investing in new water bodies.”

The constant and prolonged water cuts are leaving residents at risk of diseases such as cholera, typhoid and diarrhoea. According to a weekly report by the Ministry of Health and Child Care, 15 new cases of typhoid were reported in Harare last week as the city was rocked with a five-day water cut.

The Minister of Health and Child Care, Dr David Parirenyatwa, has already warned that the rationing could plunge the city into a public health crisis, especially as we approach the rain season.

“When the rains come they wash all the dirt which goes on to collect in shallow wells, and when people drink the water from those shallow wells they are exposed to great risk of cholera.”

In 2008, Zimbabwe grabbed international news headlines following a cholera outbreak that was said to have been the worst in Africa in 15 years. The outbreak was attributed to inadequate and poor quality of domestic water at household level. As a result, about 100 000 cases were reported while an estimated 4 000 people lost their lives throughout the country from December 2008 to July 2009.

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