The Sunday Mail
Carren Mushonga and Tanyaradzwa Rusike
Water bodies in and around Harare hold enough supplies to meet demand from the capital’s 2,1-million residents, including dormitory towns such as Ruwa and Norton, for the next 18 months — until the next rainy season — but shortages of water treatment chemicals are leading to intermittent supplies to both domestic and industrial users.
There were growing fears that the patchy rains received in the 2018/2019 summer cropping season, which were spawned by the El Nino weather phenomenon, would cripple supplies to ratepayers.
Harare City Council (HCC) draws water from Harava and Seke Dams, which supply Prince Edward (Seke) Treatment Works, while Lake Chivero and Manyame Dam feed into Morton Jaffray (Manyame) Treatment Works.
As of last week, Lake Chivero — Harare’s major water reservoir — was 86,2 percent full, which is, however, a drop from 100,5 percent from the same period a year earlier, according to statistics from the Zimbabwe National Water Authority (Zinwa).
Similarly, Manyame Dam is 94,4 percent full, down from 100,2 percent in the year-ago period.
But Harava and Seke Dams, which were full at this time last year, only hold 3, 2 percent and 7 percent, respectively.
Meteorological Service Department (MSD) head of weather forecasting Mr Tich Zinyemba said while the rainy season has not yet come to an end, any future rains are unlikely to change water levels.
“We might get some showers, but they are unlikely to pose any change to dam levels,” he said.
Overall, the average national dam level stands at 70,5 percent.
Zinwa’s corporate communications and marketing manager Ms Marjorie Munyonga said last week the available water is enough for both winter crops and domestic use.
“Most parts of the country were affected by the drought, but it must, however, be noted that a good number of dams still have sufficient water to meet the upcoming winter cropping requirements and domestic needs,” said Munyonga.
“Although a number of dams still have sufficient water to carry communities to the next rainy season, this does not discount the fact that water is a finite resource which needs to be efficiently and sparingly managed,” she said.
HCC is also singing the same hymn.
Mayor Hebert Gomba told The Sunday Mail that the current water stocks would “last the city until the next rainfall season”.
“We have enough water supply for the city despite low rainfall that we experienced this year, and it is enough and can last for 15- to 18 months,” he said.
“We have embarked on rationing water since we now have the required chemicals to ensure that water is distributed equitably.”
But City of Harare has been throttling water supplies to residents — the majority of who have to resort to unsafe sources such as boreholes and wells — owing to difficulties in accessing chemicals needed to convert raw water to potable water.
The quality of raw water in most of the city’s reservoirs has been progressively declining due to pollution in catchment areas such as Harare, Chitungwiza, Norton and Ruwa.
Dysfunctional sewage systems, which at times have led to seepage of effluent into water supply channels and ground water sources, are making the situation worse.
HCC corporate communication manager Mr Michael Chideme said the local authority spends between US$2,5 million and US$3 million per month on chemicals.
However, Mayor Gomba says they have since applied to the Procurement Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (Praz) to get supplies from the local market.
“We have appealed to Procurement Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe, but they have not yet responded.
“Because of the shortage of chemicals, we are introducing another chemical called chloride dioxide. It has been tested and tried and it will be replacing aluminium sulphate and other chemicals so as to improve the quality of water,” he said.
Praz chief executive Mr Nyasha Chizu said the application hasn’t been brought to their attention yet.
The spectre of water-borne diseases such as cholera and typhoid, which have recently plagued the city, is unnerving for most residents, who have queue for hours on end to get the precious liquid as shortages persist.
However, it is believed that a $225 million tie-up between city fathers and the Higher Life Foundation — a social-focussed organisation founded by billionaire telecommunications investor Mr Strive Masiyiwa and his wife, Tsitsi — will be able to address most, if not all, of Harare’s infrastructure challenges in the next six years.
Through the deal, council will get 40 ambulances and mobile water treatment plants, while the entire water distribution system will be revamped.
“The proposed Cholera Strategic Plan (2019-2025) will see us rehabilitating the water treatment plant, distribution network, supplying pumping networks in the distribution, do some sewer and water pipe-replacement programmes,” explained Mayor Gomba.