BULAWAYO MUST LIVE !          - 7/2/2007      <--Prev : Next-->

The Water Crisis in Bulawayo.

Bulawayo faces one of the most severe tests of its character this year. It could run out of water altogether. In 2005/6 the City had a good wet season with 850 mm of rainfall, despite this only 70 million cubic metres of water flowed into the storage dams - enough for 7 months consumption. This meant that the City was actually worse off for water at the end of the 2006 dry season than it had been at the beginning of the wet season.

This wet season has been a disaster from this perspective. To date, after three months of the normal wet season, dam levels have actually fallen by 212 000 cubic metres. The actual dam levels as of today's date are:

Dam Capacity Water Level % Full
Insiza 173 491 000 92 989 961 53.60
Inyankuni 80 781 000 12 716 350 15.74
Lower Ncema 18 237 700 8 778 280 48.13
Upper Ncema 45 458 500 683 880 1.50
Umzingwane 44 663 500 574 100 1.29
Total 362 631 700 115 742 571 31.92
In addition to the above capacity, on a daily basis only 16 to 18 of the boreholes on the aquifer are operational yielding 2 500 c/m/d.

What is critical in terms of the supply position is that at the above dam levels and given present off-take (105 000 c/m/d) the City has 10 months supply left. For these reasons the City has now imposed strict rationing and at the new ration levels (450 litres per low density household and 300 litres per high density households per day) it is estimated that the raw water supplies could last for 15 months. This would take the City through the 2007/8 wet season when hopefully enough run off will take place to replenish water levels.

But in fact the situation is much worse than these overall figures might suggest. The daily supply capacity of the two remaining dams with significant storage (Insiza and Inyankuni) are 65 000 c/m/d and 20 000 c/m/d each. When lower Ncema runs dry then the full supply position of the remaining dams is only 85 000 c/m/d. this is insufficient to meet the minimum needs of the City and large areas will actually go without water for long periods. Even this supply position is threatened as the delivery capability of the largest dam, Insiza, is declining as water levels drop.

The bad news does not stop there - at present off-take rates, Inyankuni is not expected to last much beyond June 2007 unless there are significant inflows. This will then leave only Insiza as a supply point at the rate of 60 000 c/m/d or fifty per cent of demand. At this level of supply the water position in Bulawayo will be critical and it is unlikely that the sewer system will be able to flush itself in the normal way. Very severe rationing will be required to ensure that every household has at least some water.

We must plan for the worst scenario possible: little further inflows in February and March. In this case Bulawayo is in a real crisis position. Attention must immediately be paid to the steps that can be taken to get the City through this situation. The following are suggested: -

1. Bulawayo must be declared a Water Shortage Area by the Government. They were asked to do this last year and Minister Chombo refused. The Council has again applied to the Government for this to happen (letter written in December) and to date there has been no response. This is an essential move as it then places control of all water resources in the area under the control and direction of the Council. This includes all ground water resources.
2. Rationing must be taken seriously by everyone and strictly enforced. People have got to understand that we are physically running out of water and therefore we have to save every litre we can.
3. Home owners should consider what they can do to protect themselves and their families from the shortage by installing additional storage at the house and collecting water run off when it occurs as well as using ground water to replace municipal water where ever possible. This might include a neighbourhood getting together to share ground water resources and putting in a simple local reticulation system.
4. All living here must report leak-ages to the City and insist that action is taken. In addition, residents should conduct a simple leak test at their homes. Turn off all the taps in the house and garden and then monitor the meter - if it is still running, you may have a water leak and this should be attended to by your local plumber. A resident who did this found that he had a leak under the house and he has had to re-plumb his supply main reducing their off-take from 2000 litres a day to 300.
5. The City should consider buying water from homeowners with very good ground water resources.
6. ZINWA should be reminded that it has responsibility for RAW water supplies to Bulawayo and that the theft of equipment from the aquifer and the destruction of pipelines under their management must be attended to immediately. The City gave the Authority Z $500 million more than a year ago to undertake this task and only 18 boreholes are functional.
7. The government has voted Z$30 billion for the pumping station and pipeline from the Mtshabesi dam in the Matopos to the pump station at Lower Ncema. This project must now be placed on an emergency footing and the plans upgraded to allow the system to deliver the maximum yield of this dam to the City. This would provide an additional 20 000 c/m/d in the short term and would a vital addition to the system.
8. The private sector has proposed that it form a joint venture with the City that will take over the management of the treatment Works within the City sewerage system with a view to recovering the waste water and treating and recycling the final product back into the City water treatment works at Criterion. This project is now far advanced and agreement has been reached on all aspects. The initial phase is expected to take 12 months to complete and will involve an investment by the private sector of Z$100 billion dollars. At the end of this investment the new system will feed an additional 30 000 c/m/d into the raw water supply system. When the further two phases of this project are complete the project will be capable of delivering 60 000 c/m/d to the City and will supply 35 per cent of total demand.
9. Efforts to block the attempt by government to nationalise the Bulawayo water and effluent system without compensation and without any plans to augment the local raw water supply capability must be resisted by all means. ZINWA has a bad record in terms of its capabilities and management and Bulawayo has an excellent Water and Effluent department that works well. The reasons for this action are political and have nothing to do with the welfare of the people of the City. If the take over by ZINWA is forced through then the initiative of the private sector in Bulawayo to work with the City to help resolve this crisis will be abandoned as the private sector has said it simply could not work with ZINWA in the same way as it does with the Council.
10. It is the responsibility of ZINWA to supply the City with raw water. The City pays for this and there is no reason to change this arrangement. What is urgent is that the projects that have been on the table for many years to augment the raw water supply of the City must now be implemented. This must include the rehabilitation of the aquifer and the construction of the pump station and pipeline from the Mtshabesi dam to the pump station at Lower Ncema.
11. The project to bring in water from a completely different catchment area to the north of the City remains a long-term priority. Despite all the talk and the efforts of local residents to encourage the project, no progress has been made and this remains a serious failure of government - one that puts the future of the City in jeopardy.

Concerned Citizen
31st January 2007