By Nomalanga Moyo
SW Radio Africa
07 January 2013
Demand for water in Bulawayo continues to outstrip supply with the city currently receiving just a fraction of its estimated daily requirements.
The city has longstanding water restriction measures and these will remain in place despite the improved rainfall in recent weeks, authorities have said.
“Without significant inflows into our dams the restrictive measures will remain,” Bulawayo Mayor, Martin Moyo, told SW Radio Africa on Tuesday.
Historically, the city’s water needs have been reliant on the Insiza Mayfair, Inyankuni, Lower Ncema, Upper Ncema, Mtshabezi and Umzingwane dams.
Water levels at the other four functional dams have slightly improved since the onset of the rainy season with at least three months’ inflows so far recorded, consultant Peter Edmeades told city-based correspondent Lionel Saungweme.
“From the beginning of January dams have gained 35% to 40% overall and this represents a month’s supply while the season’s total inflows of around 2, 100 mega litres represent three months’ supply,” Edmeades said on Monday.
Insiza is at 54% of its capacity, Inyankuni 8%, Lower Ncema 25%; Upper Ncema 9%, Umzingwane 21%, and Mtshabezi 94%. Inyankuni and Upper Ncema were both decommissioned from supplying the city last year, because they were so dry.
The Mayor said the total volume of water in all the dams is just enough to supply residents with water for 19 months. These dams serve other communities as well, and the Bulawayo City Council is only allowed to draw a certain amount of water.
Although Mtshabezi Dam is almost full, the local authority says work still needs to be done to bring it to full pumping capacity. Siltation is also said to be a problem at all the dams.
“The situation hasn’t changed much, and our water conservation regime is likely to remain for some time. Both water shedding and rationing, whereby we limit each family to 14 mega litres per month and turn off water for two days a week respectively, will continue unless inflows hugely improve,” Mayor Moyo said.
The city’s well-documented water challenges are a mixed bag of the political, geographic and climatic.
Residents accuse the ZANU PF government of ‘marginalising’ the region by stalling the implementation of the Matebeleland Zambezi Water Project.
The scheme, mooted a century ago, would see the Zambezi River supplying Bulawayo with water for its domestic and commercial needs. Several firms have relocated from the city, citing insecure water supplies.
Geographically, Bulawayo sits on elevated ground, with water flowing away from the city towards the south or north (Limpopo and Zambezi) respectively.
Bulawayo also experiences perennial droughts, just like the rest of the Matebeleland region, and campaigners blame a lack of political will for the absence of comprehensive solutions to the problems.
The water and sewer infrastructure for the city was meant to serve a population of about 100,000 people but this has since increased to an estimated current population of 1,5 million people but this has not been matched by improvements or developments in the infrastructure.
Long-term, the proposed Gwayi-Shangani dam constitutes one of the most viable solutions to the water challenges the city faces, the Mayor said.
“For now we need to duplicate the Insiza pipeline, refurbish boreholes at the Nyamadlovu aquifer and develop those at the Epping Forest aquifer,” Moyo added.
All this is part of the city council’s waterworks and sewerage rehabilitation master plan. But to achieve this, the council needs at least half-a-billion dollars, money it does not have.
Bulawayo’s budget for the current year is $156 million and, in a city with an unemployment rate of more than 90% and where industrial activity is almost non-existent, the council will have to find other funding sources for its medium or long-term water projects.