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Bulawayo's worst water crisis in decade

by Staff reporter
03 Mar 2024 at 08:47hrs | Views
BULAWAYO could face its worst water crisis in the past 10 years, with statistics at hand showing that its supply dams are in the red, a few weeks before the official ending of the rainy season in Zimbabwe.

This comes as the Government and the Bulawayo City Council (BCC) are already looking for possible urgent solutions to this possible crisis, amid indications that residents might endure the stringent water shedding schedule right throughout the year.

An analysis of the dam levels over the past 10 years at the end of the rainy season, reveals that the city is possibly headed for its worst crisis. According to the local authority, as of last Friday the city's supply dams were 42.39 percent full, the previous week they stood at 42.78 percent full.

In a maximum dam levels Trend at the End of Each Rain Season generally dam levels have been on a downward trend since 2015, with the lowest having been in 2020, where the city's dams stood at 35.27 percent by the end of the rainy season.

"Even though dams spilled in 2017, the only other best season was in 2021 when dams reached 70.4 percent full. From 2021 to date, the Situation has been worsening with each passing consecutive year," reads a presentation by the local authority on the city's water situation.

In 2015, by the end of the rainy season the supply dams were 71 percent full, in 2016 they were 65.9 percent full, 2017; 97.2 percent, 2018; 87.3 percent, 2019; 61.7 percent and in 2020 the supply dams were 35.27 percent full by the end of the rainy season.

In 2021, the dams were 70.4 percent full by the end of the rainy season, in 2022 they were 60.68 percent full and last year by the end of the rainy season the dams were 59.16 percent full. In the past 20 years the lowest dam supplies was recorded in 1995, where the dams were 12 percent full.

Responding to questions from Sunday News, the local authority's corporate communications officer, Miss Bongiwe Ngwenya, revealed that according to their projections, by the end of the rainy season the city's dams would be 40.27 percent full.

"The City uses the 21 month management tool rule as an early warning framework. The rule states that at the end of the rainy season in April each year, there should be enough water in the dams to last 21 months through a 10 percent low inflow year to the beginning of the next rainy season (April 1996 Future Water Supplies). The 2023/2024 season has been projected, assuming no further inflows in the dam to be at 40.27 percent by the end of April 2024.

"Currently, the City has one of the dams decommissioned (Mzingwane dam on November 18, 2023) and therefore relies on the other five dams for water supplies. Drought related water shortages have prevailed over the years, leading to a perpetual water rationing regime in the city and seasonal varying shedding regimes varying from 24hours/week to the extreme 144 hours /week. Presently, the City is supplying water under a 120 hour shedding," said Miss Ngwenya.

The council spokesperson, revealed that Lower Ncema is projected to be decommissioned on 6 July, while Upper Ncema is projected to be decommissioned on 1 September.  Meanwhile, the Government has given a 20-member Bulawayo Water Technical Committee, the task to expedite the evaluation process of the Glass Block dam in order to facilitate the formal granting of approvals for the complimentary investment to curb the City's woes.

This comes as council has set a target of April, to come up with both the engineering and financial feasibility studies of the project, which they say will be funded by private players. Glass Block Dam- which has been taunted as one of the city's medium term solutions- is a proposed reservoir on the Umzingwane River, with a carrying capacity of 14 million cubic metres.

The construction works of the Glass Block Dam, which includes a 41km pipeline connecting to the Lower Ncema Dam, would take 30 months to complete.  The local authority has intensified plans to construct the US$100 million water supply dam in Insiza District in Matebeleland South as part of its short-to-medium-term solution to address the perennial water crisis.

Speaking soon after a meeting of the 20-member Bulawayo Water Technical Committee in Bulawayo last Wednesday, the Minister of Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Resettlement, Dr Anxious Masuka, said the technical committee should expedite the evaluation process of the dam.

"The city of Bulawayo presented a proposal for the private sector investment in a dam and we said this technical team ought to expedite the evaluation process, so that the approvals can be granted formerly for that complimentary investment," said Dr Masuka.

The Government is further expected to secure funds of up to US$15 million, required to address the Bulawayo water situation  ,while the contract to divert a portion of the Mtshabezi pipeline is forging ahead all in an effort to mitigate the water situation.

Bulawayo Mayor, Councillor David Coltart, has said the dam was one of the solutions which the local authority can be looking at progressing, while the government also works on other long term solutions like the Gwayi-Shangani dam and pipeline.

Speaking at a Community Indaba hosted in city last Thursday, to discuss the state of service delivery in the city, Clr Coltart, said they have set April as the deadline to come up with feasibility studies of the project.

"In comparison to Gwayi- Shangani, the pipeline there is going to be 257 kilometres and has to go up against 500 metres, which is a massive engineering project. We have been trying to build Glass block and Government has revealed that they do not have sufficient money, so our plan for delivering in that regard is to work with the private sector and we are working hard on that.

"We have set ourselves a deadline of April to come up with two feasibility studies, one on the engineering ,which is building the dam and the pipeline and enhancing the Ncema treatment plant and to the reservoir. The other will be on the financial feasibility. What underpins all this, is that we intend to get funding from the private sector. We want to get this private funding for the future of the city's water supplies," said Clr Coltart.

The mayor reiterated the need for an all stakeholders approach to the water issue in the city, noting that with unity anything was possible.

"As I have said time and again that this is not a political issue, but it is an issue that concerns all citizens and it is critically important in this time of drought that we ensure all citizens as well as this city does not run out of water.

"We are pleased that the contract to divert a portion of the Mtshabezi pipeline to Umzingwane pump station is now going to go ahead. We thank you (Dr Masuka) for talking to the Minister of State for Provincial Affairs and Devolution Judith Ncube, to try and secure additional resources of US$15 million that we need to address the crisis fully. The general message that we are conveying to the residents of our great city is that,we must not panic. We do have a short-term strategy and working closely with Government, we will address this issue and I am sure we will get through this period," added the mayor.

Source - The Sunday News