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'Bulawayo water crisis to increase sewer pipe bursts'

by Staff reporter
04 Mar 2024 at 04:42hrs | Views
CITY of Bulawayo director of engineering services, Eng Sikhumbuzo Ncube, has said the continuing water supply challenges facing the city could trigger a serious challenge of sewer pipe bursts as the sewer reticulation system constantly needs water to operate smoothly.

At a time when the country and parts of Southern Africa are battling the cholera outbreak, there are fears that sewer pipe bursts could fuel the spread of contaminated water-borne diseases including diarrhoea and dysentery.

Bulawayo is facing a severe water supply challenge due to the depleting water levels in major supply dams occasioned by poor rains this season.

The Government has reacted swiftly to urgently rehabilitate boreholes at the Nyamandlovu aquifer to ease the situation with the council appealing for a declaration of a state of disaster status to enable it to harness funds to support programmes aimed at cushioning residents.

Some suburbs have gone for close to three weeks with dry taps, forcing residents to seek water from unclean sources.

Eng Ncube has said as long as the sewer reticulation system goes dry for a long time as a result of prolonged water shedding, solving the sewer burst challenge would remain a mammoth task.

"As a city, we are using a system that allows human waste to move along with water. However, if there is no water and the pipes are dry, that waste dries up and becomes as hard as cement, literally," said Eng Ncube.

He was addressing delegates during a recent "Call for Action, No Compromise to Service Delivery" meeting held at the Small City Hall. The gathering was attended by Bulawayo Minister of State for Provincial Affairs and Devolution, Cde Judith Ncube, the permanent secretary in her office Mr Paul Nyoni, city Mayor Councillor David Coltart, Deputy Mayor Clr Edwin Ndlovu, some councillors, Town Clerk Mr Christopher Dube, the business community as well as residents.

Eng Ncube said once the waste has dried up, water that then runs through will bounce over and flow back.

"So, in essence, the burst sewer problems will be with us for a while, as long as we have this water crisis, which in all intentions may be the worst since 1980," he said.

"If you remember we once had a similar water challenge following the 1992 drought but our dams were around 62 percent full, compared to this time where we are at 43 percent and with an increased population," said Eng Ncube.

In the past, the city has resorted to what the council called a "big flush", where residents simultaneously flushed their toilets, as part of an attempt to prevent blocked sewage pipes. The first big flush was called for in 2012 with the second coming in 2019.

"You remember that council has previously introduced the big flush system where residents were called upon to simultaneously flush their toilets at given times but that is not possible now because water is not restored at the same time in all areas like before," said Eng Ncube.

A council engineer whose name cannot be published as he has no authority to speak to the media said when one flushes his or her toilet, they use about seven litres of water at a given time, which is enough to push the waste and keep the pipes "oiled".

"The whole water system works like that, out of a total of 100 percent water that is pumped into residences, 75 percent is channelled into the sewer while only 25 percent is used for other household needs like drinking, washing, flushing, watering among other things," said the official.

"In stressful periods like these, where people go for long periods without water, you find that for flushing residents use as little as two litres of water, which only manages to push that waste just away from the vicinity of the eye but not further enough."

In 2020 the city was plunged into panic and mourning following the death of 12 people in Luveve from suspected contaminated water with the Government attributing that to the city's 144-hour  water-shedding schedule, which was further worsened by vandalism of sewage pipes.

Source - The Chronicle