THE water situation in Bulawayo and Gweru is set to worsen following the decommissioning last Thursday of one of the supply dams for the second city and the drastic decline in water levels at Gwenhoro Dam, the main water source for the city of progress.
Bulawayo has five supply dams, namely Insiza, Lower Ncema, Upper Ncema, Umzingwane and Inyankuni.
Upper Ncema was decommissioned early this year.
The decommission of Inyakuni last Thursday, means the city now relies on only three water sources which are 42,8 percent full, on average.
This week, Bulawayo City Council senior public relations officer, Nesisa Mpofu, advised residents that the 72 hours water shedding schedule would remain in force.
“Residents of the City of Bulawayo are encouraged to use water sparingly and conserve water that is available in the city’s supply dams,” she said.
Bulawayo dams can supply the city with 414 627 700 litres daily but are currently only supplying 177 521 577.
Water rationing, which the second city has been grappling with since July last year, seems far from being over unless the country receives adequate rains in the coming season.
The laying of the 41 kilometre pipeline from Mtshabezi Dam to Umzingwane Dam was completed last October but the city could not draw water from the dam at full throttle since the pipeline was not electrified.
Engineers had to resort to using generators, which also did not have the capacity to power the pumps continuously.
The Mtshabezi pipeline is expected to supply about 17 000 cubic metres of water to Bulawayo daily, reducing water shedding by 24 hours.
However, the long-term solution to the city’s water woes lies in the National Matabeleland Water Project mooted over a century ago.
Meanwhile, Gweru’s main water source, Gwenhoro Dam, is only two percent full and will have to be decommissioned before end of this month.
This is posing serious headaches for the city fathers who are currently nursing a deep financial hole caused by a government directive issued last month, ordering councils to write off all debts accrued by residents between February 2009 and June 30.
Council currently needs to purchase clarifiers — one to be installed at Whitewaters Dam and another at Amapongokwe Dam — in the wake of the declining water situation at Gwenhoro Dam.
At least US$289 000 is required for the clarifier which needs to be installed at Whitewaters Dam so that it can increase its pumping capacity to meet the city’s demand.
It could not be immediately established how much would be needed to move water pumps from Gwenhoro to improve pumping capacity at Amapongokwe.
Whitewaters’ carrying capacity is just below 2000 megalitres, while Amapongokwe, which is currently 45 percent full, has a holding capacity of 5000 ML.
Gweru consumes 1500 ML of water per month and at current uptake levels the city could run dry before the end of the year.
In April this year, the city introduced a stringent water rationing regime which prohibits the use of hosepipes, banning of car washes and rations households to 500 litres of water per day among other measures.
This has largely not been adhered to prompting council to introduce water shedding.
Before cancelling debts, the local authority was owed over US$21 million by residents.
Gweru treasurer, Edgar Mwedzi, confirmed that council will decommission Gwenhoro Dam and added that council was seeking more than US$289 000 for clarifiers to be installed.
“We need at least US$289 000 to purchase and install a clarifier at Whitewaters Dam to boost pumping capacity from that side while we will need additional funding for the moving of pumping equipment from Gwenhoro to Amapongokwe to improve pumping capacity that side. The major challenge is the funding aspect and we have been left with no option but to seek funding from the banks,” he said.
He further warned residents to brace up for more water shortages as they would be “a gap” due to pumping constraints during decommissioning of Gwenhoro.
This comes hard on the heels of a loan taken by the local authority three months earlier.
In June, council borrowed about US$2 million for the purchase a fleet of council vehicles, front end loader and other equipment.
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