Source: Zim runs dry – DailyNews Live January 14, 2017
HARARE – The devastating effects of the El Nino-induced drought are now
being felt across the country with residents and officials warning of a
potential national disaster if the critical water situation is not dealt
There are fears that Zimbabwe could slide back to the 2008/2009 period
when a cholera outbreak killed more than 4 000 people.
With dams drying up and people now being forced to drink water from
unprotected sources, residents groups in Harare, Gweru, Chitungwiza and
Bulawayo fear an outbreak that could surpass the 2008/2009 era.
The activists went on to call on government to declare Zimbabwe’s water
situation a national emergency.
According to the Harare City Council (HCC) spokesperson Michael Chideme
residents are now using water sparingly.
“Demand management has always been in existence but now people should use
water cautiously because there is very little water. Our water production
is failing to meet the demand. People should use the available water
sparingly as it is being spread thinly across the city,” Chideme said.
He said the stop gap measure of water bowsers is cognisant of the need to
provide water so that residents do not become susceptible to waterborne
diseases such as cholera and typhoid.
Chideme said HCC will continually review allocation of bowsers to cater
for those that are in desperate need as well as drill more boreholes
through the 10 percent retention scheme and partners.
But Combined Harare Residents Association (Chra) chairperson Simbarashe
Moyo said the problem with Harare is that they did not warn residents of
He added that the city is on the brink of a serious health crisis and with
introduction of prepaid water meters, they have to be prepared for
“While they have started rationing water, they are also saying that
prepaid water meters will be rolled out to the city. How do they expect
people to buy a commodity that they will not be frequently getting?” he
Health minister David Parirenyatwa has also warned of the potential
outbreak of cholera.
Parirenyatwa said as the rainy season approaches, possible outbreaks of
waterborne diseases such as cholera, typhoid and diarrhoea are heightened.
“When water flows it scoops all the dirt and this dirt some of it goes
into the shallow wells in the city here. Some people will take cholera
infected water from those shallow wells,” he said.
Harare’s satellite town of Chitungwiza is also bearing the full brunt of
water shortages with people now being forced to sleep in queues to access
the basic commodity.
Chitungwiza Residents Trust (Chitrest) director Marvellous Kumalo said the
situation has become dire.
“Chitungwiza does not have its own source of water and depends entirely on
the city of Harare. This means that households that used to access tap
water once a week are now accessing it once per fortnight or a month,”
He added that the situation has forced many residents to resort to shallow
wells and boreholes which are also drying up fast.
The residents advocate said some that cannot wait in borehole queues or
walk to find water elsewhere have also resorted to paying $1 for a 25litre
container of water, making residents pay double for water.
Kumalo added that women and girls are most affected as they are forced to
abandon their economically productive hours in the search for water
“In view of the recently introduced water rationing in Harare and
subsequently in Chitungwiza, an obsolete water infrastructure, an
increasing urban population and the critical water shortages caused by the
prevailing drought, we urge Government to declare the water situation in
urban areas a national disaster. In the Harare Metropolitan province
alone, close to three million citizens are negatively affected by the
scarcity of water,” Kumalo said.
Gweru Residents Forum (GRF) director Charles Mazorodze said the water
situation in Gweru is so bad that suburbs such as Mkoba 19 have not
received any water in the last 10 years.
Mazorodze said the city also failed to supply other suburbs such as Mkoba
The GRF director said there are also suburbs like Mambo and Mtapa were
water meters are being removed by council prompting residents to resort to
shallow unprotected wells.
“The quality of water is so appalling that people often find particulates
floating in their tap water. Apart from that, public toilets are always
closed because there is no water. You can see urine flowing along the
sidewalks and that makes the spread of diseases very easy,” Mazorodze
Acting district administrator for Mudzi, Priscilla Muguto said with the
drying up of Nyamuwanga Dam, the crisis would have resulted in a health
disaster such as a disease outbreak had an alternative not been found.
“This area is prone to waterborne diseases, however, because of the new
pipeline from Dendera Dam we managed to avert any diarrhoeal diseases. We,
however, need a bigger water source as a long-term solution to the water
crisis,” Muguto said.
The acting DA, however, added that there was need to construct another
pipeline at Kudzwe Dam since it was bigger in size and would cater for a
Bulawayo South legislator Eddie Cross, who is also the MDC shadow minister
of Local Government, told the Daily News on Sunday that water
infrastructure in Harare was created for a population of 1,2 million but
now it is being overstretched to more than 3 million because of areas such
as Chitungwiza, Epworth, Ruwa and Norton which are supplied by Harare.
Cross said Harare has reached emergency levels and requires multi-faceted
efforts if the situation is to be addressed.
He said despite having numerous sources of water, the only remaining
source-Lake Chivero- is heavily silted and only has about 35 percent of
“Chivero is heavily polluted by Harare and Chitungwiza. The city’s only
option for a clean source-Darwendale Dam-is being blended with Chivero,
however, infrastructure problems are sabotaging the attempts,” Cross said.
The legislator also said that with Norton and Chitungwiza only receiving
one third of their water requirements, there is need to harness Darwendale
before the two towns dry up.
He added that if local authorities were availed their five percent budget
allocation, they would be in a better position to deal with the situation.
“The rest of Zimbabwe is also facing water problems which government needs
to declare a state of emergency. We are in very dangerous territory right
now and we need to deal with it before we have a health disaster on our
hands,” the Bulawayo South Member of Parliament said.
Admitting failure, minister of Local Government Saviour Kasukuwere said
drilling boreholes in cities and towns should not be celebrated as an
achievement because water should be accessed at taps in homes.
“If I drilled boreholes in a rural constituency then people would have a
cause to celebrate because that is where it is supposed to happen not in
urban set-ups. We cannot say we have made progress by drilling boreholes
in Borrowdale or Budiriro,” he said.
Zinwa operations manager Runde Catchment area Jonathan Juma said the water
levels in Mutirikwi Dam had become worryingly low as it supplies Masvingo
and the sugarcane fields in Triangle and Chiredzi.
He said at the current rate, Mutirikwi is releasing five cubic metres of
water per second downstream which will connect with canals that feed into
the sugarcane fields, however, if the drought persists, Zinwa would have
to reduce the downstream flow.
“The water we have is enough to last Masvingo city and the irrigation
fields until May 2017. However, at the current consumption rate of 30
cubic metres per month for Masvingo we may end up completely ceasing the
release of water into the Lowveld to ensure that the city remains with at
least three years supply of water until the next rainy season.”
“The reduced release of water downstream has already begun to affect the
sugarcane fields because currently we are supplying 43 percent of their
water needs because most dams are almost empty,” Juma said.
The situation is bad in rural areas like Kotwa where villagers are now
sharing water sources with wild animals.
According to Unicef although, nationally, 73 percent of the population has
access to safe water and 60 percent to improved sanitation facilities,
urban water services have also deteriorated.
In September, Tunisian activists warned of a “thirst uprising” as the
country’s rainfall patterns dropped by 30 percent.
Two weeks ago, Harare began rationing water to ensure that the little
available is spread across the city, with Chitungwiza and other cities and
towns having to also cut down on their water uptake.
The capital city also introduced water bowsers in many high and low
density suburbs to ensure that those in areas that have gone dry access
the precious liquid.
According to a Harare water supply dams report for August, using Lake
Chivero as the sole source of water, Harare had 164 days or five months of
The report showed that there is a further 100 megalitres per day that can
be accessed from the Lake Chivero old intake for an additional 100 days.
Harare requires 800 megalitres (Ml) of water per day, however, council can
only supply 450 Ml.
According to the latest Zimbabwe National Water Authority (Zinwa) schedule
of dam levels, the highest is Nyambuya in the Mazowe catchment at 83,8
percent full, while the lowest is Upper Ncema in the Mzingwane catchment
at 0,8 percent full.
Other dam levels include; Manyame Dam at 79,6 percent full, Chivero 57,6
percent, Bulilima at 44,1 percent, Mtshabezi 58 percent, Mzingwane 2,8
percent, Mutirikwi 9,7 percent, Gwenoro 36,1 percent, Osborne 28,9 percent
and Whitewaters at 40,1 percent full.