Nqobile Tshili, Chronicle Reporter
BULAWAYO has introduced a 20-hour daily water shedding exercise for some western suburbs and is expected to decommission Umzingwane Dam this month, necessitating reintroduction of citywide water rationing.
This comes as water levels in the city’s supply dams remain low at a time they should be at their peak.
The city has already introduced a temporary 20-hour water shedding programme for Gwabalanda, Magwegwe West and Magwegwe North suburbs.
The local authority said it cannot cope with the consumption levels in the mentioned suburbs.
Bulawayo’s six supply dams – Umzingwane, Inyakuni, Mtshabezi, Upper Insiza, Lower Insiza and Ncema, normally receive significant inflows in February but this year, it hardly rained last month.
Even between December and January when the country received significant inflows, the dams, all situated in Matabeleland South did not record meaningful inflows.
Responding to Chronicle questions yesterday, Bulawayo City Council’s (BCC) acting director of Engineering Services Engineer Sikhumbuzo Ncube said if the prevailing situation persists, council will be forced to reintroduce a water shedding exercise.
“However, in summary, yes dams are lower compared to last year at the same time. According to drawdowns etc, Umzingwane Dam will not last beyond March, 2022 if no meaningful rainfalls are received. That means the city will have to move into shedding,” said Eng Ncube.
He, however could not be drawn into giving the actual statistics on the dam levels saying he was in a meeting.
In December, the city was due to reintroduce water shedding before receiving rains but shelved the programme.
In mid-January, BCC released a statement that the city had received 22 percent water inflows and later withdrew it saying it had made a typing mistake as the water inflows were just 2,2 percent.
In a statement, Acting Town Clerk Sikhangele Zhou said suburbs such as Gwabalanda, Magwegwe North and Magwegwe West are only receiving water for four hours per day.
“The City of Bulawayo would like to advise members of the public of the introduction of a 20-hour shedding programme for Magwegwe West, Magwegwe North and Gwabalanda suburbs. This is mainly due to a high demand on the main feeder which supplies these suburbs. The programme is with immediate effect until such a time when the demand eases,” said Mrs Zhou.
Commenting on the water situation in January, Town Clerk Mr Christopher Dube said as long as Umzingwane Dam does not have significant inflows the city will plunge into a crisis.
“It’s raining in other areas and some places have received significant inflows but unfortunately Umzingwane Dam, the dam that balances our distribution and reticulation is very low. For as long as there are no inflows in Umzingwane we will remain in trouble and people must know that,” said Mr Dube.
“Members of the public do not believe us when we say Umzingwane Dam is that low. There are no inflows in that catchment area. We have decided that regularly we inform the public through a public notice so that people may understand the situation of our dams. For as long as Umzingwane Dam has no water we are in trouble. Umzingwane Dam needs to rise beyond 30 percent for us to be safe.”
At the time of that interview, Umzingwane Dam was about eight percent full.
A Chronicle investigation also established that while no significant rains were being recorded in Umzingwane Dam catchment area, inflows were also being affected by dams that were constructed in the dam’s catchment area.
The Zimbabwe National Water Authority and BCC are in the process of investigating who constructed the dams.
Worsening the situation of the dam inflows are the operations of illegal gold panners who were also operating along Umzingwane River.
Gold panners are digging along Umzingwane River affecting the water inflows and, in some cases, they have gathered loads of sand while digging some holes affecting the natural flow of water in the river.
Bulawayo is not new to water crises. Between 2019 and 2020 the city recorded its worst crisis in its modern history which resulted in some suburbs in high lying areas going for over six months without running water.
Government in 2019 had to intervene to arrest a crisis which led to an outbreak of water-borne diseases that killed at least 15 people in Luveve suburb.
The crisis led to Government releasing funds for the rehabilitation of Epping Forest and Nyamandlovu boreholes which added 20 megalitres per day for the city.
President Mnangagwa has also committed to permanently addressing Bulawayo’s water crisis and Government has committed resources towards the completion of Lake Gwayi-Shangani.
The dam is expected to be completed by the end of the year and should have started impounding water last month.
Government has also contracted 11 companies to lay the 245km pipeline from Gwayi-Shangani to Bulawayo.
Bulawayo is expected to start receiving water that is drawn from Lake Gwayi-Shangani by the end of the year as the Second Republic fulfills a century old dream.–@nqotshili
Article Source: The Chronicle