MASVINGO City Council says it needs US$60 million to ease perennial water shortages that will see the country’s first urban settlement increasing pumping capacity from about 30 megalitres to 60 megalitres per day to match rising demand.

Speaking at a one-day water and sanitation conference organised by Masvingo United Residents and Ratepayers Alliance (Murra) on Tuesday, council engineer Tawanda Gozo said the water pumping infrastructure was obsolete and had been overwhelmed by demand due to rural-urban migration as well as the population boom in the city, estimated to be now above 100 000 residents.

“Our infrastructure is now obsolete and demand has increased over the years. The pumping capacity matches about 60 000 residents at 24 megalitres per day, but at the moment the population has risen to plus 100 000 residents. The rising demand means we have to pump around 45 megalitres per day,” Gozo said.

He said the local authority carried out a feasibility study to assess the need to upgrade the pumping infrastructure and they require US$60 million to increase pumping capacity to 60 megalitres per day for the next 20 years.

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“We are urgently seeking a US$60 million loan to increase our pumping capacity and ease water shortages,” Gozo said.

He also said apart from the old infrastructure, the city’s water tariff was uneconomic and frequent and long power cuts at the main water pump station, Bushmead Waterworks, cut water supply to 15 megalitres.

“Inflation has eroded our budgets for all the services, leading to difficulties in providing services. We charge rates and tariffs in the local currency, but chemicals, consumables and repairs are indexed to the foreign currency exchange rate of the day. We also did a supplementary budget, but by the time it was approved, the prices of goods had already shot up and it was eroded by inflation.

Gozo said the council also once considered turning to generators and solar to power the pump station, but the costs were not sustainable.

“We thought of generators, but they are not a viable option for our pump station due to the capital costs of running the pump which is very big. While we need three generators, each costs US$1,5 million. On top of that, each generator would consume 150 litres of diesel per hour, yet the nation is facing fuel shortages, while the cost of fuel is also high.

He said a solar plant costs US$6 million and council does not have capacity to carry out that project.

Gozo said council was engaging Zesa for exemption from load-shedding at the waterworks.

Murra director Anoziva Muguti said the conference demystified the mistrust among stakeholders.

“It is good that we managed to bring the stakeholders together and they heard it for themselves and also gave their input on how best they want their city to be run. We hope that from the recommendations which came out, we will get lasting solutions to the myriad of challenges that is facing the city and its residents,” Muguti said.