Vusumuzi Dube, Senior Municipal Reporter
THE Bulawayo City Council could be forced to increase its water charges after the Zimbabwe National Water Authority (Zinwa) increased the tariffs for the Mtshabezi Dam raw water by close to 2 000 percent.

Mtshabezi Dam is one of the three operational dams supplying the city, with the second highest capacity after the local authority decommissioned three out of six dams due to dwindling water levels.

Residents are enduring a 144-hour a week water shedding schedule. In terms of the law Zinwa manages all bulk raw water reserves in the country.

According to a council report, Zinwa effected a 1 979 percent increase on the Mtshabezi Dam raw water. The water body increased the water charges from 29 cents per kilolitre to $6,18 per kilolitre.

“Please be advised that the raw water tariff for Mtshabezi water will be reviewed to $6,18 per kilolitre . . . this has been necessitated by the general increase in prices with particular reference to electricity and spares for repairs and maintenance.

“The tariff will be reviewed after three months, if there are substantial movements of prices of critical inputs,” reads a letter from Zinwa.

Following the increase, the local authority is considering to increase rates to peri-urban areas.

“When council supplies water to Zinwa, it would have added value to it such as treating and pumping. Thus, council’s value addition should be over and above the cost of purchasing raw water. This talks to the need for council to review all its tariffs as costs keep increasing.

“If council is getting Mtshabezi raw water and pumping it to Mbalabala Barracks, it is incurring a loss of $4,55 per kilolitre. The loss suffered by council for raw water billed to Mbalabala Barracks in March and April 2020 amounts to $317 035,” reads the report.

According to the report, the local authority has also since instructed its financial services department to work out the impact of the Zinwa price increase to the rest of the city with the aim of considering whether it was necessary to effect an increase.

If council affirms the tariffs increment, this will come after the local authority effected a 716 percent rates increment in its 2020 budget projections.

The local authority recently resolved to set up a crisis committee, comprising the finance and development and general purposes committee, that will be responsible for monitoring budget performance and take any action inclusive of rates increase without consulting residents, with the chamber secretary, Mrs Sikhangele Zhou, revealing that this was a strategy that was also implemented during the 2007-2008 financial year when the local currency was heavily eroded.

The city is grappling with a water shortage that has resulted in a tight water rationing which has seen most residential suburbs only receiving water only one day a week. Some suburbs will only receive water after the next rainy season provided the supply dams receive enough inflows.