Mashudu Netsianda, Senior Reporter
CHAOTIC scenes were witnessed at Bulawayo City Council (BCC)’s Magwegwe reservoir as scores of thirsty residents stampeded to fetch treated water which gushed out of the 140-megalitre overnight storage tank for about four hours.
Although residents claimed that there was excess water being pumped into the reservoir resulting in excessive pressure on the pipes, BCC attributed the leakage to vandalism by local communities desperately in need of water.
As Bulawayo’s water woes continue to mount, with most suburbs going for weeks without running tap water, some residents are now resorting to unhygienic water sources in swampy areas, oblivious to the dangers of contracting water-borne diseases. High lying areas have gone for months without water.
This comes at a time the country is battling Covid-19, which has claimed hundreds of thousands of lives and infected millions across the globe. The city is on a 144-hour shedding schedule but the gruelling timetable has been suspended for almost all Western suburbs supplied by Magwegwe and Criterion reservoirs due to water supply challenges.
News broke out at around 9AM that water was gushing from the reservoir.
When a Chronicle news crew arrived at the Magwegwe reservoir at 12pm, residents were still jostling for water.
Some residents had trekked up to 10 kilometres from surrounding suburbs such as Pelandaba, Lobengula, Njube, Pumula, Gwabalanda and Mpopoma. Some were going to an extent of scooping muddy water as it flowed towards low lying areas.
Ms Regina Ndlovu of New Lobengula, who had just finished filling up four buckets, could not hide her excitement as she spoke to the Chronicle news crew.
“I couldn’t believe it when my sister who stays in Magwegwe West phoned and told me about this Godsend. I immediately took these four buckets and rushed to this place and managed to fill up all my containers despite the stampede,” she said.
“It was tense as everyone wanted to get share of this scarce natural resource. When I arrived here it was so chaotic as people shoved and pushed each other.”
Mr Aleck Mhlanga of Lobengula Extension said he heard the noise from his house.
“I just heard loud screams while I was busy watching television. I went outside to investigate and that is when I saw a huge crowd of people jostling to fetch water from a leaking pipe at Magwegwe reservoir,” he said.
“I immediately instructed my wife and children to join other residents and we rushed to the scene and managed to fill up 10 buckets.”
Ms Angeline Ndlovu of Magwegwe West said due to the prevailing water shortages in Bulawayo, the leakage turned out to be a blessing for her.
“It is two weeks now without running water and we rely on council bowsers and borehole water. I managed to fill up at least eight buckets from this leakage and I will make sure we use it sparingly in light of the water crisis that we are facing,” she said.
Ms Martha Ncube of New Magwegwe said yesterday’s incident was not new as a lot of water continued to be wasted through leakages at the reservoir.
Mr Mandla Moyo of New Lobengula said BCC does not have adequate machinery to measure water levels at Magwegwe reservoir.
“I suspect council could be using estimates to determine volumes, resulting in more water being pumped and frequent pipe bursts in the area,” he said.
BCC Director of Engineering Services Simela Dube said the cause of the leakage was due to systematic acts of vandalism on the air vessels of a pipeline which pumps water into the reservoir.
“The reservoir is not leaking, but what is happening is that a pipeline coming from Criterion and feeding the reservoir was vandalised. We have had similar acts of vandalism by residents on the pipeline from Nyamandlovu resulting in water gushing out,” he said.
“Although the air vessels are also bound to be faulty, but what we have experienced at Magwegwe reservoir is similar to what happens to our line in Luveve and Sizinda where there is systematic vandalism of those air vessels by communities. Unfortunately, once we have such a scenario, we are forced to close the tank thus creating another problem.”
Eng Dube said they have since lowered the water levels at the reservoir to reduce the pressure of water from Criterion.
“This means pressure would be low making it difficult for high lying areas such as Cowdray Park to access water. Our teams are working flat out to rectify the issue,” he said.
Eng Dube could, however, not ascertain the volume of the water lost, saying he was yet to get a report.
In May, BCC was forced to introduce a 144-hour weekly water shedding exercise to manage dwindling levels at the city’s dams. – @mashnets.