Nqobile Tshili, Chronicle Reporter
BULAWAYO’S water crisis has worsened with council only managing to provide water to as little as two out of nearly 100 suburbs a day.
Council has since abandoned the 144 hour-weekly water shedding schedule that saw it supplying water to all suburbs twice weekly, for 12 hours on each day.
According to its Provisional Water Supply Restoration Strategy (PWSRS), residents are supposed to get supplies once a week from 5PM to the following morning. However, the water usually comes well into the night and by 8AM all taps would have run dry.
For instance, according to the council’s strategy released yesterday, Pumula South and Pumula East were the only Bulawayo suburbs to receive water from 5PM to the following morning.
Only the city centre, mining and industrial areas are exempted from the water cuts.
The acute water crisis has even seen housebreakers targeting bulk water containers.
Residents have complained that council does not seem to have a plan to address the water crisis as the situation worsens by each passing day, with boreholes that had been saving the situation in the past few months reportedly drying up.
Bulawayo Town Clerk Mr Christopher Dube yesterday admitted that council was in a water crisis dilemma.
“We suspended the water 144-hour weekly water shedding. We suspended it because we could no longer adhere to that schedule. This is so because we don’t have water as a city.
“We no longer have water in the city while consumption has increased. Residents have also resorted to buying Jojo tanks (bulk water containers) and whenever we shut supplies we do so because our reservoirs would have run dry,” said Mr Dube.
“We are forced to wait again while reservoirs are stabilising before we can reopen them again. The situation is worsened by electricity supplies which are very erratic. While power cuts have always been there, they were not visible because our reservoirs used to be stable for both raw water and purified. But at the moment we are living from hand to mouth. We have no water in the reservoirs. We only have purified water in reservoirs and whenever we experience power cuts everything stops.”
He said water consumption has also increased, although he could not give the daily statistics of the water consumption.
Mr Dube said under the PWSRS, council tries to isolate and prioritise high lying areas so that the areas also receive water.
“But there is an increasing phenomenon where some people open closed valves while some vandals damage our infrastructure just to draw water. This actually affects the water provision strategy,” said Mr Dube.
He described the water crisis as the worst to ever happen in Bulawayo.
“This is the worst ever water crisis in Bulawayo. Bulawayo has experienced water crises before but this one even supersedes the one that was experienced in 1992. It’s the worst because we have not received any meaningful rains since the 2016/17 rainy season. Even water levels at our boreholes are now very low.”
He said the only solution is implementing short to midterm strategies such as rehabilitating the Epping Forest and duplication of the 42km Mtshabezi-Ncema pipeline.
Mr Dube said if rains and fill up the dams, normal supplies will resume within a week’s time.
Acting Bulawayo police spokesperson Inspector Nomalanga Msebele said the water crisis has resulted in a new crop of thieves targeting Jojo tanks.
She said last month thieves stole bulk water containers at Premier High School and at a preschool in Pumula East suburb.
“We attribute the theft of these containers to the prevailing water crisis in the city. We encourage institutions to hire security guards while finding better means to secure their containers that have become targets for criminals,” she said.
Bulawayo Progressive Residents Association co-ordinator Mr Emmanuel Ndlovu said council should just admit that it cannot provide water to residents.
“With the worsening water crises, we are most likely to have another outbreak of water-borne diseases. The council seems to have run out of a strategy to address the water situation. At the moment council is only providing water to only one ward per day. We are afraid that we might have a repeat of the Luveve situation,” said Mr Ndlovu.
Bulawayo United Residents’ Association (Bura) chairperson Mr Winos Dube said the water situation was dire in most residential areas as residents do not know when they will receive water.
“Council’s Provisional Water Supply Restoration Strategy water strategy is not reliable. Residents no longer know the next time they will receive running water in their homes. Survival has become difficult for most residents and the situation seems to be worsening by the day,” said Mr Dube.
“Year after year the city has been experiencing water problems but the city does not seem to have a better disaster management system to address the water crisis. There is no disaster management plan.” — @nqotshili.