By Nqobile Tshili/Andile Tshuma
The Bulawayo City Council (BCC) yesterday indefinitely shutdown water supplies to the entire city to stabilise water levels at its reservoirs, worsening residents’ water woes.
Only hospitals, industry, mines and the Central Business District have been exempted from the blanket shutdown.
The BCC will only restore supplies when water capacity in its reservoirs has improved to normal, Bulawayo Town Clerk Mr Christopher Dube said.
Since the municipality embarked on major rehabilitation works under the Bulawayo Water and Sewerage Services Improvement Project (BWSSIP) funded by the African Development Bank last week, some suburbs last had running tap water on July 1.
The BWSSIP programme is meant to improve municipal water supply and sanitation services in the city to improve the health and social well-being of residents.
Mr Dube said the municipality has embarked on citywide water shutdown to allow its reservoirs to pump enough water to meet its demand.
“The City of Bulawayo would like to advise members of the public that we will be closing the whole City until the system stabilises. Water supplies were re-opened on Sunday, 7 July 2019 and Monday, 8 July 2019 to allow for temporary relief following the shutdown to facilitate rehabilitation of the Criterion Water Works,” he said.
“The City of Bulawayo advises residents that the works are still ongoing and we are currently operating at 50 percent capacity, with efforts to finalise the current works as a matter of urgency. The very high water demand of 157 ML vis a vis production of 105 ML has resulted in key Reservoirs dropping to below critical level that is Criterion and Magwegwe Reservoirs. It is anticipated that this shutdown will allow for the system to stabilise after which we will resume the 48-hour water shedding programme.”
Mr Dube said council was aware that some suburbs had not received water supplies in more than a week and would supply them with bowsers.
“We are aware of all the areas which have not yet received water and we will be supplying these with water bowsers. Residents are encouraged to liaise with their councillors as well as the City of Bulawayo Call Centre.
“Bulawayo City Council encourages residents to desist from vandalising water pipelines as this has an impact on water supply throughout the City. Residents are urged to conserve water whenever supplies are restored. We once again apologise for the inconvenience caused and we are working flat out to ensure that the system stabilises as a matter of urgency,” he said.
Mr Dube said load shedding was exacerbating water cuts as the council cannot pump as much as it can.
“BCC further advises that due to electricity challenges in the country, the Zimbabwe electricity Transmission and Distribution Company has further advised BCC to reduce the number of pumps for water supply. This means a reduction in the water getting into the City,” he said.
Meanwhile, water and power outages have crippled activities at schools in the city with some now resorting to the use of buckets to flash toilets.
In an interview yesterday, Bulawayo Provincial Education Director Mrs Olicah Kaira said thousands of learners have been affected by water and power cuts at schools.
Learners are reportedly missing many lessons that require water and electricity, especially practical subjects, at a time when schools are preparing for mid-year examinations.
For subjects such as Food and Nutrition, water and electricity is required while Fashion and Fabrics requires electricity for pupils to use sewing machines, irons and other appliances.
Pupils also need electricity to power up machinery used in subjects such as Woodwork, Metal Work, Computer Science, Biology, Physics and Chemistry.
Students with agricultural projects such as gardens require water to tend their gardening projects and also need water to prepare feed for chickens and for dressing the birds.
Some schools are using buckets to fetch water for flushing and cleaning toilets.
Teachers and students who spoke to The Chronicle said toilets were unusable.
Also affected are students on the night school programme as there would be no power in the evenings.
Mrs Kaira said a number of projects for Ordinary Level candidates who are set to sit for November public examinations would be compromised if the water and power cuts continued. “We are trying our best to ensure that we run the schools efficiently under these circumstances but it is extremely difficult. We are making use of bowsers, drums and Jojo tanks. Where we have boreholes schools run on boreholes. It is not easy because it involves a lot of manual work,” she said.
“Agricultural projects, poultry rearing, school feeding and general health care is compromised. The weekly cuts are having a toll on institutions in general. Operations are compromised especially with power cuts when schools need to run the mid-year exams. Computers and printers are not working. Schools need water and electricity to be fully functional”. The Chronicle