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Bulawayo water woes set to worsen as Umzingwane Dam is decommissioned

By Nqobile Tshili

BULAWAYO water woes are set to worsen after the local authority yesterday decommissioned Umzingwane Dam.

Umzingwane Dam which has been decommissioned by the Bulawayo City Council
Umzingwane Dam which has been decommissioned by the Bulawayo City Council

In June, Bulawayo City Council (BCC) decommissioned Upper Ncema and the local authority is now left with four supply dams out of six which are 36 percent full.

Although the local authority did not reveal the immediate impact of the latest development, last month Bulawayo Mayor Councillor Solomon Mguni said the city was running dry and if it does not rain soon, the remaining water will not last seven months.

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Last week on Monday, council scaled up water shedding from a weekly 72-hours to 96-hours due to dwindling levels at its supply dams.

In high lying areas, some residents have even gone for more than a week without running tap water and depend on council’s water bowsers.

BCC Senior Public Relations Officer Mrs Nesisa Mpofu confirmed the latest development yesterday through a statement.

“The City of Bulawayo would like to advise members of the public that Umzingwane Dam has been decommissioned with effect from Tuesday, 3 December 2019. The City remains with 4 out of 6 dams (Lower Ncema, Insiza, Mtshabezi, and Inyankuni) as available sources of surface water supply,” said Mrs Mpofu, adding that the city’s water supplies remain extremely suppressed.

“BCC further advises that the decommissioning of Umzingwane Dam reduces the input of raw water to 95 Megalitres per day against a current daily average consumption of 131.6 ML / day (Monday, 25th November to Monday, 2nd December 2019) despite the 96-hour water shedding programme.”

She said Umzingwane dam was decommissioned after its water levels dropped to 3,95 percent.

Mrs Mpofu said Zesa power cuts have worsened the situation as the BCC cannot effectively pump water from existing water bodies.

“Bulawayo continues to face challenges with pumping due to electricity cuts being experienced in both the delivery of raw water and clear water supplies to the city. Council would like to urge residents to conserve water in a bid to match the consumption levels and daily abstraction levels,” she said.

“Currently, there are ongoing efforts to increase the pumping from the Nyamandlovu Boreholes to at least 5 ML/day and for the Zimbabwe Electricity Transmission Distribution Company to speed up on the re-installation of the power supply lines that were blown away by storm winds two weeks ago.”

Despite the country being in the rainy season, Bulawayo’s supply dams have not received significant inflows with only two percent being recorded so far.

The water crisis has prompted the local authority to reintroduce the big flush where it is encouraging residents to simultaneously flush their toilets twice a day between 6 and 6:30AM and 8 and 8:30PM to prevent sewer pipe burst incidents.

BCC is encouraging flushing of toilets every day when residents are not experiencing water shedding. The Chronicle