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$910 million to solve Bulawayo water problems

By Nqobile Tshili

Bulawayo City Council (BCC) requires US$22,75 million or $910 million to implement three medium to long term projects to ease the city’s water crisis that has resulted in council implementing a five-day weekly water shedding exercise.

City of Bulawayo aerial view of central business district
City of Bulawayo aerial view of central business district

The plan comes at a time when Bulawayo is facing serious water challenges due to falling water levels in the city’s supply dams.

Last year, the local authority decommissioned Umzingwane and Upper Ncema dams and expects to decommission Lower Ncema Dam this month due to depleting water levels.

The water crisis saw council last year in February imposing a 48-hour weekly water shedding exercise, before gradually increasing it to 72 hours and scaling it up to 96 hours, 108 hours and this week water cuts were increased to 120 hours per week as the water situation continues to deteriorate.

The water shedding is a result of successive poor rainfalls in the 2018/19 and 2019/20 rainy seasons.

The council said the prevailing water crisis could be the worst the city has ever experienced.

In high lying areas, some residents have gone for more than a month without running water relying on deliveries from water bowsers and boreholes. The water crisis has seen council applying to Government for Bulawayo to be declared a water shortage area.

In doing so, the council intends to unlock $910 million or US$22,75 million for three major projects to address the city’s water challenges.

Responding to emailed questions, BCC senior public relations officer Mrs Nesisa Mpofu said the projects are medium to long term but the National Matabeleland Zambezi Water Project remains the only long term solution to the city’s perennial water challenges.

She said the projects are construction of a 42km Mtshabezi-Ncema 450mm water pipeline at a cost of $600 million; upgrading a 11km Umzingwane–Ncema 900mm water pipeline and equipping and drilling of 20 boreholes in Nyamandlovu Aquifer for Epping Forest underground water at the cost of $60 million.

“The potential to cover the gap is through the implementation of the following sustainable projects, which have been submitted to Government. Further development and extension of the Nyamandlovu Aquifer towards Sawmills in Tsholotsho.

“It is envisaged to supply an estimated combined (Rochester & Epping Forest) ground water potential yield of 20 Megalitres per day (M/L). Presently, the Nyamandlovu Aquifer scheme supplies on average 3-4 ML/day out of potential of 20 ML/day,” said Mrs Mpofu.

“Mtshabezi Dam has the potential to supply maximum raw water of up to 25 ML/day. Currently the dam can supply 15 – 17 ML/day.”

Mrs Mpofu said the $10,6 million availed to the Zimbabwe National Water Authority (Zinwa) for the rehabilitation of 15 boreholes at the Nyamandlovu Aquifer will augment raw water supplies in the city.

Mrs Mpofu said council was in the process of rehabilitating 282 boreholes citywide to alleviate the prevailing water crisis.

“To augment water supplies, the city has also been working with various partners to rehabilitate the 282 local community boreholes for non-potable use during the period of water shedding. Twenty-five boreholes were rehabilitated in 2019 using materials donated by Edgars Pvt Lt.

A contract is being prepared to rehabilitate more boreholes in anticipation of the water supply shortages which continue to worsen given the dire state of the city’s supply dams,” said Mrs Mpofu.

She said Bulawayo Provincial Affairs Minister Cde Judith Ncube’s office is also working to ensure boreholes are drilled in Lobengula, Old Magwegwe, Magwegwe West, Pelandaba, Pumula South and Nkulumane suburbs to improve the water situation. The Chronicle

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