Harare City water supply situation gloomy

Harare mayor councillor Herbert Gomba

Dry suburbs in Harare and Chitungwiza will stay like that for months, with Harare City Council reserving the emergency $37,4 million from Government for supplying an inner ring of favoured consumers and abandoning vast swathes of the two cities.

And even the favoured few will receive intermittent supplies “until the next rains”, Harare Mayor Councillor Herbert Gomba said yesterday.

Harare effectively abandoned its north-eastern suburbs almost a decade ago, with intermittent supplies pumped to northern and eastern suburbs, largely weekly for a few hours, until anything between three months and a year ago when flows abruptly ceased.

In Chitungwiza, where boreholes are rare and bulk water brought by truck is expensive, Units G, J, K, O, P and parts of Zengeza and St Mary’s have gone for over six months without supplies.

The city has been hit simultaneously by three problems.

The treatment works at Morton Jaffray, the main source of clean drinking water, are in poor condition and because filthy raw water in Lake Chivero and Lake Manyame needs a lot of expensive chemicals.

The emergency aid was meant to repair equipment and supply chemicals for this treatment plant, but the effort has been limited.

Second, the far smaller Prince Edward Treatment Plant at Seke Dam has been closed after this small dam, and the larger Harava Dam upstream that feeds it, both dried up.

The same problem of low flows in  Manyame River last season meant that water levels in Lakes Chivero and Manyame are both low, and the city says it must limit intake into Morton Jaffray despite high levels of recycling.

The problems of raw water will be ameliorated once rains start falling and the Manyame River starts flowing, but it is now usually months after the first heavy falls that the big river flows, although run-off from built-up areas in Harare and Chitungwiza can feed the supply dams earlier.

Delivering his State of the City Address yesterday at Town House, Clr Gomba said efforts by Government and council in addressing the water crisis did not guarantee availability of water.

“The city is carrying out some works at Morton Jaffray Water Treatment Plant to optimise production, but the current rationing will continue until the next rains,” he said.

In an interview, acting water director Engineer Mabhena Moyo said the availability of water would depend on the increase in treatment at Morton Jaffray.

“We did not receive good rains and currently we are producing 200 megalitres a day against a demand of 610 megalitres,” he said.

In addressing the water situation, Clr Gomba said the Government committed to amortising its debt through paying Zimphos, in order to build its capacity to produce the much-needed chemicals.

Government also advised that Kunzvi, Musami and Muda dam projects would be provided for in the 2020 Budget, but these additional sources of raw water, important because they are not on the Manyame River, will take years to come into commission.

Clr Gomba said the city had procured nine water bowsers and five of them had been delivered to service the affected northern suburbs.

He said council was still in the process of seeking alternative water chemicals as the water treatment bill was between $35 million to $40 million a month depending on the prevailing interbank rate.  All chemicals are now imported, although Zimbabwe was once close to self-sufficiency.

Clr Gomba said council successfully signed three water deals amounting to US$868 million to address water reticulation systems.

“Council signed three critical agreements worth US$868 million for mega projects in the water and sanitation sector,” he said during his address. “This will comprehensively deal with the production and distribution part of the water supply value chain.

“The projects will also cover the sewer sector where upgrades to enhance treatment capacity are expected.”

Fixing sewage treatment means that high quality water flows into Lake Chivero for the significant recycling of water.

Done properly, more than half the water pumped to Harare and Chitungwiza should return to the supply dams and thus needs to be properly treated.

Meanwhile, Harare City Council is still in a financial mess despite a 68 percent improvement in monthly revenue collections to an average of $16 million.

But this is just two thirds of what the city is supposed to be paid and less than what the council must pay in statutory payments, those involving forwarding PAYE, paying medical aid and the like.

“We had a monthly potential of $23 million, but on average collected is $16 million and total revenue collected to date is $201 272 158,53 since November last year,” he said.

“Per month, National Social Security Authority is paid $600 000, Harare Municipal Medical Aid Society $4,1 million, Zimbabwe Revenue Authority $2 million per month for the current tax obligations and $500 000 goes towards settling the arrears and Local Authorities Pension Fund is paid $460 000 daily. We are also paying $1 million to Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority monthly.”

Clr Gomba said urged residents to develop a culture of paying their monthly bills to improve service delivery.

“Council continues to be saddled with the effects of a huge debtors’ book now approximately over $800 million and creditors over $450 million,” he said.

“Non-payment of rates negatively impacts on service delivery. Our residents must develop a culture of paying for the services. Government is paying its debt and residents, business and industry must follow suit and pay for services rendered.”

The efficiency collection is at 68.12 percent and the increase in revenue collection trend is attributed to revenue enhancement strategies which saw the exploitation of other revenue streams during the eighth wave of the Rapid Results Initiatives.

“We continue to lobby Government to allocate more resources under the inter-governmental fiscal transfers, as stipulated in the Constitution to enable us to deliver services to the residents of Harare,” said Clr Gomba.

He said the city was planning to introduce a cocktail of revenue enhancement initiatives early next year, which include infrastructure development tax, tax reforms and charging some users in foreign currency pending Government’s approval. – Harare