HARARE, Zimbabwe – Zimbabwean cities are facing serious water shortages despite the country recording very good rains during the 2020 – 2021 rainy season.
The capital of Harare is the worst affected with some dams having dried up.
According to a recent alert by the Harare municipality, some dams that feed the eastern parts of the city were left with less than six weeks of water.
The city council reduced water treatment days at the Prince Edward Dam from seven days to three days. Production will be 60 million liters (15 million gallons) per day during the three-day production period.
The reduction follows the depletion of water resources at the Seke Dam which is now empty and the Harava Dam that stands at 35.9%, and can only last for six weeks, said a statement from the city.
Engineer Mabhena Moyo from Harare’s water division, told Anadolu Agency that the city is facing problems with the ever-increasing water demand because of population growth.
“Harare is 20 years behind in terms of dam rehabilitation. Our demand for water is 1200 megaliters (317 mega gallons) of water per day but as the City of Harare, we have the capacity to pump only 780 megaliters.
“Construction of new dams as well as rehabilitation of existing reservoirs has not been taking place for decades, hence this challenge,” said Moyo.
Because of water shortages, Harare has always emerged as the epicenter for cholera and typhoid outbreaks as of late.
For the past two decades, Harare has been experiencing water shortages. Outbreaks started in 2008 when more than 400 people died from diarrheal diseases.
Since then, the capital has been drying up in hot seasons, forcing residents to fetch water from unprotected wells.
Siltation and leakages
The Zimbabwean capital gets water from Lake Chivero — the biggest man-made dam in the country. Other dams like Harava, Manyame Dam and Seke provide water to Harare.
“Yes, there could be very good rains but there is so much siltation such that the depth of these dams has been reduced.
“We assumed that after very good rains the dams would be full but that’s not the case owing to siltation,” said Precious Shumba, the head of Harare Residence Trust.
Harare has witnessed a sharp rise in stream bank cultivation owing to hunger, which has resulted in siltation, experts revealed.
“Owing to the high demand of land to build houses, some wetlands have also been disturbed, construction of homes in those areas is contributing to the siltation in water bodies that feeds water to the City of Harare,” said Moyo.
According to former Harare City Councilor Kudzai Kadzombe, who also headed the Environmental Committee between 2019 and 2020, the level of siltation in dams near Harare is shocking but the council and government did not have de-silting machinery.
“Last year Lake Chivero had 30 meters of silt while the Harava Dam had more than 80% of silt,” said Kadzombe.
Lack of solutions
Kadzombe said the Harare Council has always been providing the same figures that water demand is 1,200 million liters of water per day while the capacity was at 780 million liters per day.
“In fact, it is all rhetoric as these are the figures the city of Harare has always been providing for years now whereas the actual water provision stands at 420 million liters per day owing to leakages and theft of treated water,” said Kadzombe, who did not explain how water is stolen.
The city and the government should have invested in new methods aimed at minimizing the non-revenue water and strategies of de-silting all the major dams around Harare, she said.
“The rural urban migration should have added more revenue for the City of Harare but it would appear it is actually a burden to the authorities,” said Kadzombe.
Moyo and Kadzombe agreed that Harare requires new reservoirs.
“There is lack of solutions as the matter of building new dams such as the Kunzvi Dam Project has been discussed both by the City of Harare and even in the Cabinet for the past 65 years yet nothing is happening.
“There is clearly a lack of will for that to happen and lessen water challenges in Harare,” Kadzombe said.