Friday, October 12, 2012

Harare Water Woes No Solution in Sight

"Ratepayers took full advantage of the opportunity provided by Monday's meeting to express their views on the question of Salisbury water supply and members of the City Council who attended heard some outspoken criticism. The public was told that the present position was caused 'by the failure of the Cleveland Dam', the 30 million gallons of water in which was unuseable, and further that lack of rainfall was the sole reason for the failure of Cleveland Dam.
"These explanations are all very well, but what the average ratepayer would consider more valuable would be an assurance that the present position will not arise again and a statement of what steps are to be taken to prevent its recurrence.
"The City Council seems to be pinning its faith to the Prince Edward Dam which, with its daily average reserve of 500 million gallons, could more than satisfy Salisbury's present hot weather consumption over one million gallons a day if all the filters were in operation," read part of a story published in The Herald of October 9, 1937.
Water problems dogged Salisbury residents back then with the then council officials facing criticism from angry residents left, right and centre.
Each council that came into office made many promises on how they would put an end to the water challenges.
Seventy-five years later, serious water problems still stalk Harare and similar challenges haunt residents raising the question of what it will take to bring an end to the crisis.
The solution seems elusive; it is like looking for the legendary Lochness monster.
Town planner Mr Percy Toriro says there are three key issues regarding Harare's water shortages and what can be done.
"Firstly, in the short term it is about managing the inadequate resource well. This should be two-pronged -- water demand management by residents on one hand, and attending to water loss by city authorities on the other part," said Mr Toriro.
He said residents of Harare should be conscious of the fact that their water is inadequate and the only way it can be enough is by using less of the resource.
"This is the opposite of water cuts by authorities, which does not work because for as long as the residents do not co-operate, once the water service is restored, they will still waste the water," he added.
He said water loss caused by old leaking pipes and burst unattended pipes is also too high, at about 50 percent of the treated water.
"We need an accelerated pipe replacement programme complemented by swift reaction teams to repair burst pipes," he pointed out. Mr Toriro added that in the long term, the sewer reticulation network should be upgraded as well as building new water supply dams away from the Manyame catchment that has become highly polluted.
"We also need a medium- to long-term plan to reclaim the Manyame catchment by dealing with the sources of pollution," he added. While measures that include the sinking of boreholes have been put in place through funding by organisations like Unicef to at least manage the water challenges and curb the spread of diseases like cholera, Mr Toriro says this is not the solution.
"Boreholes are not a sustainable source of water for millions of residents.
"In the long run the water table falls and many of them become dry. They are also difficult to manage because they must be regularly tested and so on," he said.
He added that even with a fully functional Morton Jaffray waterworks, the water will still be insufficient.
"At the moment Harare can only at best supply half the 1400 megalitres required per day, and of this half, 50 percent is lost along the reticulation network. More can certainly be done and we hope with the recently talked-about Chinese loans, the infrastructure issues will be addressed soon," he added.
Kunzvi Dam, according to Mr Toriro, would go a long way in solving Harare's water problems, but will not constitute the full solution.
"It will also address the geographical challenge where suburbs in the north and east that are at the end of the current network tend to suffer the worst shortages by having sources at both ends of the city. In the long run, a sustainable solution is a combination of water demand management, technical solutions to attend to lost water, increased treatment capacity, and new dams," he pointed out.
Unicef chief of water, sanitation and hygiene Mr Kiwe Sebunya said Zimbabwe's urban water system was a complex one. "We are always in a dilemma, most sewage systems are waterborne. Raw sewage is flowing into dams that provide drinking water.
"If sewer rehabilitation is to be tackled, it needs enough water to have it flowing hence availability of water receive first priority," Mr Sebunya said during a media workshop on women and children reporting in Nyanga recently.
He, however, said channelling more resources towards water supply first before sewage reticulation would expose residents to diseases as raw sewage continued to flow along streets. "The situation is a complex one. There is a need for at least some little water to have the sewage flowing.
"Tackling the sewage when there is no water may result in blockages as the sewage fails to flow along the pipes," Sebunya added. Mr Sebunya urged authorities to rehabilitate the sewer reticulation as the water situation improves. "The reticulation systems in most urban areas are very old and require replacement at very huge costs," he said.
Mr Sebunya, however, said Unicef had not abandoned urban water programmes after launching the rural water programmes. "There is hope that we can get more resources for water and sanitation programmes in small towns. We are in the process of mobilising resources with some donors," he said. Mr Sebunya also said boreholes were not an appropriate long-term solution for water problems.
"Boreholes for urban areas were never an option as a source of clean water, but were only an emergency option during the 2008 and 2009 cholera outbreak," he said.
Instead, he revealed, there is need to push for the completion of the Kunzvi Dam project, which is a long term solution. Kunzvi Development Corporation recently secured US$375 million to build Kunzvi Dam and the construction of the dam is expected to begin late this year ending in 2015.
University of Zimbabwe senior lecturer in the Rural and Urban Planning department Mr Innocent Chirisa also described the water situation in Harare as complex.
"There are more problems underlying the issue than meets the eye. City of Harare is one out of many stakeholders in the water issue. Water is a politicised good. As long as the local authority is not in a position to out-manoeuvre the politics then it is in deep problem," he pointed out.
He said the technical solutions to Harare's water problems are very clear and have worked in many parts of the world.
"These should simply be adhered to. I don't have to expound on them given that textbooks on the subject have adequately dealt with such. I will deliberately be dodgy on the subject," he added.
Mr Chirisa also argued that what is needed in Harare is reticulated water.
"Boreholes were sunk as a stopgap measure because there was a crisis. Crises teach us to be innovative but not all innovation is meant to be a permanent solution.
"As long as there is little investment in the maintenance methodologies of the existing and proposed infrastructure, there will ever be challenges. Infrastructure, like babies, is easy to produce, but difficult to maintain," he said.
A Marlborough resident, Mr Tapiwa Mubonderi, said council should set up more purification plants, replace the water pipes and create new sources of raw water for the metropolitan.
"The sewer system should also be repaired and capacity of treating sewage increased so that we can dispose of the waste we produce," he said.
He added that council could consider looking for money by entering into agreements with financiers in countries that do not have a financial embargo such as South Africa, India, China, Russia or Brazil.
"There are also funds available within the city that if pooled appropriately could be used to improve infrastructure.
"In the past few years how much money has been spent by individuals and entities in making alternative water supply arrangements either as boreholes, bulk water tanks and water purification equipment? What is the quantum of all these funds? What could we have achieved if they had pooled those funds and used them to fix and upgrade Harare's ability to supply treated water? This illustrates that there is potential for use to get a good proportion of the funds required from within the city," he pointed out.
He added: "However, most people do not want to contribute to collective purses because there are reservations on the capability of the city to effectively manage those funds.
"It requires that the citizens of Harare at the next election should choose fit and proper councillors and not vote blindly or the council will not have the capacity to execute its mandate."
Mr Mubonderi also suggested that the City of Harare could approach banks and the financial community and get them involved in a finance vehicle that would be used to find long-term financing for parts of the water project.
"Bankers who live and work in Harare would want to use their expertise to make it possible to have a safe and consistent water supply. This is will only come about and play ball with a competent council at the helm of the city.
"The work to replace the pipes must be given to local companies, so we construct and install the required infrastructure. This is pertinent for Zimbabwe as we face a perennial unemployment problem. We can make products on our own," he proposed.
He also said most of the materials required for water systems are available locally while foreign partners could be involved in terms of technology transfer and capital injections or as equity partners for the creation of local capacity.
"There is the controversial issue of water subsidies being pushed by central government, at best it's a noble gesture but could be the escalation of electioneering for next year. Until there is a significant change in the macroeconomic conditions, our population is severely compromised in its ability to pay for water services. If a pay as you go system is adopted it will risk public health, as it will expose vulnerable members of the community to unsafe water.
"Our Government cannot afford to pay for the water for its citizens, imagine what the old, disabled, ill and redundant members of our community can afford. "The idea of everyone paying for services is good and sounds profitable but it is only possible in an economy with higher per capita incomes," said Mr Mubonderi.


No comments:

Post a Comment