Not a drop to spare
November 9, 2016
Harare, Zimbabwe – Accessing domestic water for many poor African households is fast becoming a luxury rather than a necessity.
Globally figures say lack of safe drinking water has become the world leading problem affecting 1.1 billion people, while one in every six people lacks access to safe drinking water.
For many Zimbabweans, domestic water usage such as drinking, bathing, and wastewater is getting scarce as families endure limited daily allocations due to recurrent droughts, coupled with unreliable municipalities.
Despite the recent 2015 report titled Zimbabwe’s National Climate Change Response Strategy by the country’s Ministry of Environment, the situation in the Southern African country has become critical.
Harare city now pumps only 450 megalitres, from an original 800 megalitres a day. As dam levels shrink, water reserves will only last until December.
“Water demand management has always been existence, but now people should use water even more sparingly because there is very little water available. Our water production is failing to meet demand,” cautioned Michael Chideme, Harare City spokesperson.
Majority of towns in Zimbabwe are embarking on massive water disconnections in many households over accumulating debts, and are further threatening to impound both movable and immovable properties from defaulters.
In 2008, Zimbabwe recorded high mortalities due to a cholera outbreak in major cities, even though the government desperately tried to sidestep responsibility and there could be a repetition.
“As long as there is no constant supply of water to residents, we will continue to have sporadic cases of such outbreaks,” Prosper Chonzi, Harare city health director said to the media.
In Harare alone, 800 cases of typhoid have been noted by health officials, as many families spend more hours and money to procure clean water.
$1 a day for water
Clemence Hakurotwe, a Harare resident is relying on municipal water bowsers for his daily family rations.
“Each day we spend an average of $1 for our daily needs if we fail to get water from boreholes or nearby wells. But this allocation is not enough and we have not received piped water for two months.”
For many residents, they have to recycle water for their toilets. However, there is a risk of potential sewage bursts causing diseases outbreaks as waste continually puts pressure on aging drains.
“Recently, we had to attend to many sewer blockages because people are using limited amount of water for their toilets. Many homes cannot afford waste to pour down the drain as before,” Gertrude Zihumwe, a municipality employee said.
Insistent water scarcity has opened business avenues for “waterpreneurs” who draw water from public boreholes for resale at a prime price. Unlike commercial suppliers, ‘waterpreneurs’ use pushcarts for deliveries.
Juliet Chikwasha, a resident is making a decent living with her recently sunk borehole. On average, she rakes in $150.00 daily.
“I sometimes wake up at 5am in the morning and only sleep after 10pm as people come to fetch water for various uses.”
Clifford Chimutashu, a certified “waterpreneur baron” said: “This has become my source of livelihood. If I am not digging wells, I fetch water for my regular customers. With employment opportunities constantly dwindling just like water reserves, this has become an opportunity for us,” says the father of two.
African water troubles
The Southern African region has not been spared by persistent water deficiencies. Zimbabwe, Zambia, South Africa and the rest of Africa are on red alert as water shortages are predicted to persist beyond 2020.
Zambia’s crop yields forecast have been reduced, while Kariba dam, a hydroelectric source shared by Zimbabwe and Zambia is drying up, upsetting power generation causing more power cuts.
Nomvula Mokonyana, South Africa’s Minister of Water and Sanitation announced a R350 million ($26 million) drought mitigating fund to safeguard the affecting 18 percent of the population.
Five of the nine provinces in SA, including Free State and KwaZulu-Natal have been declared disaster areas. In some parts of SA water restrictions are in place.
The drought will affect 49 million people in Malawi, Namibia, South Africa and Botswana. 14 million will go hungry, the UN World Food Programme reveals.
While United Nations recommends 50 litres per person daily, majority in Africa get along with half the amount.
Across Limpopo, Water Shortage SA, has delivered millions of litres of water to the needy. And Gauteng will soon receive water from Free State as Vaal Dam levels continue to dwindle forcing it to dip into water reserves.
Even though South Africa has received sparing rains, the recovery will be a long way, according to the weather services. Since October, South Africa dams have dropped 16 percent and are expected to take three years to recover fully.
Agri SA has advised of dying livestock, while a stable water supply is at risk. The World Bank estimates will likely push 50 000 people below the poverty datum line.