Blessings Chidakwa Municipal Correspondent
Water rationing looms countrywide to stretch existing water supplies for towns and cities to the next season in case Zimbabwe fails to receive enough rains.
The Zimbabwe National Water Authority (Zinwa) and local authorities have already started water rationing, but there is need to scale up the measures.
Three months from now, local authorities will renew their annual abstraction agreements with Zinwa where water allocations will be done in consideration of dam levels and river flows.
Water abstraction agreements allow Zinwa to properly and efficiently allocate available water resources among competing users.
Any use of water from Zinwa managed dams without the requisite agreement constitutes a criminal offence and offenders are liable to prosecution.
According to statistics availed to The Herald yesterday, Beitbridge which draws water from Beitbridge 1 and 2 dams, is in critical condition as it is left with 1,6 months supply.
Plumtree is left with enough water for 5,1 months, Karoi 6,2 months, Figtree 3,4 months, Gwanda 8,9 months and Mutoko 9,9 months.
Gweru, which draws water from Gwenoro, Amapongokwe and White Waters is left with 8.9 months’ supply.
The city last year released a water rationing schedule that resulted in residents going for up to 24 hours without supplies.
Mutare, which draws water from Odzani Dams and Pungwe River stands at 13,7 months supply and is at Zinwa’s “monitor and demand phase”.
Harare and its satellite towns as well as Chinhoyi that draws water from Manyame Dam have enough water for 21,5 months, meaning they can survive another drought.
In an interview yesterday, Zinwa acting corporate communications and marketing manager, Mr Tsungirirai Shoriwa, said water levels in most dams around the country continue receding.
Mr Shoriwa said the declining water levels were due to high temperatures, low to no inflows and water draw-downs for irrigation and domestic use which are greater than the rate of inflows.
“As at January 7, the national dam level average was 48 percent, marking a 0,67 percent drop since December 30, 2019 and an 8,09 percent decline since October 30, 2019,” he said.
Zimbabwe’s dam level averages in the seven water catchments are: Gwayi Catchment 38,2 percent, Runde Catchment 38,5 percent, Mzingwane Catchment 44,8 percent, Sanyati Catchment 47 percent, Save Catchment 54,8 percent, Manyame Catchment 72,6 percent, and Mazowe Catchment 73,9 percent.
Mr Shoriwa said water remains a finite resource which needs to be used sparingly.
“The authority calls upon all water users across the board to ensure that they conserve water at all times. Zinwa also implores those using water from its managed dams to ensure that their use is in accordance with the Water Act, which compels everyone using water for purposes other than primary purposes, to do so in terms of a water abstraction agreement,” he said.
In terms of the Water Act, “no person shall abstract water for any purpose other than primary purposes except in terms of a permit”.
Abstraction or storage of water for primary purposes exceeding 5 000 cubic metres requires a water permit.
The same applies to persons who conduct operations that will interfere with the banks, bed or course of a public stream or any marshes, springs, swamps vleis forming the source, or found along the course of a public stream. This includes construction of small dams on private properties.
Local authorities, including Harare City Council, last year extended water-rationing in the few northern suburbs still receiving water to 72 hours per week due to falling water levels at Seke and Harava dams, but these two small dams eventually emptied and Prince Edward Waterworks that uses their storage was shut down.
Bulawayo City Council introduced a 36-hour weekly water shedding regime in all suburbs due to low levels at Umzingwane Dam and the city’s other water supply reservoirs.
Bulawayo runs the tightest water restrictions of major cities but ensures that almost all residents do share the available water, unlike Harare where some get and others do not.
Water rationing has been experienced even across the Limpopo River by the City of Cape Town which introduced water rationing, but later relaxed to level 3 water restrictions allowing the use of a hosepipe fitted with a self-closing system.