Water shortages are happening faster than expected.
Harare has joined the Indian city of Chennai and Cape Town that have endured water scarcity due to extended drought, polluted water and aging infrastructure.
Just 50% of 4.5 million people in Harare and four satellite towns currently have access to the municipal water supply, the city authority told Climate Home News.
“There is a rotational water supply within the five towns,” Harare city council corporate communications manager Michael Chideme said. “Some people are getting water five days a week especially in the western suburbs, but the northern suburbs are going for weeks without a drop in their taps.”
Chideme said people were either depending on water merchants, open wells, streams or several council-drilled boreholes. “The situation is bad, period!”
Dr Jean-Marie Kileshye from WaterNet warned Harare’s water was highly polluted: “Water-borne diseases linked to these boreholes are on the rise, but people have had to take in their own hands water supply because the utility has failed to provide water.”
The dams that feed Morton Jaffray – Chivero and Manyame – are larger and closer to capacity, said Harare mayor Herbert Gomba. But they are “heavily polluted”, requiring more than 10 chemicals to purify. Upstream towns dump domestic, sewage, agricultural and mining waste into the rivers that feed the capital’s dams. The city is spending $3 million a month on water treatment chemicals, Gomba said, forcing it to restrict the amount released.
Zimbabwe is getting warmer as the climate changes and heavy rains and droughts are becoming more intense. In Harare, rains are expected in October at earliest, according to James Ngoma of the Zimbabwe Meteorological Services Department.
In 2018, a drought warning was issued to Zimbabwe by the Southern Africa Development Community. But those messages were not getting through, said Brad Garanganga, a climate scientist from Zimbabwe. Under-resourced meteorological departments had not been able to help policy makers “make decisions to take action on this type of important information ahead of time rather than wait until a crisis hit”.
China is stepping in to fill the void in Zimbabwe’s water crisis and outreach to other African nations in what could be a new colonialism or mutually beneficial infrastructure projects.