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Magwegwe and Lobengula residents fetch water flowing from the Magwegwe reservoir in Bulawayo yesterday.The residents have gone for weeks without.

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Bulawayo water woes unrelenting

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BULAWAYO City Council (BCC) has no timeline for the lifting of its water-shedding regime after failing to meet the March deadline, blaming this on a combination of electricity outages and unfinished waterworks rehabilitation projects, among other reasons.

LIZWE SEBATHA

The local authority in February eased the week-long shedding regime to two days per week, promising to totally lift water cuts in March, buoyed by massive inflows into the city’s supply dams that were as low as 30% in 2020.

As of March 2021, Bulawayo’s supply dams were cumulatively 70.63% full, enough to last the city till the next rainy season without any water shedding, according to a council report of the engineering services department.

However, to date, residents still endure water shedding outside the two-day timetable with some suburbs such as Pumula South not getting any supplies at all and forced to rely on water bowsers and boreholes.

A report from the city council’s engineering services committee attributes failure to lift the water-shedding regime to delays in the completion of rehabilitation works at Criterion Works and Ncema/Fernhill pumping stations.

The delays are partly caused by a council blunder to purchase water pumps with “significant design and manufacturing” defects at Criterion Works and Ncema/Fernhill water pumping stations.

The pumps were purchased and installed under the US$33.6 million Bulawayo Water and Sewerage Services Improvement Project (BWSSIP) funded by the African Development Bank (AfDB).

“A significant problem occurred during the testing prior to commissioning of the new Flowserve pumps in that four of the total six non-return valves (NRVs) failed due to design and manufacturing defects,” the report reads.

“The NRVs have an important function to protect the pumps; when a pump is switched off or when there is a power outage, the NRV prevents backflow from the water in the rising main. If unchecked, backflow causes the pump to spin in reverse which is a potentially damaging action for the pump.”
Upon completion of the two projects, council claims it would be able to pump as much as 180 mega-litres (ML) of water per day, 30ML more than the city’s daily requirements.

“Ncema waterworks had a capacity to pump a maximum of 25ML to 40 ML/day out of the expected 80ML/day clear water due to the non-functioning of some filter beds and 50ML to 60 ML/day out of the expected 140ML/day of raw water. On the other hand, Fernhill had a maximum capacity of pumping 52ML out of 70ML/day clear water with 4 out of 7 pumps functional,” the council report adds.

Council officials on Wednesday admitted that there is no timeline or deadline for the lifting of water shedding.

“For now, we cannot say when water shedding will be lifted. Of course, we will continue easing the timetable but there has to be an appreciation that we face other challenges in our water restoration strategy such as power cuts at our water treatment plants. This affects our pumping capacity,” deputy mayor Mlandu Ncube said when contacted for comment.

The Matabeleland Zambezi Water Project (MZWP), which involves the construction of the Gwayi-Shangani Dam and piping water from the dam to Bulawayo, is seen as a long-term solution to the city’s perennial water woes.

The dam will have an estimated holding capacity of 650 million cubic metres, slightly above the total holding capacity of the city’s six supply dams. The government floated a tender for the construction of the pipeline in April following a ground-breaking ceremony by President Emmerson Mnangagwa.

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