press statement- water rationing an opportunity for cost cutting and investment in climate change mitigation measures in harare metropolitan province
11 March 2019, Harare- The announcement of a water rationing exercise by the City of Harare at the beginning of March 2019 has increased panic among ratepayers, who already suffer from erratic water supplies and declining service delivery. The water rationing adds to the already dire situation where residents in most suburbs do not receive municipal water. Eastern suburbs of Mabvuku, Tafara, Kugarika Kushinga, Msasa Park and Chizhanje rarely receive City of Harare water. Western suburbs, Budiriro, Glen View, and Glen Norah have always experienced cholera and typhoid outbreaks, and it is currently ravaging residents in Budiriro and Kuwadzana, with no end in sight. Chitungwiza residents are the hardest hit, as they only get water twice a week. The accompanying reasons reveal that the water levels at the main water bodies, Lake Chivero and Harava Dams are critically low, and threatens the lives of citizens. At this rate of excuses and inaction, compounded by the little rains that fell this rain season, Harare residents should brace for more trouble searching for drinking water and for other household chores.
The Harare Residents’ Trust (HRT) acknowledges the dire situation, and urges the City of Harare, the Government and other stakeholders to seriously consider investing more financial resources in building infrastructure for water harvesting in order to capture most of the rain water. This should be aimed at alleviating water shortages at household levels, and at industrial level where requisite tanks should be strategically positioned to harness significant rain water which is currently being left to flow to waste.
As the citizens, it is important to actively become involved in the whole water demandment management objectives by complementing council efforts at minimising water usages and losses. The citizens on their own can cut on their gardening and other such activities to preserve the little available water. At the same time the City of Harare needs to carry out a thorough evaluation of their water distribution infrastructure, and record and document all water leakages so that more effort is invested in identifying and plugging all leakages, including illegal water connections, which currently cost the council an estimated 270 megalitres daily out of the 450 megalitres of water that they claim to be treating and pumping to households. These water losses are huge, and are avoidable if there is collaboration and transparancy in handling ratepayers’ funds, and purchasing of water treatment chemicals. The monthly require US$2 500 to purchase water treatement chemicals, about $3 million for electricity payments for water pumping, nearly two thousand employees in the Harare Water Department, and other key costs that are factored in in the production, purification, delivery and distribution of water. So much money should not be put to waste due to poor governance and administration. This therefore show that the water rationing is an admission that they are currently lacking capacity to deliver on their mandate as a local authority. If they address non-revenue water, then at least 80 percent of connected households should be receiving municipal water, and ater thieves should be brought to justice, while implicated employees must be punished.
The City of Harare needs to upgrade their billing system so that the reduced water being delivered to households is reflected on the monthly household bills. Relying on estimates yet continue to employ thousands of people is uneconomic, unsustainable and populist. They should stop the recruitment of more workers in council in order to preserve the little available financial resources given the fact they already owe council workers five months’ salaries.