Industries come on board to assist BCC tackle water woes

Business Editor
INDUSTRY and commerce executives in the Matabeleland region have pledged to work closely with the Bulawayo City Council in implementing lasting solutions to the city’s perennial water woes.

Water is a key input to industrial processes and the council is obliged to provide efficient supplies to residents and businesses as a socio-economic mandate. However, the second-largest city is experiencing the worst water crisis in history amid depleting levels at major supply dams.

The city’s supply dams, all situated in drought-prone Matabeleland South, have received insignificant inflows due to poor rains in the last two seasons, forcing the council to opt for underground water to augment supplies in the short term.

The local authority has come under fire over failure to adequately provide water but insists that it has adequate pumping capacity and that its major challenge is raw water.

Already three dams — Umzingwane, Upper and Lower Ncema — have been decommissioned after dropping below pumping level. Now left with Mtshabezi, Insiza Mayfair, and Inyankuni, the council is struggling to adhere to its daily water restoration schedule on selected suburbs, which leaves numerous households, mainly those on the higher ground going for more than a week without water.

Speaking during a recent regional industry economic review webinar, Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries (CZI) Matabeleland Chamber president, Mr. Sheppard Chawira, said companies must play ball and assist the local authority in solving the water challenge.

“The Bulawayo water situation is on high chamber agenda. We are working closely with the city council on the long to medium-term solutions. CZI chairs the resource mobilisation committee,” said Mr Chawira.

While the central business district (CBD) and industry are exempted from water-shedding, business leaders have complained that limited supplies are crippling their operational efficiency.

Two weeks ago one of the leading companies in Bulawayo, United Refineries Limited, temporarily closed shop citing inadequate water supplies.

Another CZI executive, Mr. Kuda Matare, said instead of just complaining, private sector input would go a long way in capacitating the Bulawayo City Council to adequately respond to the water crisis.

“As the private sector, we need to come on board and participate, share ideas, and assist the city council. The local authority should also be open as possible so that we appreciate where the problem is. This is a challenge for the whole country,” he said.

The council’s deputy director of engineering services, Wisdom Siziba, said the local authority was currently pushing optimisation of borehole water pumping to ease the crisis. He stressed the need to tackle the water situation in a holistic manner. “This is not a city council issue alone. We are augmenting supplies through boreholes but we need to look at the bigger picture, industry should come in and assist,” he said.

The National University of Science and Technology (Nust), which is a key industry partner has said it will soon release results of a 10-year study on Bulawayo’s underground water whose recommendations, if implemented, would ease the city’s water crisis.

The Association of Business in Zimbabwe (Abuz) has also warned that delays in addressing the water situation could force more companies to scale down operations. The organisation’s chief executive officer, Mr. Victor Nyoni, told our sister paper Sunday News that their members were also seeking an audience with the council over the matter.

“We have engaged with business and industries in Bulawayo to look at how businesses will survive this water scarcity.

“Abuz has conducted community governance with the council on finding new technologies to use on water management,” he said.

Businesses have also been urged to start water harvesting and consider investing in water recycling and borehole drilling as alternative measures.

In the meantime, Government has been availing resources to the Zimbabwe National Water Authority (Zinwa) to repair boreholes at Nyamandlovu Aquifer to increase raw water supply. Meanwhile, work on the Gwayi-Shangani Dam, which is a major component of the long-term Matabeleland Zambezi Water Project, is progressing through Treasury financing.