It is almost eight o’clock in the evening and the queue at the borehole is increasing at a much faster rate than the one at which it is moving.
Locadia Musonza (26) joined the queue two hours earlier, soon after arriving home from work and is not even sure when she would retire for the night.
“I have to get water first before I even think of sleeping,” she says. “There’s not even a drop of water at my place for cooking, bathing or even doing the dishes.”
She has a 20-litre container and that means the next evening she will have to come back to fetch water at the borehole, strategically located close to Zengeza 2 Shopping Centre in Chitungwiza, a dormitory town 36km outside Harare.
People living in Chitungwiza, and the greater part of Harare, spend hours searching for clean, safe water for everyday use and the quest for this precious liquid has become a way of life.
Much of Harare and Chitungwiza’s water and sewerage woes have been blamed on the municipality’s inability to supply enough water to meet the needs of residents.
The town’s current population of 1,5 million has put a strain on the satellite town’s limited resources as its water and sewage system was designed for just over 200 000 people. So the local authorities respond by rationing water — sometimes cutting off water supplies from 6am to 11pm almost every day.
By the year 2006, Harare had an estimated population of over 2,8 million people.
According to Harare mayor Muchadeyi Masunda the only way Harare and Chitungwiza’s water woes could be resolved was through having strategic dams for the two towns.
“The way forward is to bring Kunzwi Dam on stream because right now the installed capacity of Morton Jaffray Waterworks that draw water from Lake Chivero and Manyame River — which serves Greater Harare, Norton, Ruwa, Epworth and Chitungwiza — is 604 megalitres per day for a hub of four million people,” said Masunda.
The critical water shortage had forced residents to prioritise use of the precious liquid. Clean water, said Alice Muteyo, a resident, was now used mainly for cooking and bathing rather than “wasting it on less important things” like watering the garden and flushing the toilet. Water used to wash clothes was collected and recycled for toilet use.
The situation was unlikely to change for Harare and Chitungwiza residents in the foreseeable future because of the high costs involved in revamping existing infrastructure.
Recently, the government and its social partners reportedly extended over $5 million to the Chitungwiza Municipality to repair its water and sewer reticulation system.
Under the African Water Facility (AWF) programme, financed by the African Development Bank, Chitungwiza Municipality will get funds over a 15-month period to upgrade water pipes for equitable distribution and larger sewer pipes.
The AWF, which started operating in 2006, is an initiative of the African Ministers Council on Water and its purpose is to assist African countries to mobilise and apply resources for the water and sanitation sector.
A water and sanitation expert Simon Chiguma said the population explosion in Chitungwiza and Harare over the years had contributed significantly to water problems.
He said water shortages had become an endemic urban problem mainly due to lack of adequate investment in infrastructure over the years.
He, however, noted this was no excuse for the municipality to sit on its laurels, but it was important a solution be found urgently.
He added that now it was worse because the economic malaise experienced over the last decade and the population growth in the town had added more pressure on the already limited supplies.
Harare is currently producing 704 megalitres against a requirement of 1 200 megalitres in winter and 1 400 in summer.
“Since the commissioning of Morton Jaffray Waterworks in 1953, the plant has not been expanded to correspond with the increasing population. The colonial government used to service water infrastructure every five years, but since independence there has not been any upgrade. Prince Edward has not been upgraded since 1973 and that is why there is a shortfall,” Masunda said.
Among the institutions that owe the City of Harare water department were government ministries and departments which owed $70 million.
Chitungwiza Town Council owes $7,7 million, the University of Zimbabwe $2,3 million, Parirenyatwa group of hospitals $2,1 million while Norton Town Council owes $1 02 million.
Harare suburbs like Msasa Park, Mabelreign, Borrowdale, Greendale, Mandara, Orange Grove, Mabvuku, Tynwald and parts of Westgate have been experiencing water problems due to archaic infrastructure.
The problems, according to Chiguma, were “a time bomb waiting to explode” and were something that had to be looked into seriously in view of the constant threat of cholera outbreak.
The devastating cholera outbreak of 2008 claimed nearly 4 000 lives.