Bulawayo’s precarious water situation is far from over amid revelations that the proposed $1,3 billion Matabeleland Zambezi Water Project (MZWP) would remain a pipedream until 2023.
According to a latest council report, councillors noted that the project would take at least another 10 years before its completion.
“The proposed bulk supply augmentation by the Zimbabwe National Water Authority (Zinwa), which is to transfer water from the Zambezi River via the Gwayi-Shangani Dam at an estimated current day cost of $1,350 million, is not likely to be implemented before 2023,” reads part of the report.
According to the report, the city’s supply dams are located in the drought-prone Matabeleland South province where one of the city’s five supply dams has been decommissioned while two others will be decommissioned in July.
Council has been pinning hopes on the MZWP as a lasting solution to the city’s water woes. The project was mooted in 1912, but has failed to take off due to lack of funding and political bickering.
The medium-term solution — the Mtshabezi-Umzingwane pipelink — is also dragging and has missed numerous deadlines, plunging Bulawayo into a biting water crisis.
Council’s engineering services director Simela Dube told council that a private consultant, Bosch Stemele, had carried out a study and observed that the city’s water problems were being worsened by its ballooning population, now estimated at over one million.
According to the report, council resolved to intensify its water-rationing regime amid reports the city has less than 15 months’ supply at its remaining dams.
Dube said Bulawayo’s water demand and conservation situation was aggravated by aged engineering infrastructure, which had outlived its lifespan.
The city is also facing disintegrating assets with water meters, mechanical and electrical components aged over 20 years.
The consultant also recommended that council sources $207 million to implement a bankable business plan on water demand management.
“Priority projects amounting to $2,46 million be implemented in the short-term to reduce water losses and increase revenue stream,” he said.
“The $2,46 million can be resourced from the ring-fenced water account.” Water Resource minister Samuel Sipepa Nkomo recently said government had secured loans from China to complete the MZWP.