Government must declare the water supply crisis facing all major towns, cities, growth points and most settlements in rural areas a national disaster.
The fact that the country recorded the lowest rainfall in nearly four decades in the 2018-2019 cropping season should trigger urgent action to devote more resources towards the supply of water for both humans and livestock.
Already, the shortage of water has crippled Harare, the capital, as well as the country’s second-largest city — Bulawayo. Signs are there that the water crisis is now ravaging the rest of the country as well.
Restrictions on water use have been effected, but drought coupled with poor service delivery by most local authorities has compounded the situation for all water consumers.
Demand for water has increased at an alarming rate as wells, borehole and dam water levels have reached dangerously low levels.
In drought-prone parts of the country most rivers, boreholes and weirs have dried up and most people are now getting water from shallow unprotected water sources for domestic use and livestock. Lack of pasture and water availability has seen a spike in livestock deaths.
Most farmers are grappling with pasture and water scarcity for their livestock. National dams that serve the rest of the country are at 63,2 percent total combined capacity in the latest Zinwa tally.
There is a decline of 0,36 percent since the beginning of the month. The shortage of clean drinking water is the most immediate threat to human health and water scarcity has far-reaching consequences on all sectors of the economy.
We all know how cholera has killed people in the past, largely as a result of the scarcity of clean water. Figures gleaned from the latest Zinwa report, show varying levels of the gravity of the water supply situation. In some parts, the situation is dire.
The statistics affirm that Zimbabwe has abundant water resources, but these are not reaching the people. All this point to eclectic mix of problems. For years, Government has left the management of water supply to local authorities which have systematically failed to deliver due to corruption, poor planning, over use and under-investment in infrastructure for treating and transporting water.
Zimbabwe is never short of grand blueprints on water resources. It’s the delivery that is lacking. We just need to have an emergency water supply response plan that is not complicated, but helps our local authorities to respond to and recover from a water supply interruption.
Long-term plans are there, but what we need are practical solutions to meet the immediate needs of our people. Government must immediately assume responsibility for coordinating the response.
Water scarcity is real and requires immediate attention. Water-related issues must now be on top of the political agenda. Immediate solutions may include installing solar systems to power water pumps and boreholes to minimise disruptions brought by power cuts, rolling out water bowsers to the poor in urban areas, increasing allocations for water treatment chemicals and repair of existing water infrastructure.
Removal of tax on solar products and critical water inputs could also help avert water scarcity.
Money for long-term plans is scarce and focus should be on immediate water needs to avert a public health disaster.
A robust mechanism for this emergency can provide a roadmap for response and recovery by providing the guidance to assess water usage, response capabilities, and water alternatives.