Harare switching to cleaner raw water

Zvamaida Murwira Senior Reporter
Harare will be drawing more raw water from Lake Manyame since it is at present cleaner than that from Lake Chivero and this will cost less to treat, while Government will continue helping the city fund the treatment. In the meantime, a programme of more permanent solutions to the serious water shortages is being worked out.

Touring Morton Jaffray Waterworks yesterday, President Mnangagwa helped hammer out the outline of a programme to improve the treatment and supply of water in the Harare area within six months.

A tunnel was drilled from Lake Manyame to Morton Jaffray in the late 1980s to allow the city to easily access water from the largest of the four dams on Manyame River, although the city has not been using it in recent years.

At the moment, less than half the capacity of Morton Jaffray is being used, due to problems of cost, raw water in a drought year and chemicals required to treat the water.

This is despite the fact that Harare has probably doubled in population since the last extension to Morton Jaffrey almost two decades ago.

Although Lake Manyame is downstream of Lake Chivero and so receives pollution from the smaller lake when it spills, not much has spilled recently so tending to concentrate pollution in Chivero and allow natural processes to remove pollution in Manyame.

The main problem at present, the Presidential party was told during the tour, was algae in Lake Chivero requiring a lot of expensive chemicals.

The President toured the waterworks to have an appreciation of the plant and was accompanied by Harare city councillors led by mayor Councillor Herbert Gomba.

It emerged that discussions for the achievement of that vision would require all stakeholders since Manyame Dam is owned by the Zimbabwe National Water Authority (Zinwa), while Lake Chivero is owned by Harare City Council.

The treatment of water from Lake Chivero requires about eight chemicals because of the high concentration of algae, while fewer chemicals were required for water from Manyame Dam.

“Morton Jaffray has been here for many decades,” said President Mnangagwa.

“Most of the equipment is very old now. We have agreed on a programme to make sure that Harare has water.

“There are two reservoirs, Chivero Dam and Manyame and I am told that it is easier to deal with water from Manyame than from Chivero. So, we have agreed on that programme so that we use less chemicals, but still achieve clean water from Manyame.

“It costs money, but my Government is prepared to finance the programme, phase one, two and three, we are going to finance it.

“We want this programme to be behind us and for it to be behind us all the stakeholders have been at the meeting and each stakeholder will do his or her party and Government will do its party in terms of financing. On timelines, they are going to prepare the programme and that is when the timelines will come out.”

The first sections of Morton Jaffray were commissioned in 1952 and there was gradual expansion, with a new section added every few years as the city expanded until 1991 when the waterworks was doubled in size as the culmination of the most significant water augmentation project in city history.

The plan had then been to continue modest restrictions for another year, while the old half was completely rebuilt, but the council at the last minute decided not to bother, and Harare now lives with its major waterworks having equipment ranging from around 28 years old to 67 years old.

Finance and Economic Development Minister Professor Mthuli Ncube said during the tour that there would be a significant improvement within a period of six months of Government intervention.

“What we are doing is to switch the sourcing of raw water from Lake Chivero to Manyame because Manyame has cleaner water and the cost of cleaning it is lower than Chivero,” he said.

“So, that is why His Excellency is committing us to do that so everyone in the thick of the system whether it is city of Harare, Chemplex the chemical producers, Government will provide funding. The idea is to migrate from Chivero to Manyame for that switch, also with more rains, it will flush out that algae in Chivero, but the commitment is to use Manyame.

“You can all feel the urgency, in the six months something has to change. When we released the $37 million for the city of Harare. We were actually putting timelines, it is really timelines that we should work on. We are still working on the details of how much money is required, but it is far cheaper to work with Manyame which has less algae.”

Clr Gomba said his council was committed to playing its part for the success of the Government objective.

He said there would be need for further discussions on operational modalities since Manyame Dam belonged to Zinwa not Harare city council.

“I cannot quantify the amount needed at the moment because we are looking at experts sitting down to see how much resources can be deployed,” he said. “You need to agree with me that this plant was built in 1952 so most of the problems are emanating from aged infrastructure, lack of investment for quite some time, this is what we are trying to address.”

In September, Government announced that it was taking over Morton Jaffray waterworks and facilitated the clearance of water treatment chemicals at the border, while Zinwa and the District Development Fund (DDF) chipped in with technical assistance.

This was after Harare city council had shut down the plant owing to financial challenges.

Treatment and pumping of water at Morton Jaffray resumed following Government’s intervention.

Treasury disbursed $37 million to Harare city council last month and Government set up a committee of technocrats to assist council in handling the money that was meant to be for capital projects.

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