Water challenges affecting Harare have resulted in more residents relying on bulk water suppliers.
Harare City Council is pumping an average of 170 megalitres per day against a demand of about 1 200 megalitres.
This has resulted in huge demand for water which has also been worsened by the contamination of some boreholes, especially in high-density suburbs.
The Zimbabwe National Water Authority (Zinwa), which registers all bulk water suppliers, confirmed as much.
The water authority has 88 bulk water companies and 129 trucks on its books. However, there appear to be more companies operating.
Most bulk water consumers buy 5 000 litres, which corresponds with the capacity used by most households.
The price for 5 000 litres varies from company to company.
A Herald news crew was yesterday quoted US$42 per 5 000 litres by Real Pure Water company, which supplies and delivers borehole water in Cold Comfort and Warren Park.
HydroTech water in Waterfalls charged US$50 for 5 000 litres, while Perfect Waters that operates in Borrowdale charged US$40 for the same quantity.
Newlands resident, Mrs Anna Chingwaru, said access to clean water had become a big challenge.
“The water situation is very bad. I am now forced to fork out US$46 to buy 5 000 litres after every two weeks,” she said.
“It is either that or having to spend hours on end queuing at the few community boreholes available. Previously, we had people who would offer free water through taps outside their yards, but they have stopped doing so due to electricity challenges and vandalism.”
Mrs Chingwaru said her only respite was the occasional days that they get council supplies.
“When the water comes, which is usually in the evening, we have to stay up late while collecting it into containers,” she said.
Mrs Sarah Muchetu, a mother of four in Cold Comfort, said she buys around 5 000 litres of water a week.
The cost, she said, varied according to suppliers.
“In some of the areas, more affluent residents have hired private drilling companies to sink boreholes on their properties to pump and sell water to their less-fortunate neighbours,” she said.
“But since most of the boreholes use electric pumps, prices can double during load shedding peaks. Blackouts can last up to 14 hours a day in some parts of the city. It pains us to buy water. Council authorities should act urgently.”
While bulk water suppliers have become saviours to some, their service is beyond the reach of many who have had to find alternative means to get water.
Some enterprising people are digging shallow wells in wetlands in areas such as Hopley. One of the well owners, Mr Munyaradzi Masinjara, said he was enjoying roaring business.
“As you can see, this is a wetland, so I knew that if I dug a well here I would get water and I have been selling water from this well for over a year now,” he said.
Mr Masinjara said on average, he gets 80 to 100 clients per day.
“I have been helping a lot of people since August last year,” he said.
“Initially, the idea was to use it to water my garden here (that is less than five metres from another section of graves), but now I charge people $1 to $1,50 per bucket.”
In Southlea Park, residents are buying drinking water at Revelations College (a school near the Harare-Masvingo highway tollgate where they are being charged $2 a bucket.
A Mabvuku resident, Mr Ambrose Mangena, said they had no access to running water over the years and relied on buying borehole water and shallow wells.
Mr Mangena said it was painful that he pays monthly rates to city council, but there has been no corresponding action from the city officials in terms of service delivery.
“We are paying for a service that is not there,” he said. “Our borehole has now virtually run out of water, so we are in trouble.”
A Budiriro resident, Mr Tinos Marowa, said the fact that many residents resorted to digging their own boreholes, especially in high-density suburbs, was a serious indictment on those tasked to manage the country’s cities.
Mr Marowa said it was abnormal to have residents dig up boreholes in a city with piped water infrastructure.
“The city authorities should feel embarrassed,” he said.
“The fact that residents have resorted to digging their own boreholes clearly demonstrates that the city managers have failed.”
Zinwa corporate communications manager Mrs Marjorie Munyonga said the bulk water business in Zimbabwe was governed through Statutory Instrument 90 of 2013.
She said in terms of the statutory instrument, a bulk water dealer or supplier was any person who sold water in bulk for any purpose exceeding 2 000 litres and includes water bottling companies.
“The authority urges all people who buy water from bulk water dealers to ensure that they buy their water from registered dealers,” said Mrs Munyonga.
“Members of the public can contact Zinwa to access the bulk water dealers register.
“Where people suspect illegal dealing in bulk water, they can report to Zinwa or their nearest police station.”
Mrs Munyonga said extraction of water from residential areas was against the law.
“According to Statutory Instrument 90 of 2013 “no person shall sell groundwater or surface water in bulk without being registered with the authority” and imposes a level eight fine or imprisonment not exceeding six months or both in the event of non-compliance,” she said.
“The law requires the registration of sources of raw water, licensing of bulk water trucks and bars the abstraction of bulk water from residential areas.”
Zinwa is empowered to carry out periodic inspections of both bulk water sources and transportation trucks to ascertain the quality of the water.
It also maintains the register of all bulk water dealers and monitors their compliance with the requirements of their licences.
Harare City Council spokesperson Mr Michael Chideme directed all questions to Zinwa.