The city council of Bulawayo has introduced a water-shedding schedule for some of its western suburbs in order to address a critical water shortage in the key dams supplying the city.
Authorities attribute the shortage to high demand at the Umzingwane dam which feeds the western suburbs combined with poor and erratic seasonal inflows. It has been reported that if the situation persists, the city may be forced to re-introduce water rationing.
In the meantime, a 20-hour per week shedding schedule has been introduced with some areas affected on Mondays and Thursdays and other areas affected on Tuesdays and Fridays. The curtailment will commence immediately and continue until the demand eases. Residents have been urged to use water sparingly.
The main dam servicing the area, the Umzingwane Dam, needs to be at least 30 percent full for it to supply water safely to the population. In January, the fill level was estimated to be about 8 percent and it is expected that the city authorities will decommission the dam this month.
The stress on the water supply is related to both climate change and human impact. Rains have been erratic both in volume and location but largely not in sufficient quantity to replenish the Umzingwane Dam. In addition, the Dam’s inflows have been adversely affected by other, smaller dams built within the major dam’s catchment area.
It has also been reported that the natural flow of the river may have been affected by illegal gold panners, who dig out the sand and disrupt the inflows.
In 2020, The water Diplomat reported on the outbreak of water-borne diseases that were related to the severe water shortages experienced at the time. There is concern that similar outbreaks may occur in due course.