Flora Fadzai Sibanda, Chronicle Reporter
RESIDENTS in Bulawayo have been hit by a serious water crisis with most suburbs going for weeks without running water amid fears of a disease outbreak.
The city is enduring a prolonged water-shedding exercise as the Bulawayo City council (BCC) struggles to pump water due to alleged power outages.
In a statement, the local authority said due to the power outages at Ncema and Fernhill pump stations, the city is only receiving eight to ten hours of pumping water per day instead of the normal 24 hours of pumping.
This has resulted in minimal volumes of water being pumped, which is not enough to meet the water demand.
Residents said the failure of the local authority to supply water has forced them to get it from unsafe sources.
A Chronicle crew on 19 March visited selected suburbs in the western areas and observed people who were getting water from unclean sources.
In Pelandaba West some women were fetching water from swampy areas which they said will be used for washing, cleaning, and other household chores as the cleaner water is kept for drinking and cooking.
An elderly woman who only identified herself as Mamoyo said she had no option other than to get the water from the swampy areas as the water woes were getting worser as days went by.
“It has been three weeks now without water from my taps. Others say it came last week for a few hours but because l was at work l did not get a chance to refill my buckets which is why l am here today. The clean water that l have at home l have to keep it for drinking and cooking because should l waste it on washing l shall end up stranded,” she said.
The news crew observed a group of children who were squatting at a nearby bush relieving themselves since there is no water, oblivious to the fact that they are breeding diseases as the waste will attract flies.
Mr Mike Maphosa from Iminyela suburb said he gets water from White City stadium as there is a tap open for residents there.
He said because of long queues in the morning and evening he decided to skip church so he could get his water before people returned come back from church.
Mr Maphosa said the ongoing water shedding programme was breeding diseases, especially for residents at Iminyela who share toilets.
“To make matters worse the water bills that come every month are very high, especially when one thinks of how there is always no water from our taps. That is why some people are not paying bills because they are tired of paying bills for no solid reason,” said Mr Maphosa.
In Mpopoma Ms Gugulethu Gundu said she is now used to not having water and becomes worried when her children tell her there is running water.
She said because the water is always not there l have advised my children to not drink it because water pipes that are always dry have deadly water so l now buy water from the city centre.
“It’s like l am now paying double water bills because l need to buy drinking water and still pay my water bills which always come with terrifying bills,” said Ms Gundu.
Some business people are however rejoicing as business is booming for them since people are now resorting to buying water buckets and distilled water.
In Thorngrove suburb the crew met Mr Isheanopa Sithole who was selling water containers and he told the crew ever since water woes started business has been good because people have no choice but to buy the buckets.
He said he had to increase the price of a bucket recently due to high demand.
Bulawayo City Council’s corporate communications manager, Mrs Nesisa Mpofu told our Sister paper the Sunday News last week that: “It’s still too early to say if shedding is going to be implemented up until the end of the year as the rainy season hasn’t lapsed.
“The city is officially on the 72-hour shedding period. However, it is overridden by daily restoration strategies due to load shedding at our plants at Umzingwane, Inyankuni, Ncema and Fernhill that affects our Reservoir levels resulting in reduced storage volumes.
However, the city is banking on an unlikely heavy downpour to avert disaster.