Zimbabwe is enduring the worst drought in many years. Bulawayo, the country’s second-largest city, is now studying recycling water from a reservoir which is polluted with sewage, reports Bloomberg. The city is unable to supply running water to its population of more than 650,000.
Last May, as water shortages exacerbated in Bulawayo, in the west of Zimbabwe, the city increased water cuts, limiting access to tap water to one day per week. Residents are resorting to unprotected water sources such as ponds and leaking pipes, and queue for hours to fill up buckets from water tankers sent by the city council. The country experienced a devastating drought in 2019 and has only seen patchy rains in 2020. But shortages are also blamed on a run-down water supply system.
Now the city intends to use water from the Khami dam, which according to Sikhumbuzo Ncube, Deputy Director of the city’s Engineering Services, is of acceptable standards. After preliminary assessments, the water seems safe to use and it will be treated to eliminate bacteria and pollutants, said the city’s public relations department.
The reservoir, located in the city suburbs, received run-off from factories and farms. At this point, three of the city’s six reservoirs can no longer be used since the water level has dropped below pumping levels. In the remaining three the capacity is below 25%.
According to the World Bank, Zimbabwe’s economy was in recession in 2019 and is expected to continue in 2020 due to climate shocks and domestic vulnerabilities worsened by COVID-19. Cleaning up water polluted with sewage is viable, but in the past the country has not done well with the potable water supply: piped water is of poor quality when available.