Tinomuda Chakanyuka Sunday News Reporter—
WATER levels for dams supplying water to cities and towns in the southern parts of the country are now below 50 percent of capacity triggering fears that authorities might be forced to introduce a tight water shedding regime in the wake of continued erratic rains this season. According to figures obtained from water management body Zinwa, combined supply dams for Bulawayo, Gwanda, Plumtree, Masvingo and Beitbridge were now below 50 percent of their capacity as at 7 January 2016.
The figures show that Bulawayo supply dams situated in Umzingwane and Insiza as well as the Nyamandlovu Aquifer now have a combined capacity of 166 920 million cubic metres which is 41,7 percent full.
In Gwanda, the figures show that Mujeni and Weir Water which supply the town had a combined capacity of 3 972 million cubic metres which is just 39,2 percent. According to the figures, the water is expected to last for the next seven months only which will be around August when the next rainy season would not have started.
Zinwa figures also show that in Plumtree-Mhlangwa, Mangwe, Bulilima water sources have 7 200 million cubic metres, which is just above half at 50,4 percent.
In Masvingo, the figures show that the country’s biggest inland dam, Mutirikwi which does not only supply the city but the commercial sugar farms in the Lowveld is only remaining with 345 033 million cubic metres which is just 25 percent of its capacity.
In Beitbridge, although contingent measures have already been put in place, off river storage dams for the town are now left with just 0,718 million cubic metres which is 10,7 percent of capacity. Under normal circumstances that water can only last the next two months.
Zinwa spokesperson Mrs Marjorie Munyonga, however, said there was no need to press the panic button yet as the water in the dams might be able to take some of the cities until the next rainy season.
“The situation for Beitbridge is not critical since the town is now drawing water from Zhovhe Dam, which is 70 percent full. The same also applies to Gwanda which is getting water supply augmentation from Mtshabezi Dam, which is currently 72,7 percent full,” she said.
She said most dams across the country continue to hold enough water to last the towns and cities until the next rainy season.
“The Zimbabwe National Water Authority, however, continues to appeal to water users to use the available water efficiently so that the resource can be last longer. Zinwa also urges farmers intending to irrigate their crops using raw water from the dams to approach their nearest Zinwa offices and sign water abstraction agreements which allow them to use water legally. These agreements, despite being a legal requirement, also help Zinwa in water resources planning.”
The figures show dams supplying towns and cities in the northern parts of the country are still above 50 percent full.
Zinwa said dams supplying Harare, satellite towns and Chinhoyi were still 80 percent full, Amapongokwe and Whitewaters, Gwenoro, which supply Gweru are 57 percent full. Claw Dam which supplies Kadoma is still 78,8 percent while Sebakwe and Lower Zibagwe which supply Kwekwe and Redcliff are still 65,3 percent full.
The water situation comes at a time when figures from the Meteorological Departments show that some of these cities have already received rains close to their annual average.
The figures show that from October to end of December Bulawayo had received 154,3 millimeters, Gweru 194,7 mm, Kwekwe 170,5 mm, Masvingo 167,4 mm and Beitbridge had received 153,7 mm.
“The average rainfall received in the Southern Region (Bulawayo, Gweru, Kwekwe, Gwanda, Masvingo and Beitbridge) for October, November and December was 168,1mm. So, the percentage of normal from a national perspective is 59 percent.
The long term average for the region is 234,4mm,” said the Met Department.
It added that the long term average for the region was 234,4mm.
“The percentage of normal of October to December totals of the regional long term average is 72 percent.
“This means that for the region, it was above their average but more than 50 percent of the national mean. Mind you, we are using data from our Meteorological stations.”
However, the department acknowledged that although the figures might look positive the distribution of the rains were erratic.
“In most cases the wet spells alternated with long dry spells which were accompanied by extremely high temperatures. This therefore affected soil moisture retention depending on the soil type as well as the management practices.”
Officials at the department said totals recorded did not also reflect timeframe of the rain.
“We measure total precipitation. If in a week an area receives all the amount which we benchmark as average of the place we record as having received normal rains.
Our measurements do not consider average distribution over all the months that is for the farmers,” said a worker at the department.
Zimbabwe like most parts of the region is projected to receive low rains this season due to the effects of El Nino weather pattern.
El Nino, caused by Pacific Ocean warming, is characterised by floods and drought in some areas. Most parts of Africa will this year come under the heavy effect of the weather pattern.