EDITORIAL COMMENT: Water quality key, not just quantity

ZIMPAPERSAFTER a weekend without water and with taps in some suburbs of the city still dry, residents of Harare expect that water supplies will really improve in the short term. Any positive development is welcome, as the service delivery is at an all-time low with some residents never having seen municipal water gush out of their faucets in the past 10 years.

The shutdown at the Morton Jaffray Water Treatment Plant was ostensibly to increase capacity to a point whereby the city authorities will now be able to supply 550 mega litres out of the daily requirement of 800 mega litres.

The Town Clerk claims that the ongoing refurbishments will see the western suburbs get water by the 25th of this month while the northern suburbs will enjoy a couple more days of running water.

The refurbishment will see the replacement of old pumps and pipes and we are told that the new pumps will increase capacity while cutting down electricity usage by 50 percent. All this sounds wonderful and if a fraction of it comes to pass, then we can only applaud the city authorities and encourage them to keep up the good work.

But we can be forgiven for our ambivalence which forces us to really question if any of the promised improvements will be delivered.

The water woes of Harare have been ongoing for more than a decade and seemingly getting worse with each day. This has not hindered the city executives from paying themselves undeserved huge salaries and driving expensive cars while the residents must get water where they can.

Ineptitude and lack of clear direction seems to mean that the Kunzvi Dam project will remain a subject for dreams and visions in our lifetime.

An attempt at replacing old pipes some time back seems to have inexplicably run out of steam. So we continue to have burst pipes pumping hundreds of mega litres of treated water into the ground somewhere in the city every day.

Presumably the cost of this wastage is being palmed off onto the hapless ratepayer.

Another worry is that we are hearing of attempts to increase quantity and absolutely nothing about the quality. The liquid that has been coming out of the taps smells terrible, has blackish sediments that settle into a revolting slimy sludge at the bottom of any container or rises as an equally unpalatable scum when the water is heated.

Those with an option do not drink the city water, even if it occasionally trickles out of their faucets. But there are many people who cannot afford to find alternatives for acceptable potable water and the city must supply water of unquestionable standard.

The shutdown coincided with dry skies over the capital city so people could not harvest rain water to offset the dry taps.

We hope the dry taps did not spike cases of diarrhoeal diseases.

If water reticulation is really to improve because of the shutdown, then it would have been worth all the inconvenience. But we wait to see.