Bulawayo Dam Levels Remain Critical Despite Recent Downpours

By Dumisani Nyoni

Bulawayo, March 06, 2016 – BULAWAYO’S supply dam water levels remain in the red despite the few rains experienced recently raising fears that the council might resort to the dreaded water-shedding exercise, it has emerged.

The local authority was forced to officially decommission one of its supply dams and recently it stopped drawing water from two supply dams — Upper Ncema and Umzingwane — after they reached critical levels.

According to a council report, the city is currently operating with five out of six supply dams, after Upper Ncema which is only 2,56 per cent full was decommissioned.

Umzingwane dam is also at critical levels at 8,86 per cent.

Overally, the city’s supply dams as at January 24 were 41,50 per cent full compared to last month’s 43,32 per cent and last year when they were 63,83 percent full.

Lower Ncema is 58,38 per cent full compared to last month’s 63,57 per cent.

Mtshabezi has the highest capacity at 71,94 percent but this is also a considerable decline from last month’s capacity of 73,97 per cent and also falls short of last year’s figure when it was 92,37 per cent full during the same period.

Insiza Mayfair Dam is 60,23 per cent full, down from last month’s 62,51 per cent, of which last year during the same period it was 85,45 per cent full.

While Inyankuni dam is 17,84 per cent full, down from 18,52 per cent while last year it was 29,02 per cent full.

So critical is the situation that the dams only received little inflows of 1,462,992m3 since the beginning of the rain season.

Council said the rate of storage drawdown for the month of January was 1,82 per cent which was about 7,538,177m3, whereas in December the drawdown rate was 1,51 per cent.

It said the monthly average rate of drawdown in 2015 had been 1,66 percent, whereas the monthly average drawdown rate in 2014 was 1,59 per cent.

The total water storage in the supply dams was 172,078,964m3 and the usable volume was 155,493,856m3 (excluding dead water).

The monthly average drawdown calculated using the period 2012-2014, when there had been no inflows was 7,908,827m3/month.

“Using this figure for drawdown and usable storage, the expected theoretical depletion period had translated to 19 months,” said the council.

Bulawayo Residents’ Association (BURA) chairman Winos Dube encouraged residents to use water sparingly.

“We are quite aware that this year it has been a bad year and we have not yet received significant inflows.

“We would like to urge our council to work very hard so that those projects on the pipeline to augment water supply, come true,” Dube said.

The council is working on the project to start drawing water from the Epic Forest as well as rehabilitating Nyamandlovu boreholes.

Bulawayo needs about 140 000 cubic metres of water daily for both domestic and industrial consumption, but the growing population now outstrips supply capacity.

Over the years, Bulawayo has been facing water shortages, which have been attributed to the increasing demand in the city.

The last dam was commissioned before independence, and since then no new dam has been constructed by the post-colonial government to correspond with the growing population.

The long-term solution to the city’s water problems is considered as the Matabeleland Zambezi Water Project (MZWP), which has failed to take off since it was mooted years back.


The Ministry of Water, Climate and Environment recently announced that the city will soon be constructing a new dam at Glassblock in Matabeleland South, which is expected to cost an estimated $208 million.