By Johannes Chin’ombe
Masvingo, 30 January 2016 – City authorities and residents are in panic mode as water levels at the ancient city’s main source, Lake Mutirikwi, have dropped to an alarming 24 per cent, a situation last experienced during the 1992 drought period.
Masvingo mayor Hubert Fidze confirmed the sad development while urging city residents in the city’s over 100 000 households to continue saving what remains of the necessity.
Fidze said the city, already battling to manage an aging water supply infrastructure, has now turned to the last valve at Lake Mutirikwi, a sign that the situation was now critical.
“We have now opened the third valve which is the last one before we move on to the emergency valve. The situation is critical,” said the mayor.
“Residents should therefore help us combat the looming water shortages by saving water.”
Fidze said he has called for an emergency meeting to map out a contingent plan before the situation gets out of hand.
Residents, equally, are fretting over the looming disaster saying they were particularly scared of diseases that come with water shortages.
“We cannot blame council on this one since it is a result of unfriendly weather patterns that have affected almost everyone countrywide,” said one Tendai Mugwagwa.
“As residents, we however have our own fears as diseases that are often accompanied by water shortages such as typhoid and cholera.”
Marble Nyakuengama added, “If water shortages continue ravaging Masvingo, it will be a challenge to women especially since they are the ones who do household chores that need water frequently.
“It is also a further threat to nursing women as infants are quick to catch diseases if water is not readily or frequently available.”
Masvingo Residents Trust chairperson Prosper Tiringindi, on his part, urged council to drill more boreholes in residential areas to allow alternative sources of water to city dwellers in light of the worsening shortages.
“If it was not for the biting economic challenges, we would just mobilise ourselves as residents and drill boreholes,” Tiringindi said.
“It is now the council’s duty as a service provider to drill boreholes in every location so that the city will not run dry.
“I am not discouraging residents who can otherwise afford, not to build boreholes as they would also serve the community if the looming challenge strikes.”
The declining water levels at Lake Mutirikwi have also affected sugar cane farmers in Chiredzi who draw water from the dam.
“Water is being rationed a lot these days as compared to any other farming season and this is affecting productivity in our sugar cane fields,” said one farmer, Talent Majoni.
The current water level at Lake Mutirikwi was last recorded 24 years ago at the height of devastating drought then and while the current El Nino phenomenon affecting the Southern African region 2016 threatens even worse.
Masvingo’s water woes are not new as the city started rationing its water some months ago.
However, the 1992 low water came as a blessing and disguise as the city discovered an underwater aquifer which the council is planning to tap into if the water level continues to drop.