City of Harare is reportedly losing 62% of treated water. The losses have been attributed to leakages (30%) and commercial losses (32%), leaving the ailing council with revenue for only 38% of all treated water.
Commercial losses could mean illegal syphoning or non-payment for use. As this means the city council’s water department is operating at a loss, there is urgent need to address this anomaly.
City of Harare director of water services, Engineer Christopher Zvobgo, says council is addressing the challenge of leakages in two ways. The first approach is to replace the whole water pipes network. “We are having continuous pipe bursts because the pipes in the network are now old so we will continue replacing the pipes. The whole network is 6,000km. So far we have covered 150km since 2009,” explained Engineer Zvobgo.
The second way council is addressing the leakage margin is through the installation of pressure reducing valves. These are meant to contain the pressure in the water pipes. These should be installed by the Chinese under the ongoing rehabilitation project.
On the issue of commercial losses, Engineer Zvobgo revealed that council has referred some cases of water theft to law enforcement agents so that the perpetrators can be brought to book. Council is also working on replacing the old analogue meters with smart meters as a way of managing water distribution in Harare. These smart meters will be post-paid and residents have the option of switching to a pre-paid system.
Speaking at a meeting held at Town House last month between residents associations and council’s Water Department, Harare water’s distribution and customer services manager, Engineer Hosiah Chisango said that the smart meters will enable residents and council to monitor water consumption in real-time.
“Smart meters will enable us to detect any leakages in the system as they are capable of reporting any faults. As the meters grow old they become slower or even get stuck, leading to under-metering. The smart meters will give us accurate readings,” said Engineer Chisango.
Some residents believe that council should also carry out an audit to look at non-metered water sources, which exist in some new settlements. “Council should make sure that all water is metered. I know of some non-metered water sources in Crowbrough and Aspindale Park where residents are enjoying free water 24/7,” said Tambudzai Chinake (37) from Marimba Park.
Others such as Chaka Mubako (53) from Mabelreign said that council should prioritise the issue of leakages to ensure that the little water produced does reach residents: “Right now council is failing to cope with residents’ water demands yet they allow purified water to be wasted.”
The issue of non-revenue water is a huge weight on the council’s water department as the local authority is ceding two thirds of monthly water sales to the procurement of water treatment chemicals. According to the City of Harare’s financial position at the end of August, water sales have come to a total of $29,888,603 since January and $20,887,649 has gone towards the purchase of chemicals.
Picture: Burst water pipe at the corner of Julius Nyerere and Nelson Mandela, a common sight around Harare.