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Zimbabwe's drought-hit Bulawayo limits tap water to just a day a week

The city council said it was decommissioning a third dam on Friday after reservoir levels fell to 6% of capacity.

FILE: Josephine Ganye working in her wilting and stunted maize fields due to the unrelenting heat and poor rainfall in the drought prone Buhera in Zimbabwe in January 2020. Picture: AFP

HARARE – Zimbabwe’s second-biggest city of Bulawayo limited access to tap water to just one day a week on Friday as reservoir levels fall to dangerously low levels amid the country’s worst drought in years.

After a devastating drought in 2019 and patchy rains this year, water shortages have worsened in Bulawayo, in the west of the country, forcing families to trek to unsafe wells as taps run dry.

The city council said it was decommissioning a third dam on Friday after reservoir levels fell to 6% of capacity and would now rely on three dams and an underground aquifer for supplies.

But the remaining three reservoirs are only about 30% full and water levels continue to fall. That means up to 65 megalitres of water is available daily against demand of 155 megalitres, the council said.

“In order to avoid the system from collapsing due to the supply-demand deficit, a more stringent (water cut) regime of 144-hours (a week) will be introduced,” it said.

Bulawayo has gradually increased water cuts from three days a week at the start of this year, saying it was grappling with “one of the most parched seasons in modern history”.

Analysts say Zimbabwe’s economy will go deeper into recession this year as it battles climate-induced shocks that are causing hunger, effects of the coronavirus and monetary woes that have seen inflation spike to three-digit levels.