Mmegi Online :: The state of the water crisis
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Friday 15 December 2017, 17:56 pm.
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The state of the water crisis

With over 550,000 people, the greater Gaborone area is home to a quarter of the population of Botswana. In peak summer, the area which stretches from Kgatleng to Good Hope requires 145 million litres of water a day. Normally, greater Gaborone gets water from several sources.
By Gothataone Moeng Fri 01 Nov 2013, 15:51 pm (GMT +2)
Mmegi Online :: The state of the water crisis








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Per day it receives 85 million litres from Gaborone Dam, 20 million litres each from Molatedi and Bokaa dams and 60 million litres from the North-South Carrier 1 (NSC).  But during the current water crisis, Bokaa can no longer supply any water, Gaborone Dam can only give 70 million litres a day while Molatedi Dam will only supply 10 million litres a day starting next month.  At 16 percent full, Gaborone Dam will be dry in five months if there are no new in-flows. Molatedi is 17 percent full while Letsibogo’s water stands at 65.5 percent capacity.

Water Utilities Corporation (WUC), which manages the supply and distribution of water, has stepped up the rationing programme up to three days a week, alongside unscheduled water cuts and a consistent low pressure.

Minister of Minerals, Energy and Water Resources (MEWR) Kitso Mokaila acknowledges the crisis but says the situation is under control.  He has taken to carrying around with him a three-page document, with three different maps of Botswana. The first map shows the country’s current water situation, with one tiny part of the country (the Francistown region) painted green to denote adequate supply.  The majority of the country (from Kasane down to Mochudi) is painted yellow to denote that the water supply is ‘not desirable’.  From Gaborone, Lobatse to Tsabong, the colour is red to denote that the water ‘situation is bad’.

The second map shows the whole country with marks to denote the ongoing P600 million emergency projects to find more water sources. The emergency projects, a response to the drought that has beleaguered the country in the last three years, are at different stages of development, and have different delivery times ranging from the end of this year to 2015. The projects involve looking for well fields and digging boreholes. If successful, the minister hopes that the first map will be dominated by green with the majority of the country having ‘adequate’ water supply.

The current situation harkens to 2005, when the Gaborone Dam only had months’ supply of water, and the government introduced restrictions. But the question is; knowing the country’s semi-aridity and historical record of drying dams, why has government not put contingency plans in place?

“I want to say this clearly because people normally think that there was no thinking, and there was no planning going forward,” Mokaila told Mmegi this week. He said government’s long-term planning for the country’ water supply can be found in the National Water Master Plan. The plan included building of the North-South Carrier (N-SC) 1

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and 2, the building of the Thune, Dikgatlhong and Lotsane dams and the acquisition of water from the Zambezi River and Lesotho Highlands.

“We also took a good look at the country’s water situation, to say where do we have water, where are we struggling, which are the hardest hit areas, so that we know how to deal with the shortages,” he said.

Mokaila admits that the current drought put a spanner in their plans. “In all these, there was never envisaged a drought,” he said. “This, I think, is our third year where we have had no rain.  Gaborone Dam is at a level similar to when it last failed; I think the last failing was in 2005.”

The drought prompted the current P600 million emergency projects in the country, though the greater Gaborone remains the ministry’s main concern.

With supplies cut significantly, the rationale behind the water rationing is to try to force people to use less water. Demand for the greater Gaborone area has now come down to 110 million litres a day, the minister said. The government is building 16 boreholes at the Masama well-fields in the Leshibitse and nine boreholes in the Ramotswa.

“(The Ramotswa) will give us around eight million litres of water a day, which will be blended with the Gaborone Dam water.  The Masama boreholes are very high yielding boreholes, they collectively can give us around 40 million litres of water a day,” Mokaila said.

He said during the water rationing, the ministry fills up its own reservoirs to make sure that if the N-SC 1 pipeline malfunctions, there is still water for the city and neighbouring villages.

Mokaila said it would be an even bigger crisis if Batswana do not change their water habits.

“Batswana have to change the way they use water.  The restrictions that are in place are to help us manage the situation, it would be a bigger crisis if Batswana continue using water the way they have always used it,” he warned.  “I think we should learn from experience.  We are near death right now, dying of thirst. And I think all of us must now start to appreciate the value of water, we cannot take it for granted.”

Mokaila encourages Batswana to adopt water-conservation habits such as not running the tap while brushing teeth or washing plates.  He said his ministry is in talks with the Ministry of Infrastructure, Science and Technology to develop building standards so that the country can have water-efficient and energy-efficient buildings. He said other initiatives that Batswana should adopt are water recycling.

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