The drying up of Gaborone Dam in 2016 and the attendant unparalleled water crisis in the Greater Gaborone area certainly taught authorities and consumers some harsh lessons.
However, with Gaborone Dam now comfortably above 70% and other reservoirs around the country equally brimming, it is quite easy to forget, minimise or even euphemise in hindsight, the crisis we once faced in the capital.
This season, El Nino is expected to return, but it is not forecast to adversely affect the country’s dams, further buttressing the security of supply.
With such comfort, the water conservation methods we had all adopted, from recycling water within homes to the better use of supplies, could become abandoned. The urgency of policy reforms to change the building code and force developers to install gutters and other rain collection systems, could slow down.
Human nature being what it is, the moment the adrenaline associated with the “fight/flight” response to a crisis abates, behaviour returns to normal even if that subsequent behaviour causes crises.
What should not happen, however, is any suggestion of a material loosening of the water restrictions currently in place. Since November 2012, when Gaborone Dam began slipping past various response triggers, the Water Utilities Corporation (WUC) first introduced and then scaled up various restrictions.
Batswana simply have to live with the fact that this country is semi-arid and is only projected to get drier in coming years. Water conservation and these restrictions should become a way of life, even as we have slowly adopted
However, the WUC also has some lessons to learn, including the urgent need to accurately map all groundwater resources in the country. For far too long, the WUC and previously the Department of Water Affairs neglected to map out and manage groundwater resources in certain areas, due to the perception that these were salinated beyond redemption and useful only for local farmers.
There is clearly a need for the accurate mapping, testing and management of all these resources to ensure that they provide backup for surface resources, not only for potable but also industrial and agricultural needs.
The WUC also needs to ensure that the recently approved P1.5 billion in World Bank loans plugs the system losses it has incurred for years due to a deteriorating distribution network. In some places, it is estimated that the Corporation loses 500 millimetres of every litre it distributes, an unsustainable situation that flies in the face of the value of water in this country.
The Corporation could do well to also ramp up its riparian discussions with cross-border parties to secure future supplies, the pace of which have noticeably been dampened by the abundant rains.
Every drop really does count.
“Plans are nothing; planning is everything.”
– Dwight D. Eisenhower