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Every drop counts

The drying up of Gaborone Dam a few years ago and the attendant unparalleled water crisis in the Greater Gaborone area have certainly taught authorities and consumers some harsh lessons.

However, these lessons are easy to forget, minimise or even euphemise in hindsight, especially as we become collectively blinded by the shimmering waters at the now 90% full Gaborone Dam. The water conservation methods we had all adopted, from recycling water within our 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, may return to normal even if that behaviour causes crisis.

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. These prohibit use of portable water in watering of gardens, filling of swimming pools, watering of gardens and parks and sports fields, spraying of pavements, sidewalks and streets and others. Washing of vehicles with potable water using hose-pipes is prohibited, as is the use of automatic urinals. The restrictions also make it law that “all defective plumbing and pipe fittings which result in water wastage must be repaired within 24 hours of notice”.

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 and become accustomed to them since 2012.

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 portable but also industrial and agricultural needs.

The WUC also needs to ensure that the recently approved P1.5 billion loan 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 millilitres 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 crossborder parties to secure future supplies, the pace of which have noticeably been dampened by the abundant rains. Every drop really does count. 

Today’s thought 

“Plans are nothing; planning is everything.” 

– Dwight D. Eisenhower


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