Bots rations water

Gaborone- Frequent, longer water rationing has started as Botswana battles crippling water shortages, authorities here have announced. 

Botswana came to this desperate decision after realising that most of its dams that supply major towns and villages will dry up soon.

The Water Ministry in collaboration with First National Bank Botswana (FNBB) Foundation, Water Utilities Corporation (WUC) and GIZ Trans Boundary Water Management Programme (GIZ-TWM) have launched a water rationing programme dubbed ‘Somarela Thothi’ (literally meaning save a drop).

Residents have had to endure seven-hour supply cuts in the capital and surrounding areas for three days a week.

The Gaborone Dam was about 2 percent full on May 22, according to the Water Utilities Corporation. 

The central bank on May 25 cited water shortages as one of the threats to the country’s economic growth this year, together with electricity.

Speaking at the launch, Minister of Minerals, Energy and Water Resources, Kitso Mokaila said rationing was necessary and would continue for as long supplies remain scarce.

He said it was vital for people to change their habit and to stop wasting water before nature forces them to do so.

According to the minister the project calls for the reduction of water loss and is being implemented in the greater Gaborone area up to the end of the year.

The project is a combination of social and technical measures for more efficient water supply, Mokaila said.

“Water rationing will continue even if there was enough supply to water the nation because Botswana is experiencing dry dams due to factors such as low rainfall and increased usage.

“There is too much usage of water in schools, hospitals and government buildings hence the debate to change building standards,” he said.

The situation, Mokaila said, also calls for the employment of water and energy efficient systems.

“Another measure for saving water is recycling waste water. 

The National Water Master Plan charted the way forward to ensure that the country has enough water supply. 

The plan was reviewed midway which led to the Integrated Water Resources Management and Water Efficiency, hence the need to address water losses,” he explained.

He added that “water loss is not only important for the government, but for everyone. 

Water infrastructure needs to be replaced and the need to provide new infrastructure in most villages cannot be overemphasised”.

Mokaila said although that would be costly for the economy, it was necessary.

FNBB Foundation board of trustees’ member, Dorcas Kgosietsile said despite water being critical, it was often wasted.

“Water is important to the economy especially in luring foreign direct investment and water rationing will compel Batswana to conserve the commodity. 

Through the project, the country will not only save water but also funds, as it happened in South Africa where a similar project was undertaken,” she said.

Water Utilities Corporation’s Gaselemogwe Senai said the aim through the ‘Somarela Thothi’ project was to reduce water loss, and that their target was 22 per cent countrywide in their three year strategy.

Negotiations with South Africa to waive the 50 percent reduction of water supplied from Molatedi Dam in South Africa are continuing.

The supply from this dam is cut by half when the dam is below 26 percent. 

Currently the dam is at 20 percent. 

The Water Utilities Corporation, therefore, urged all water users to use the available water sparingly and adhere to the water restrictions.

Reports recently indicated that Botswana intends to accelerate construction of a pipeline to bring water from the Zambezi River so that the project is completed within seven years rather than the current projection for 2030.

The government is reviewing its original designs for the 16 billion pula ($1.6 billion) project, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Minerals, Energy and Water Resources Kgomotso Abi told lawmakers recently in Gaborone.

“There has been a rethinking of the initial idea, looking at the drying up of Gaborone Dam and other sources,” Abi said.

“This is a priority and we must bring that water all the way down to the south.”

In 2009, Botswana submitted a formal request to the Southern African Development Community to draw 495 million cubic meters of water a year from the Zambezi. 

Initially, Botswana intended to use the water for a commercial agriculture project in the north-west.

The water shortage in the south has forced it to re-prioritize its plans, Kgomotso said.

“We are working on the terms of reference for consultants who will help review the original designs for the project,” Abi said.

“It could be a seven-year project, but we have to somehow make it faster because we don’t have the luxury of time.”

June 2015
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