RESIDENTS must ensure that new water sources are tested and analysed first before the water is used for domestic purposes to avoid contracting diseases, a senior government official has said.
BY PHYLLIS MBANJE
The warning comes after it emerged that most Harare residents, including those in high-density suburbs, have resorted to drinking borehole water, some of which has been found to be contaminated.
Harare residents have turned to borehole water because they no longer trust the smelly and at times sewage-contaminated water supplied by the local authority.
Government analyst laboratory director in the Ministry of Health and Child Welfare, Livingstone Musiyambiri said it was prudent that people ensured that new water sources were analysed first before domestic use.
“Evidence has always proved that underground water can be contaminated at any stage, especially in the era of industrialisation where excess chemicals find their way into the water. There is also the likelihood of sewage seepage,” he said.
Musiyambiri said if it were not for the heavily polluted environment, rainwater would have been one of the cleanest.
“If residents continue to drill boreholes and do not consult the local authorities or independent experts to test their water, they risk drinking contaminated water,” he warned.
Harare and Chitungwiza get their water supplies from heavily-polluted Chivero and Manyame dams.
The failure by the Harare City Council (HCC) to supply clean running water has forced residents to drill boreholes, posing a serious threat to people’s health, as well as affecting the city’s water table.
Earlier this year HCC director of health services, Prosper Chonzi said 33% of the 254 council boreholes in the city were contaminated with faecal matter.
Faecal matter transmits diseases such as typhoid and cholera.
Over 4 000 people succumbed to cholera from August 2008 to mid-2009, as contaminated water supplies spread the disease amid the country’s failing health care systems.
Musiyambiri said water from any source may appear clean to the naked human eye but could in actual fact be heavily contaminated.
“Common among a host of health complications that result from continuously drinking water contaminated by chemicals is dental fluorosis or mottling of tooth enamel. Over the years the teeth become yellow in colour,” said Musiyambiri.
Pregnant women can also pass on this condition to their unborn babies who will later on exhibit the signs and symptoms of the disease, he said.
It is feared that water-borne diseases could continue spreading, as most people do not seek approval from the Zimbabwe National Water Authority (Zinwa) as required by the law before the drilling of the boreholes.
There are also reports that Harare’s water table is now pathetically low and could soon dry up if no corrective measures are urgently put in place.
An official with Livewater Boreholes, a borehole drilling firm, said it was not a surprise that some boreholes were drying up, as people were just drilling boreholes without expert advice.
“When people drill boreholes so close to each other, there is bound to be interference and one of the boreholes might dry up,” said the official. “The water table is getting lower and it is a known fact.”
Zinwa public relations officer, Tsungirirai Shoriwa urged residents to seek authority before drilling boreholes.
“This process allows us to keep a database, which will help us monitor the situation and prevent overdrawing of water from the ground,” he said.
A permit to drill a borehole costs US$30, while a site plan which is a prerequisite costs around US$150.
Shoriwa also said according to Section 35 of the Water Act, no one is allowed to sink, alter or deepen a borehole without seeking permission.
The United Nations says 2,7 billion people worldwide will face severe water shortages by 2025 if governments do not prioritise water governance and management.
In Africa alone, 345 million people lack access to water while 3,4 million die from water-related diseases.