By Hazvinei Mwanaka
Water is an essential part in our everyday lives.
However, power outages being experienced in the country have not spared local councils that rely heavily on electricity to pump its water. It’s high time our local authorities resort to renewable energy to curb these water challenges.
Section 77 (a) of the Zimbabwean Constitution guarantees the right to safe, clean and potable water. This imposes an obligation on central government and local authorities to provide clean and potable water in Zimbabwe.
However, this is not so in Zimbabwe.
United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goal 6 (SDG 6) aims at ensuring, availability and access to water and sanitation for all. According to the UN, due to bad economics or poor infrastructure, millions of people including children die every year from diseases associated with inadequate water supply, sanitation and hygiene.
“Water scarcity, poor water quality and inadequate sanitation negatively impact food security, livelihood choices and educational opportunities for poor families across the world.
“… more than 2 billion people are living with the risk of reduced access to fresh water resources and by 2050, at least one in four people is likely to live in a country affected by chronic or recurring shortages of fresh water,” according to the UN.
To improve sanitation and access to drinking water, the UN says there is need for increased investment in management of fresh water ecosystems and sanitation facilities at local levels in several developing countries.
So according to the above obligations, lack of water is an infringement of one’s rights.
At peak consumption, Zimbabwe needs around 2,200 megawatts of electricity, but it is currently generating below 1,300 megawatts and is relying on energy imports.
This situation exposes communities to all sorts of diseases. Not only are they prone to diseases but also theft, rape and other forms of abuse.
I had a conversation one day with a granny who takes care of her three orphaned grandchildren. Imagine, in this cold season, she wakes up around 2am in the morning every day to fetch water.
The water taps are not always running which at times forces her to walk some two kilometres to the nearest source of water to get the precious liquid. She has to do it early to avoid the long queues at the nearest water source.
On my way to town the other day, I eavesdropped into the conversation of two middle aged women. One of them sounded very confused.
“Imagine the (water) bowser came to our ward yesterday. The queue was very long I did not manage to even get a bucket full. I don’t even know what I am going to do,” she said.
These are some of the disturbing sentiments by people to whom service providers are failing to fulfil their mandate. The situation is now so dire that some people will end up drawing water from unsafe sources.
For example in Zimbabwe’s southern town of Masvingo, the city fathers are always saying they are failing to pump water from Bushmead water works because of power cuts. In the second city of Bulawayo, they are now rationing water.
Yet, renewable energy could be the solution to these problems.
Apart from using solar energy to pump water, local authorities can also install solar water boreholes in different wards in the city. While the instalations may be expensive, they will go a long way in alleviating the water challenges.
Councils can take advantage of solar energy because of the abundance of sunshine in Zimbabwe almost throughout the year, which can be easily harnessed for solar energy.
Solar energy is easier to use. Rays of sunlight are trapped by the panels and converted into energy for electricity. In instances of power outages, solar energy can be used as an alternative.
Solar energy has low minimum costs at a time when technology in the solar energy industry is constantly advancing and improving.
Installing solar water boreholes in different wards in Masvingo can be the solution to the city’s water problems.