BWB admits water crisis, demand at 96 million litres

Blantyre Water Board (BWB) has admitted facing challenges to meet daily water supply demand, which is currently at 96 million litres per day due to inadequate production capacity.

BWB only provides 86 million litres daily to the commercial city and surrounding areas-with Mudi dam providing 8 million and Walker’s Ferry producing remaining 78 million litres-creating a water shortage crisis, which puts thousands of people at risk of contracting waterborne diseases.

Blantyre City and surrounding areas are currently experiencing acute water supply shortages with some areas going days without a supply.

Most affected areas including populous townships of Chilobwe, Ndirande, Bangwe, Chilomoni, Chirimba, Zingwangwa, Chimwankhunda and Chigumula.

Innocent Mbvundula

The situation has forced some residences to resort to unprotected water sources such as streams, wells and rivers for survival, putting their lives at risk of contracting waterborne diseases such as bilharzias and cholera.

Women and children are spending sleepless nights walking distances in search for water, which is the key component of life.

In an exclusive interview with Nyasa Times, BWB Public Relations Officer, Innocent Mbvundula, while admitting the water supply shortage, said the board registers a shortfall of 10 million litres daily in its quest to provide continuous supply of clean water to its customers.

“This entails that every day, when production is at the maximum, the Board is already short of 10 million litres. This challenge is compounded by several other factors that include continuous power outages affecting the Board’s pumping stations, high water consumption during hot season and pipe bursts owing to the aged infrastructure in the distribution network.

“Additionally, the Board has in the last couple of months, witnessed rising cases of vandalism and theft of water facilities leading to water losses apart from high repair and replacement costs. All these factors have worked together to deprive our customers of one of most precious commodities in their lives,” Mbvundula explained.

Mbvundula said the Board has devised both immediate and long-term plans to ensure that the water shortage problem is solved, citing water supply rationing and borehole drilling as some of the initiatives undertaken currently to improve the crisis.

Immediate Measures

Mbvundula disclosed that currently, with the limited water production capacity, the institution has intensified efforts to reduce non-revenue water (NRW) and instituted water rationing programme to ensure equitable water supply.

“The Board’s supply system can only allow some areas to have water consistently, while leaving others with persistent water shortages. In view of this, the Board instituted a water rationing programme to ensure equitable distribution of water supply for the benefit of those that, if nothing is done, cannot access water from the Board.

“Because of this rationing programme, some areas that have never experienced water shortages have been affected, with some of them deprived of water for some hours in order to serve other areas,” he explained.

The publicist added that the efforts to reduce non-revenue water (NRW) were designed to ensure that that there is more water in the system, saying the current level of non revenue water is now at 39 percent down from 48 percent in 2009.

“To this effect, the Board has strengthened its systems by attending to all reported faults in shortest time possible, assigning designated plumbers in specific areas to attend to faults and replacing old pipes to reduce cases of burst pipes”.

Drilling/installation of boreholes

Blantyre Water Board (BWB) is currently in the process of drilling and installing boreholes to complement the existing sources of water supply in some areas.

The Board has earmarked Nguludi/Catholic University which has been experiencing critical water problems and Lunzu for the drilling and installation of boreholes that will isolate the areas from current water supply system and ensure they are having more in the distribution system, leaving the limited supply from Walker’s Ferry and Mudi concentrated on a reduced coverage area.

Long Term solutions

The Board, according to Mbvundula, is implementing a four-year project through National Water Development Programme (NWDP) with funding from European Union (EU) and European Investment Bank (EIB).

The NWDP programme, among other things, will foster rehabilitation and upgrading of BWB’s main pumping stations to increase production capacity that corresponds with the current demand.

“At the completion of this project, production at Walker’s Ferry’s main pumping station will increase from 78 million litres per day to 96 million litres. This will mean more water being produced and supplied to consumers by October 2013.

“So far the contractor entrusted with the task to rehabilitate and upgrade the Intake and High Lift pumping stations at the Walkers Ferry and the twin pipeline from Walkers Ferry to Chileka, Gammon- Technofab Joint Venture from India has been given a clearance to start manufacturing the equipment so that the works are completed by October, 2013,” added he.

New water source

NWDP aside, Mbvundula further disclosed that the water supplying institution with support from government and other development partners is in the process of identifying a new water source that will complement the Board’s existing water sources namely; Shire River at Walker’s Ferry and Mudi Dam.

He said the identification and development of new water source is a long term measure being seriously looked at in view of ever increasing population growth in the City of Blantyre and surrounding areas.

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