Friday, September 10, 2010

A long dry season in Zimbabwe raises concern over water supply

A very long dry season in Zimbabwe brings with it fears on how it will effect the water supply. It is already a challenge for the country to find groundwater when it has mostly rocky ground. If Zimbabwe has more very long dry seasons, it could make the challenge next to impossible.

From IPS, writer Ignatius Banda talks about how the water scarcity is effecting one school.

Headmaster Njabulo Mpofu has weathered long dry spells before, but the water troubles affecting his school in the arid Midlands region of Zimbabwe are severe.

Experts say the water table is receding in the Midlands Province, with groundwater disappearing deeper into the earth, threatening the lives of both humans and livestock.

This is where the devastating 1990s drought saw skeletal cattle roaming the scorched earth in search of water, while some villagers fled to the cities.

The continuing water scarcity, Mpofu says, has forced school children to invest time in fetching water instead of attending classes, with villagers also devoting more and more of their day to looking for water from new sources further from their homes.

Mberengwa is one of many communities in rural Zimbabwe that is feeling the impact of low rainfall in a country where the supply of clean water to both rural and urban populations remains a huge challenge.

According to a 2004 MDG assessment, access to clean and safe drinking water in Zimbabwe’s rural areas declined from 75 percent in 1999 to 68 percent in 2003.

While many in rural areas have long relied on groundwater - boreholes are a familiar part of the infrastructure for schools like Mpofu's - it is becoming increasingly difficult to draw on this vital resource amid challenges of both poor rainfall and poor groundwater exploration.

Sobona Mtisi, a researcher officer with the UK’s Overseas Development Institute (ODI) says what has made it difficult to harness groundwater in the arid Midlands region and other parts of Zimbabwe is that this resource is not as readily available as previously thought.

There is growing recognition of falling water table levels caused by reduced groundwater recharge from rainfall, Mtisi told IPS, but groundwater remains a practical option - where underground geology permits: "Groundwater can be harnessed from only 25 percent of the surface area in Zimbabwe as the other 75 percent is composed of hard rocks which make it difficult to extract ground water," he said.

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