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Mozambique’s National Directorate of Water Supply and Sanitation on Thursday announced a return to the measures of early 2017 with water being pumped to each neighbourhood in Greater Maputo only every other day.
As of Thursday the supply of water to the Greater Maputo area was cut by 30 per cent due to the low levels of water in the reservoir behind the Pequenos Libombos dam on the Umbeluzi river. The water supply authorities ordered a reduction in discharges from the dam into the Umbeluzi from 2.15 to 1.5 cubic metres a second.
This follows the declaration of an “orange alert” for the Umbeluzi basin by the government’s Disaster Management Technical Council (CTGC). At the beginning of February, the reservoir was less than 20 per cent full.
Restrictions were imposed to ensure that there is a minimum supply of drinking water for Maputo, the adjoining city of Matola and the town of Boane. The total number of people affected is around 1.3 million.
The system of pumping water to areas on alternate days was first adopted in January 2017. Later in the year it was suspended, but supplies did not return to normal. Instead there was a general cut in water supply of 20 per cent, and a ban on using any Umbeluzi water for irrigation.
At a Maputo press conference on Thursday, the National Director of Water Supply and Sanitation, Nilton Trindade, announced the restrictions, and urged people to save water. He did not want a return to the situation seen in 2017 when some people obtained water by theft, smashing open water pipes to grab water for themselves.
The general manager of the Southern Regional Water Board (Ara-Sul), Helio Banze, warned that the restrictions could last for longer than in 2017. Water must be ensured for all the residents of Greater Maputo, and the Pequenos Libombos reservoir must not be allowed to run dry, since that might affect the security of the dam.
“The restrictions will last”, said Banze, “although we are hoping for a miracle by the end of March (i.e. the official end of the 2017/18 rainy season) in the shape of some rainfall. That could lead us to review the measures we have adopted”.
But if there was no heavy rainfall, he added, the restrictions could last until the next rainy season which begins in October.
The national director of water resource management, Mecias Macie, said that from 2014 to the present the levels of rainfall in the Umbeluzi Basin have been below the historical average. The basin is shared by Mozambique, Swaziland and South Africa. It is rainfall in Swaziland and in the adjacent Mozambican district of Namaacha, which largely determines how much water flows into the Pequenos Libombos reservoir.
In a rainy season, said Macie, the authorities hoped that 80 million cubic metres would enter the reservoir, but this season the amount was only 24 million cubic metres. The Pequenos Libombos reservoir can hold 400 million cubic metres, but currently it holds just 19 per cent of this, around 75 million cubic metres.
The dams on the other two major river basins in southern Mozambique, the Incomati and the Limpopo, are about 50 per cent full.
As for alternative water sources for Maputo, Macie said work is underway to double storage capacity at the Corumana dam, on the Sabie river (the main tributary of the Incomati), and to complete a pipeline from Corumana to Maputo (a distance of about 60 kilometres).
A projected new dam on the Incomati, the Moamba Major dam, will store 700 million cubic metres of water. This dam was planned taking into consideration the future water needs of Greater Maputo. But construction of the dam was only about seven per cent complete when building work was suspended following the corruption case in Brazil known as Lava Jacto, which involved several construction companies, such as Andrade Gutierrez, which was the contractor for Moamba Major.
The construction of this dam has an estimated cost of US$466 million and Brazil had promised to provide 320 million dollars, but this funding has now been suspended.Source: Rádio Moçambique