Innovative solutions urgently needed to resolve Zimbabwe urban perennial water woes

As we, in the small town of Redcliff, enter our third month without any running tap water - an unfamiliar challenge, that has bedeviled most of the country's urban areas for the better part of the past two decades - it has become undebatable that both our national and local authorities have dismally failed in the distribution of bulk water.

Tendai Ruben Mbofana

Therefore, there is no denying that it has become imperative for the nation to urgently and seriously adopt innovative sustainable water provision alternatives – especially, targeted at more localized and area-specific solutions.

During my brief two-year stay in Midrand, South Africa between 2008 and 2010, I worked as a project manager for a company that developed and manufactured machines that generated water from air – atmospheric water generation – which were introduced to service spaces as small as homes and offices, as well as larger ones as entire business complexes.

This morning, as I was watching on CNN the numerous innovative environmentally-friendly water solutions being exhibited at the Dubai Expo – my mind water taken aback to my short stint in SA, and I realized how such seemingly small, simple, and relatively affordable technologies could be the answer to Zimbabwe’s perennial water woes.

We have already been witnessing steady, but significant progress in the electricity provision sector in Zimbabwe – whereby, citizens have been moving more and more into installing their own home and business solar-power generation systems.

This has obviously not been easy – mainly due to the prohibitive costs involved in procuring the necessary solar-power generation equipment, which are either wholly imported or assembled locally from foreign-made parts.

Yet, with genuine government support and commitment – through scrapping of import duties, as well as offering incentives for the local manufacture of such equipment – these can become affordable by nearly every household in Zimbabwe, thereby finally putting to an end the debilitating headaches over electricity.

The same approach is needed for the water sector.

Indeed, there has been a marked uptake of borehole drilling – however, this has largely remained elitist, as a result of the unaffordable costs, usually upwards of US$1,000…a figure most Zimbabweans clearly can not manage, considering that over 75% of the population lives below the poverty datum line (PDL).

This is where government has to commit itself by formulating water policies that move away from unmitigated failures of bulk-distributions, and focus on enabling and encouraging household and business premises based water-generation solutions.

These may be in the form of removing all prohibitive and discouraging factors that push up costs of drilling water that is literally right under our feet – yet, we are crying everyday of the lack of this life-giving precious gift.

We can similarly explore atmospheric water generation – which I was involved in during my stay in SA – whose technology is simply the condensation of water vapor that is already in the air around us, into drinkable safe water.

Some people even jokingly described the simplicity of this technology as merely a “defective air conditioner” – since that is exactly what happened when those old faulty aircons would start dripping water at the back!

This is the same technology used in desert countries – perfected by the Israelis – who never complain of water problems, in spite of living in a region notorious for its unbearable heat and prolonged droughts.

If, as a nation, we could encourage the local manufacture, or cheaper importation, of these more reliable, sustainable, and affordable water-provision systems, we can finally say a hearty and welcome goodbye to these continued running water challenges, that our local authorities have undoubtedly failed to resolve.

The aim, now, should be for every household and business premises to have its own water source.

© Tendai Ruben Mbofana is a social justice activist, writer, and social commentator. Please feel free to contact him on WhatsApp/Call: +263715667700 / +263782283975, or Calls Only: +263788897936 / +263733399640, or email: [email protected]

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