Water Utilities Corporation (WUC) is hoarding the headlines again. Chief amongst the issues is the recently commissioned 100km Masama-Mmamashia pipeline constructed by Khato Civils (Pty) Ltd and water supply interruptions and shortages.
The Business Weekly & Review recently established and reported that the 100km Masama-Mmamashia Pipeline currently pumps water at only 20 percent of its project design scope of 64 megalitres (mL) of water per day, which comes to a measly 13 megalitres per day.
In an exclusive interview this week, the CEO of Water Utilities Corporation, Gaselemogwe Senai confirmed that the Masama pipeline pumps only 13.7mL per day. According to Senai, this is because of technical reasons associated with WUC storage capacity and water distribution networks.
Prior to its commissioning, a rigorous quality assurance process that involved the Programmes Manager, the Project Manager, the Resident Engineer and several technicians was carried out. Senai says the process entailed subjecting the pipeline to a hydrostatic test to check if it can withstand pressure. “When we do the hydrostatic tests, we are expected to test the pipe at a pressure higher than the pressure required by the project scope (required operating pressure) to ascertain quality,” he told The Business Weekly & Review. “I can assure you that the 100km Masama Pipeline has passed all the pressure tests.” He added that the pipeline is currently not pumping 64mL per day also because of unpredictable power cuts which affect water pumping systems.
Currently there is an unending water shortage within the Greater Gaborone. Senai says prior to the construction of the 100km pipeline, there was a 30mL water deficit in Greater Gaborone and the idea to use Masama wellfields to plug the deficit came into the picture. The philosophy at WUC is to use surface water at maximum output and supplement the deficit with groundwater because surface water is easily depletable, he explains.
Senai says after the Masama pipeline was commissioned, WUC deliberately decided to pump only 13.7mL per day from the Masama wellfields to help supplement the deficit in Greater Gaborone. WUC is aware that some places are still running dry while there is low pressure in others. His explanation is that the utility’s water reservoirs have limited capacity. This means even if WUC had wanted to pump more water from the Masama wellfields, the reservoirs would not accommodate the increased volume. Water pumped from the Masama Wellfields and that coming through the North-South Carrier (NSC) first goes to the reservoirs (catchment storage areas) before it is distributed through WUC’s various networks (water distribution pipes). However, Senai says the distribution networks are dilapidated and lose about 40 percent of water pumped through leakages in pipes. In addition to this, power interruptions affect water pumping and the flow of water.
The Business Weekly & Review asked Senai why the 100km Masama-Mmamashia pipeline was prioritised in the face of these issues. His answer is that a decision was made to at least ensure that water is pumped from the North of Botswana to the South of the country. “As for the leakages, the plan is that we will slowly but surely fix them,” he said. “But we have to keep pumping the water.” In WUC’s geography, Greater Gaborone includes Mochudi, Ramotswa, Kanye and Moshupa and the outlying environs of these population centres.
Senai says for the water situation to normalise, a huge investment in the range of billions of pula will be needed to upgrade the water distribution networks, especially in the south of Botswana. “What we need to do is upgrade all our storage reservoirs and rehabilitate all our distribution networks, at least in the major 17 villages in Botswana,” he emphasises. To that end, Molepolole and Kanye distribution networks are prioritised in the National Development Plan (NDP) 12. WUC is currently reconstructing the Borolong -Goodhope water distribution network to interconnect around 32 villages there.
Senai is anxious to make it understood that until WUC’s storage reservoirs and water distribution networks in Greater Gaborone are rehabilitated, the existing water challenges will persist. “Unfortunately, we cannot do everything at a go because of financial constraints,” he says. “In the Greater Francistown area, we were at some point able to do everything because we got a loan from an international financier at the time. We wish we could do that now but circumstances do not permit. However, plans are in place to ensure that we fix the water challenges.”