SA sacrifices neighbour and leaves Botswana to its water crisis

The possible disconnection in October of water supplies to Gaborone from a South African dam is expected to deepen the crisis in Botswana’s capital, leaving it dependent on a problematic pipeline to reservoirs in the landlocked and semi-arid country’s north. South African and Botswana authorities meet on October 1 to discuss the disconnection of Gaborone from the Molatedi Dam in North West Province after water levels slumped to 8% of capacity.

Botswana Water Utilities said yesterday such a move could have a “severe impact” on the city of 230 000 people. The capital falls within a region facing the worst drought in 34 years, Botswana’s Department of Meteorological Services said on September 11. The Kalahari Desert covers 70% of the southern African country’s landmass. Gaborone gets 55% of its water through the North- South Carrier, a 360km pipeline that has failed 10 times this year, according to the water utility’s website. Parts of the city have been without water for as long as three weeks this year since the capital’s main dam dried up and because of damage to the 15-year-old glass-reinforced plastic link that carries 60 million litres a day from dams to the north.

“I am held ransom by the infrastructure and if it does not break, then all of us can bath,” Resources Minister Kitso Mokaila told reporters in August. “If we don’t have breakages in supply, the little that we have should suffice.” The Gaborone Dam dried up for the first time in March, as water levels dropped below 5%, leaving the capital and surrounding areas reliant on the North-South Carrier and the Molatedi Dam, which provides 16% of its needs. The city also draws on wells in surrounding villages for 25 million litres of water each day. The earliest that Gaborone can expect to have stable water supply is in 2017, after the completion of a new pipeline from the north capable of pumping 120 million litres a day, and the extension of well fields around the city, according to Mokaila. Longer-term plans include a Chobe-Zambezi pipeline by 2023 and supplies from the Lesotho Highlands project, which is due to be discussed in November by the governments of Botswana, South Africa and Lesotho.

In the meantime, the water utility is visiting households and schools to encourage the repair of leaking taps and pipes, estimated to rob the city of 33% of supplies, up from 25% last year.

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