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Water Utilities still struggles to keep underground water flowing

Publishing Date : 02 December, 2019

Author : TLHABO KGOSIEMANG

Parastatal organization mandated to manage a single project for the supply and distribution of water in the country Water Utilities says it still continues to face challenges in underground water due to natural factors such as high salinity, low rates of replenishment due to low rainfall and the deep-seated nature of their aquifers.


Other challenges facing underground water resources, according to the group’s 2018 Annual Report, are old boreholes infrastructure and high leakages, vandalism and theft of equipment, illegal abstraction and uncoordinated developments in the well fields leading to groundwater pollution and over-abstraction and ever-increasing water demands. The report indicates that groundwater accounts for about 60 per cent of water supply.


Further, the report indicated that some operational areas continued facing water shortages, saying that normal water supply to the areas require significant funding. The Corporation demonstrated that well fields in Kanye, Maitengwe, Dukwi, Letlhakane, Molepolole and Ghanzi were experiencing declining water levels and low recharge rate and some well fields failed as a result.


The Corporation’s parent Ministry, the Ministry of Land Management, Water and Sanitation Services, responded to some of these problems through extension of North South Carrier to connect villages such as Kanye, Thamaga and Molepolole. The impact is yet to be felt as construction is still on-going. Other challenges such as declining borehole water levels and high leakages due to dilapidated infrastructure continue to pose a challenge. Management centres such as Letlhakane, Molepolole, Tsabong and Ghanzi are wholly dependent on groundwater supplies.


However, there have been no major groundwater resources development projects implemented in these areas in a very long time despite the design life of boreholes. The report accentuated that Molepolole Management Centre is the only centre to have seen a major groundwater development project in the recent past; the development of Malwelwe and Sorilatholo well fields.


It underscored that most of the boreholes in the Malwelwe well field were drilled in 1991 and were only rehabilitated during the 2008 Botlhapatlou groundwater development project. Furthermore, it was said that the Nata cluster continues to experience water supply problems because of increased demand and leakages owing to aged infrastructure as well as destruction of water supply networks by elephants.


To address the problems in the cluster, the Ministry identified four monitoring boreholes within Dukwi well field for conversion to production boreholes to augment the supply as a short-term solution; however the envisaged plan by the Corporation has a potential risk of subsequently aggravating deterioration in water supply.


Statistics show that, of the 846 analysed boreholes, 654 were drilled before the year 2000 indicating that well over 75% of boreholes have long gone past their design life. The report stressed that the borehole conditions are aggravated by high salinity in areas such as Tsabong, Letlhakane and Masunga Management Centres whilst in other areas such as Molepolole, Pallaroad, Masama and Serowe, incrustation from formation of iron bacterial colonies has contributed significantly to the accelerated dilapidation of boreholes infrastructure.


The observations are not recent as they were previously identified through a Borehole Rehabilitation Project. A detailed analysis of the Corporation’s water supply boreholes is required as current analysis are limited by the absence of groundwater monitoring data and information, the report said. Nevertheless, the Corporation’s in-house programme to rehabilitate its water supply boreholes continues. A 2017 World Bank study concluded that the Corporation’s transition in role and responsibility set against unaltered management and operation structure and personnel complement compromises the Corporation’s ability to fulfil all the responsibilities and activities placed upon it.


Despite all the challenges, efforts are being made to improve the Corporations groundwater monitoring activities. The World Bank funded Emergency Water Security and Efficiency Project is intended to interlay address chronic drought in Botswana that continues to affect boreholes by saline intrusion, drying up and collapsing. To this end the proposed investment are aimed at reducing stress on groundwater sources by developing alternative and more sustainable sources.


According to the report, the Cleaning and Fishing Rig has been able to rehabilitate over 42 boreholes countrywide in five management centres, Kanye, Molepolole, Mahalapye, Masunga and Tsabong. This represented an average of 3.5 boreholes against the target of 4 boreholes per month. The Corporation indicated that it drilled two boreholes, one at Bray and another at Ramotlabaki during the period under review. These two villages had no source of supply after their boreholes suffered collapse and therefore necessitated the drilling of replacement boreholes.


The success completion of the boreholes and their subsequent connection to the network has alleviated the acute water shortage the villages have been facing. The North South Carrier scheme operated satisfactorily during the period under review. Pump Stations showed good availability over the year except for Pump Station No:2 which had only one out of the three pumps available during the first quarter. There was a spike in the downtime of the scheme arising from maintenance works required to connect new components to the scheme. The overall availability of the scheme stood at 87.5%, the report indicated.


With increased incidents of vandalism, the report underlined that the Corporation equipped the new pump stations and reservoirs with surveillance cameras that are controlled remotely from Mmamashia Command Centre. Water losses were mainly registered in areas with high incidences of infrastructure failure owing to dilapidated networks, unmetered standpipes, inefficient meters and physical losses.

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