“Water, water everywhere but none to drink” – this is a phrase that could better describe the water supply situation in the tourism town of Maun at the moment.
While the water supply in that town has been in the news before, this time around, tourists visiting the town and those in-transits to the Okavango Delta as well as dwellers of the sandy town have been subjected to discolored and bad smelling water. The situation has been going on over the past weeks.
Following an uproar by some residents, Water Utilities Corporation (WUC) is said to have moved swiftly to rectify the problem. The corporation has also made a public statement to the effect that the discolored water can be is safe enough for drinking.
Acting communications manager, Beauty Mokoba said this week that the collective process of identifying the challenge, making assessments and providing solutions took longer than expected due to circumstances beyond Water Utilities Corporation (WUC)’s control.
“When the water colour changed, WUC water quality expects were sent to Maun with the supplier invited for assessment, where a possible solution was taken and orders placed. WUC has been and is still working around to address the matter,” Mokoba noted.
She said the maintenance works commenced on 4th July this year, following the shutdown of the treatment plant and expected to last up to mid-July.
Further she mentioned that during the repair period, the plant will be brought back into operation progressively in stages to augment water currently supplied from boreholes.
“There will be low water pressure to no water supply at all in some areas as the plant which is closed supplies up to 60 percent of the village water,” she stated.
Mokoba explained that there are many factors that caused the brownish colour of the water such as elevated levels of organics, some of which the treatment plant is not designated to treat.
When asked if public members had not lodged complaints, would WUC not have treated the issue as a matter of urgency she responded,
“WUC considers the matter as important and has shut down the treatment plant to fast track the maintenance works. The matter was considered urgent hence earlier procurement of material which due to unforeseen circumstances arrived late.”
She further stated that the corporation is unaware of ill related diseases as a result of this untreated water.
But the situation brought anxiety and panic among residents as they fear for their health. As media reports revealed that by June 2012, 120 cases of diarrhea and deaths were registered linked to drinking contaminated water in Maun.
Still some residents of Maun believe that this does not give hope that the brown water will be gone in any time soon.
“We need to see actions and improvements, Water in Maun has been an issue for the past 5years, and all we have are mere press releases from Water Utilities about how they are going to work on it, time frame after time till now ‘dololo!’ why should we believe them now?,” comprehended Mmopi Robyn Chaba, one of the resident from there.
Yet Mokoba concluded by saying, “WUC assures the Maun community and valued customers of its commitment to addressing challenges and is therefore working towards lasting solutions.”
Meanwhile according to a recent report from community based natural resource management in Botswana, 51 % of households in Maun reported acute water shortage and no water flow from pipes and very few communal standpipes have been reported to be functional in other settlements around the area due to frequent breakdowns of boreholes caused by floods and lack of spares.
The report also state that the surface water is not saline (freshwater), as it is unsuitable for domestic use because it contained high Escherichia coli (E. coli) and fecal.
It further state that the quality of water and how the water is stored at home may contribute to increased diarrheal diseases burden. Therefore, integrated control programs focusing on improving quality of water both at source and point of use will be more effective. Specifically, promotion of good hygiene practices is essential.