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WUC CEO speaks on water projects

Gaselemogwe Senai

The Chief executive Officer of Water Utilities Corporation (WUC) Gaselemogwe Senai has weighed in on the debate around the water supply situation in the country, the Masama water pipe line, the North South Carrier and other operational issues concerning his organisation.

The CEO’s intervention comes following a barrage of criticism levelled at the WUC especially relating to state of water supply in the Greater Gaborone, the billing system, and Masama project.  According to Senai “the primary sources of water for Greater Gaborone are Dikgatlhong Dam and Letsibogo Dam through the North South Carrier”. He further shares that Gaborone Dam plays a critical role as a strategic resource for the Greater Gaborone area because currently it is the only dam that supplies the Southern part of the city, as well as the southern areas of the Greater Gaborone area that include Lobatse, Ramotswa and the western part, Gabane, Mogoditshane, Mmopane and Tlokweng.

To put matters into perspective, Senai says “with the ongoing reinforcement of the Gaborone Master Plan, with a pipeline under construction that will be carrying water from Mmamashia in order to get water to the biggest reservoir we are constructing at Forest Hill that will give us the flexibility to supply and support the areas from the North South Carrier.”

The CEO says this will reinforce the NSC as the primary source of water supply to the Greater Gaborone Area. “With that said, currently the Gaborone dam contributes to 30% of the water supply for the Greater Gaborone area. With this pipeline which we anticipate to complete in May this year we will be able to supply the entire Greater Gaborone area even if the Gaborone Dam dries since is very vulnerable to drought,” he observes.

On the hand, Senai says Molatedi Dam plays a critical role as well for the Greater Gaborone water balance at a full supply 13.5 Million litres of water per day thus complimenting supply from Gaborone Dam. “We need to put Molatedi dam into perspective as a riparian country we extracting water from Molatedi Dam as a bonafide beneficiary of the river system. The cost we incur is not for the sale of water but for the cost that goes into production of the water, primarily pumping it to Gaborone”.

On annual basis WUC spends between P14 Million and P16 Million to pump water out of Molatedi dam. “Compared to water supplied from the NSC it is quite reasonable because the NSC entails four pump stations, the biggest being in Dikgatlhong Dam with a 2.2 Megawatts. Out of our electricity costs of about P280 Million per year, the majority of the cost goes to pumping water. It is not a cheap business,” he reasons.

Senai also gave updates on the progress made so far in the development of the Chobe Zambezi Water Transfer Scheme. He says as for Chobe – Zambezi water transfer scheme comes at the realisation that there are no available dam sites for the construction of new dams in the country. Therefore, for water security beyond 2029, WUC is looking into exploring the prospects of getting water from the Chobe – Zambezi River.

The WUC CEO says progress has been made with regard to the Chobe-Zambezi river in that, through negotiations with the riparian countries, Botswana has been able to secure 95 million cubic litres from Chobe-Zambezi of which studies are ongoing to establish the feasibility of pumping the water. Firstly to Pandamatenga as irrigation water and downstream to water demand domestically in the central district as well as industrially, including mines.

A few years ago, the Corporation’s Annual Report showed that it lost a third of its treated water in system losses and leaks. Speaking to this phenomenon, Senai says nothing has changed at this point concerning water leaks. “The majority of losses recorded are as a result of physical losses through dilapidate infrastructure mainly in major villages such as Kanye, Molepolole and Mahalapye. The situation is likely to get worse before it gets better because renovation of the structures in under NDP12 not NDP11. Another attribution is to stuck meters due to authorised unbilled consumption due to extensive bowsing with the onset of COVID-19,” he observes.

DEBT COLLECTION

Senai stresses the point that WUC incurs costs in supplying water. He says WUC recovers these via the customer through the tariff system that is based primarily on the affordability of the customer to pay for their water consumption. “Customers have an obligation to pay for their water bill, we encourage them to come forth when charged with high bills but the fact of the matter is they would have consumed a high amount of water through actual consumption or leaks,” he says.

SENAI ON MASAMA PROJECT

“To put Masama into perspective. It was first developed onto a wellfield as part of the National Water Master Plan. It was supposed to be fully developed during the drought of 2005 but priorities were given to other competing needs, it was eventually developed during the drought of 2015. The intention was to supply its water to the Greater Gaborone area through a dedicated line. But because of shortage of funds, Masama was developed and injected into the North South Carrier. It did not realise any benefit unlike with a dedicated line that will result in getting the entire supply to the Greater Gaborone area”.

Therefore, Senai observes that since it is portable water, by injecting it into the NSC would have resulted in making the water dirty and having to treat it in Mmamashia, therefore incurring further expenses in treating portable water. According to the WUC CEO, when the 100 kilometre pipeline was conceived, it was under emergency circumstances when there was a critical shortage of water in the Greater Gaborone area. “Ordinarily, Masama would have taken 24 months to construct but the instruction with the constructor was to do it in 12 months without compromising quality and doing it within the provided budget. The pipe was subjected to a rigorous quality assurance system to ensure that it can withstand pressure,” he says.

MASAMA AND COST CUTTING

Speaking elsewhere, the WUC technical director, Ntshambiwa Moathodi explained that while it was the corporation’s first to embark on a project of this magnitude under strict deadlines, the WUC is not only excited about the timely and smooth delivery of the work by the contractor, but perhaps most importantly the resounding success of the Masama 100km pipeline project has strengthened WUC ‘s resolve to adopt the similar low cost pricing regime for the rest of their mega water projects in future.

”You will see in the next two years, we will be delivering similar projects just as cost effective, there is no doubt we can bring down the cost of mega water projects”. At the cost estimates of current local market price, we have not only been able to complete a complex 100km Masama project, we have also added a very big water treatment plant,” the WUC’s technical director further explained.
 By awarding Khato Civils the Masama 100km pipeline project for P781 million, government saved more than P1.2 billion compared to the usual costs of similar large scale water projects in the country.

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