Getting Water in Zim – Owning the source (1)

Drinking Water
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They say necessity is the mother of invention. And of all the necessities you need to guarantee when choosing a place to stay, Adam’s ale cant be ignored. For many rural populations in Zimbabwe, people dug their own wells. With time, the government, local communities and charity organizations also installed boreholes. Urban areas have taps. However, change is the way of life. And so, things changed in Zimbabwe. How do people adapt when facilities deteriorate and their supply systems fail? What challenges and opportunities came when getting water became more difficult in Zimbabwe?

Getting Water – Availability and Necessity

When I visit granny in Murewa, we can just ask for drinking water from any house in the sparsely populated rural settlement. Since hiking is my favorite activity in rural Zim, we spend most of the day away from grandmas neighborhood. That means we are strangers to almost everyone we meet. Basically, the people there still live by the Shona saying; mvura hainyimwe munhu. It means you cant deny any anyone who asks you for water. It’s no longer like that in urban Zimbabwe.

There is the issue that you cant just trust strangers in urban Zimbabwe. It’s called, “welcome to Harare“. This is when you fall victim to a scam that everyone else in Harare knows because you are new to the Sunshine City. But people still have enough love or decency to be hospitable to strangers. The real issue now is that water has become scarce. Even if they wanted to offer you a sip, not all of it is as safe as it is appealing. There is no way of telling if the available drink is universally safe. Out of caution people usually tell you the source of their water, so that you drink at your own risk.

However, people have to find ways to survive. When I went to a rural settlement near Plumtree, there were no wells. People dug small holes in river sand and fetched the filtrate. In other areas, including high density areas people wash in rivers.

Problem: There is either no water, or you get sick from the available water. If you have suitable water, you need a way to transport it from the source and to store it.

Getting Water – A Market Emerges

When Zimbabwe got thirsty and dry, people began to draw water from various sources. Obviously, you would need more research and analysis to verify and determine all contributing factors, but a new market emerged. There were commercial solutions to deal with contamination. City dwellers began to rely on commercial sources of water such as bulk suppliers. That would lead to a demand for bottles and other containers.

Owning The source

With time people realized that they needed long term solutions to the water problem. Wells, boreholes and big storage tanks offered a robust solution. At this point, people now owned the source.

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