VIOLET MENGO, Kafue
MTHONISWA Banda lives in Nyumba Yanga township with his wife and their two children.
Following the recent decision by the Lusaka Water and Sewerage Company (LWSC) to ration water supply, the Banda family decided to reduce the quantity of water they use per day.
“We have bought two 250 -litre drums in addition to the two water drums we already had. The two are for bathroom use and the other two for kitchen use. Our frequency of bathing per day has reduced,” Mr Banda said.
“We encourage one bath per day unless one was involved in strenuous activities like exercising, cleaning of the yard or gardening.
The Bandas have decided to reduce their level of water consumption because the LWSC is rationing water supply to facilitate the rehabilitation of water infrastructure at the Kafue Water Treatment Plant.
The rundown water infrastructure, resulting into loss of water through leakages, has been a major source of concern in Lusaka because of the ensuing reduced water supply and corruption of water quality. In addition to that, the fast growing population in Lusaka calls for expanded water supply to cater for more water consumers.
Apart from that, access to clean and safe drinking water is imperative for a country to enjoy public health and economic growth.
In view of this, the LWSC, in collaboration with the Millennium Challenge Account Zambia (MCAZ) are rehabilitating the Iolanda water treatment plant that accounts for 40 percent of the total water supplied to Lusaka residents.
The Iolanda rehabilitation project is a part of the US$355 million Lusaka Water Supply, Sanitation and Drainage (LWSSD) project funded by the United States Government through the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), a five-year contract with Government.
MCAZ chief executive officer Pamela Bwalya notes that the works being undertaken at the Iolanda Water Intake are vital for the safe operation of the structure for many decades to come.
The offshore tower that sits 30 metres below the Kafue River has been in operation since 1970.
For the last 30 years, there have been no major rehabilitation works at this plant and the MCAZ is trying to overhaul the entire plant.
Since its construction, some rehabilitation works were undertaken in 1978, 1988 and 2012 but these were primarily targeted at electro-mechanical elements such as pumps and motor control centers.
But this is the first time they are rehabilitating water infrastructure located under the river.
“The current works are bringing new elements in the form of pumps, motor control centres, building repairs but are going beyond to improve the operational efficiency of the water intake,” Ms Bwalya said.
“This is being achieved by going 13 metres below the waterline to clean the sump from which the pump lifts water.”
In other words, the works involve rehabilitation of the raw water river intakes, isolating the four individual sumps on the existing equipment and installing of new equipment.
Baffle plates are also to be installed in the sump to direct water towards the pumps more effectively thereby raising the efficiency of pumping.
Penstock valves are being repaired to enable LWSC undertake similar works in future within the two vault pump sump without requiring the total shut down of the intake.
With the penstock valves restored, LWSC will be better placed to respond to emergency repairs on the unit if so required.
Ms Bwalya explained that the works are being done to avert the risk of total shutdown of the facility in case it suffered a major system failure.
Generally, works by the MCAZ include the rehabilitation of Iolanda treatment plant, including civil and electromechanical works and replacement of the pumps as well as rehabilitation of 10 distribution centres in Lusaka.
Other works are repair of leaking reservoirs, replacement of pumps, repair of control features on 47 km of water pipeline from Kafue to Lusaka, construction of approximately 15.6 km new large diameter steel water pipelines in various locations in Lusaka.
“We will be able to restore the treatment plant to its designed capacity of 110 million litres of water per day once works are complete,” Ms Bwalya said.
The plant currently is operating below its designed capacity, resulting in the water utility not being able to meet the water demand for the city.
LWSC managing director Jonathan Kampata said the utility working with Government and various co-operating partners, is working at being able to meet the water demand for Lusaka.
The water demand for Lusaka is about 400 million litres litres per day and the supply is only in the range of 200 million litres per day.
The Iolanda plant only caters for 40 percent of the total water supplied by the water utility, 60 percent of the water comes from groundwater, mainly through boreholes.
“At the moment the capacity in terms of efficiency of the plant has gone down, starting from the intake to the processing itself. The treatment plant processes less than 90 million cubic litres of water per day,” Mr Kampata said.
Once rehabilitated, the plant’s capacity will be increased to 110 million litres of water per day.
The three-month rehabilitation works started on September 22, 2017, and until December, the plant will run at reduced capacity.
Lusaka residents are therefore encouraged to conserve and use water prudently like what the Banda family is doing.
To ensure water sustainability, the utility company will embark on water demand management whereby they will sensitise water users on the efficient use of water.
Resident engineer at Iolanda Johan Opperman, said the plant is being upgraded in a manner that will reduce wear and tear of equipment.
“One of the challenges with the works being undertaken is that many of the things to be worked on are below water, making it difficult to investigate and see exactly the extent of the problem until you start working,” Mr Opperman said.
Ministry of Water Development, Sanitation and Environmental Protection permanent secretary Eddie Chomba said the MCAZ is one of the many partners Government is working with to improve water supply in the country.
Other projects for the city of Lusaka include the Kafue bulk and Lusaka water security with some projects being in the pipeline.
Bishop Chomba said there are other water projects taking place across the country.
“We have been distributing money to water utilities such as LWSC and Chambeshi to ensure that the water that we are talking about is translated into people opening the tap and getting safe clean water, Bishop Chomba said.
Apart from reliable water supply, the Iolanda project will culminate into the reduction of water borne diseases, healthy and productive families and communities.
Over 1.2 million people in Lusaka are expected to benefit from the project.