South Africa has signed an agreement to import 41 megalitres of water daily from the Zimbabwe Beitbridge Water Treatment Works to cater to the needs of more than 130,000 residents of the arid Musina municipality in Limpopo. This decision stems from a substantial financial 2015 deal between South Africa and Zimbabwe.

By Staff Reporter

Water and Sanitation Minister Senzo Mchunu and Zimbabwe’s Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, and Rural Development Minister Dr Anxious Jongwe Masuka recently signed an agreement that will enable the transfer of treated water from Zimbabwe to Musina.

This agreement involves the supply of approximately 15 million cubic meters of water annually, sourced from the Beitbridge Water Treatment Works and transported via a 20km pipeline to the Musina Local Municipality. This initiative is expected to provide the region with approximately 41 megalitres of water per day.

This is expected to take effect in 2026, subject to finalising the financial arrangements linked to the agreement.

The town of Musina, with a population of slightly more than 132,000 residents spread across 192 villages and one town, is located approximately 20 kilometres from the border with Zimbabwe. The area has a dry climate and faces challenges with access to safe drinking water, primarily depending on boreholes for their water supply.

In an interview with the SABC), Dr Sean Phillips, the Director General of the Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS), mentioned the scarcity of treated water in Musina. As a result, people and businesses in the area have been experiencing occasional disruptions in their water supply.

“There is a shortage of treated water in Musina and as a result of that, the residents and businesses in this area have been experiencing water supply disruptions periodically,” said Phillips.

He also stated that they have been investigating various approaches to tackle the shortage of treated water in the area, considering multiple possible solutions along the way.

“We’ve been looking at various solutions to this shortage of treated water in the Musina area and there are various possible solutions that we considered. Some of them involved constructing new dams and then new water treatment works.

“Those solutions are relatively expensive and in South Africa, water is financially self-sustaining. In other words, if we’re going to do something like that it’ll have to be funded from revenue raised from the sale of water. In other words, from tariffs that the residents and businesses will have to pay.

“But we were aware that there was another possible solution and that is there’s already an existing dam and related water treatment works on the Zimbabwean side of the border in the town of Beitbridge.

“That water treatment works is underutilised. The minister from Zimbabwe was saying that only about 10% of the capacity of that water treatment works is currently being utilised to provide treated water to the town of Beitbridge.

“So it’s much more economical and efficient for us to bring that additional water that can be produced by that water treatment works in Beitbridge which is about 20 km from Musina. It’s much more efficient and economical to do that than to build new dams and new water treatment works in the Musina.”

This deal has however been criticised by some because of the widespread water supply issues in different parts of Zimbabwe. The United Nations has pointed out that the country continues to struggle with severe water shortages, mainly due to a lack of treatment chemicals caused by insufficient foreign currency reserves.

Dr Ferrial Adam, the Executive Manager of WaterCAN, mentioned in an interview with Newzroom Afrika that Zimbabwe, despite struggling to supply water to its residents, especially in Harare where water is only available for a few hours daily, is now exporting water to South Africa.

“Zimbabwe cannot supply water to its people. In the capital, Harare, people are cut off from water for a few hours a day and this is a daily occurrence but now they’re exporting water to South Africa.

“So if you are Zimbabwean I think that you wouldn’t be smiling on this particular MOU. A lot of people in Zimbabwe don’t have water in their taps, they are dependent on rivers and streams.

“South Africa has also failed to deal with the water issues in our own country. Why could we not provide water since the issues in Masina have been going on for a number of years?” said Adams.

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