17 March 2017

Mozambique: Maputo Water Supply Remains Critical

Photo: Mário Macilau/WaterAid
Ajida, 14, walks home after collecting water in Mococorene, Nampula province.

Maputo — Despite a recent increase in the level of water stored in the Pequenos Libombos dam, the water supply for the Greater Maputo Metropolitan Area remains critical, warned Mozambique's Minister of Public works, Carlos Bonete on Thursday, cited by the independent television station STV.

The water supply for Maputo, the neighbouring city of Matola and Boane district depends on the pumping and treatment station on the Umbeluzi river. The Umbeluzi rises in Swaziland, and then flows towards Maputo via the Pequenos Libombos reservoir.

Bonete said there had been some rain in the Umbeluzi basin, but not enough to raise the reservoir to healthy levels. According to the National Hydrological Bulletin published by the National Diretorate of Water Resources, on Thursday the reservoir was 26.06 per cent full. While this is an improvement on the situation in early January, when it was only 13 per cent full, it is not enough to lift the current water restrictions in force in Maputo, Matola and Boane.

The Maputo Regional Water Company (AdeM) is pumping water to each neighbourhood on alternate days. This is not a major problem for people who have tanks on the roofs of their houses which can store water for a couple of days, but people who rely on standpipes may find themselves seriously short of water.

For the first few days in March, the authorities closed the floodgates on the Pequenos Libombos dam completely, in order to increase the amount of water stored in the reservoir. This was possible, because there was still water downstream, at Movene, which could supply the Umbeluzi pumping station.

That water is now exhausted, and as from Monday the Pequenos Libombos reservoir was releasing 1.5 cubic metres of water a second into the Umbeluzi.

The current rainy season (October to March) is drawing to a close, and not much rain can be expected in the April to September period. Even when the next rainy season begins in October “there is no guarantee of rainfall that will supply the Pequenos Libombos reservoir”, warned Bonete.

The Zambezi basin is also causing some concern. Low levels of water at the Cahora Bassa dam could compromise its capacity to generate electricity. However, the level of the Cahora Bassa lake has been steadily rising, and on Thursday it was 66.4 per cent full.

The country's other river basins “are normal”, said Bonete. The threat of severe flooding on the Limpopo river, in the southern province of Gaza has receded, and the level of the river is currently dropping.

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