Water Infrastructure Decay Polluting Boreholes
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Water Infrastructure Decay Polluting Boreholes

A recent report by the Harare City Council revealed that 50% of boreholes in the city's western and northern districts are contaminated with human waste and E. coli bacteria. This poses serious health risks to residents who rely on these boreholes as water sources due to erratic municipal supply. 


The council's epidemiology and disease control officer, Dr Michael Vere, confirmed that routine water quality monitoring uncovered the contamination. He explained that traces of sewage and E. coli, which causes diseases like cholera and typhoid, were found in many borehole water samples.


With Harare's current municipal water supply only meeting 25% of the city's daily demand, residents have no choice but to use alternative sources like boreholes. However, the contamination makes this unsafe. Dr Vere said the discovery comes as Harare battles a major cholera outbreak.


While authorities cannot decommission all the contaminated boreholes yet, some measures are being taken to make the water safer. Dr Vere stated that inline chlorinators are being installed in some boreholes to sanitize the water. A few boreholes have also been closed down. 


The permanent secretary in the Ministry of Health and Child Care, Dr Aspect Maunganidze, said regular water quality monitoring and testing is done. However, he could not confirm the borehole contamination statistics as results were still pending.


Medical and dental experts urged urgent repairs of Harare's dilapidated sewer pipes to stop waste contaminating underground water. The spokesperson for the Medical and Dental Private Practitioners of Zimbabwe Association, Dr Johannes Marisa, said public health faces significant threats from preventable diseases due to the poor sanitation infrastructure.


Likewise, the executive director of the Harare Residents Trust, Mr Precious Shumba, attributed the pollution to antiquated and damaged pipes. He said underground water and sewer infrastructure in high-density areas leak excessively, allowing pollution to spread. Shumba advised immediate replacement of affected pipes to stop further contamination.


Containing the cholera outbreak depends greatly on stopping waste flowing into water sources like boreholes. As the council works to upgrade the water and sewer networks, continued water quality monitoring and safety measures like chlorination can help minimize health risks in the interim. But quality infrastructure and reliable supply will provide the only sustainable solution for Zimbabwe's capital.