Innocent Ruwende and Felex Share
Water pumped into homes by the Harare City Council is safe to drink and does not contain any bacteria, an independent test commissioned by The Herald reveals
However, the results of the laboratory analysis appears to have done little to quell the scepticism of city residents, many of whom have switched to drinking bottled and borehole water, or first boiling what the municipality pumps into their taps.
The water samples used for tests carried out by microbiologists Ms Rumbidzai Svosve and Mr Tatenda Magara were taken from Rugare and Braeside.
The results indicated that the water did not contain coliform, a broad class of bacteria. These include human waste and that of other warm-blooded animals. Presence of coliform in drinking water indicates the possible presence of harmful, disease-causing organisms.
“The water samples comply with SAZS 560:1997 microbiological specification requirements on all parameters tested with respect to tests carried out,” read the SAZ findings.
Results of a separate chemical analysis commissioned by The Herald are expected today.
Health expert Mr Itai Rusike said there was need for further tests by other private laboratories for comparison purposes.
“Water is said to be safe if it meets the World Health Organisation guidelines. Harare City Council officials should not sit on their laurels because SAZ said their water is safe for drinking because most residents do not have water anyway,” he said.
Another expert who preferred anonymity said Harare water remained a threat to humans.
“Ask yourself why many people have resorted to borehole water. It is because of the smell and dirty particles that come out with the water.
“Of course, another reason could be that pipes spend a lot of time with no water and when it is finally pumped it becomes dirty yet at the source it is dispatched from it is potable.”
The expert said some of the diarrhoeal diseases being experienced in the city were a result of borehole water and drinking from unprotected sources.
“Not all borehole water is safe for drinking as some of them are contaminated. Residents must ensure that the water sources are tested and analysed first before the water is used for domestic purposes to avoid contracting diseases,” the expert said.
Harare Residents Trust director Mr Precious Shumba contested the SAZ results.
“Authorities should not try to convince citizens that water with brown and black particles is harmless when their eyes can tell it is dirty,” he said.
“The potability should never be doubted by consumers because the moment it is, it means more has to be done to make it safe in their eyes.
“The capacity for the City of Harare to pump enough water has to be enhanced and underground pipes have to be replaced and expanded to match the growing population.”
Mr Shumba said dirty water was discouraging residents from paying bills.
However, city spokesperson Mr Leslie Gwindi defended the quality of tap water.
“At no point has our water been substandard. We have a stringent and clear procedure of water sampling, and have a whole laboratory that deals with that and in the chain our water also goes to the Standards Association of Zimbabwe,” he said.
He said the council had laid down procedures for testing water and followed these religiously.
The 2012 National Census Report shows that at least 75 percent of Zimbabweans enjoy access to clean potable water in cities and rural areas, with Harare having 94 percent of its households connected to safe drinking water.
The report revealed that only 21 percent of the households in Zimbabwe were still drawing drinking water from unprotected wells, dams, rivers and streams.