Zambia, already reeling from a power crisis and a plunge in the price of copper, its largest export, is bracing for a new test: a shortage of water in the capital as the southern African country heads into the hottest months of the year.
Lusaka’s demand is already twice as high as supplies that are constrained by a falling water table and power rationing, according to Topsy Sikalinda, spokesman at Lusaka Water and Sewerage Co., which provides water to the city of about 2.2 million people. Conditions will get worse as temperatures head toward 35 degrees centigrade (95 degrees farhenheit) in October.
For now, the shortage is mainly affecting customers in Lusaka’s most elevated areas. The discomfort will spread as the 200-plus boreholes the city depends on for more than half of supplies dry up faster than last year because of the depleted water table.
“Water levels have started dropping at a much more rapid pace” than in 2014, Sikalinda said by mobile phone Tuesday. “Last year by now we were still comfortable.”
Erratic rains in the wet season that ended in April have led to power shortages in Zambia as water levels drop in the hydropower dams that Africa’s second-biggest copper producer depends on for more than 90 percent of electricity supplies. Lusaka doesn’t receive water from the Kariba dam, the world’s biggest man-made reservoir, drawing water instead from the river feeding the Kafue Gorge hydropower station.
The company, known as LWSC, will send trucks into the suburbs to ensure supplies and customers shouldn’t have to walk more than 50 meters (54 yards) for water, Sikalinda said. LWSC is due this year to start work on two water supply projects requiring combined investment of $300 million that will help improve supplies, he said.
Zambia’s wet season, which typically begins in November, will probably produce normal-to-below-normal rainfall this summer as El Nino disrupts traditional weather patterns, the Lusaka-based Post newspaper reported, citing the government meteorological department.