Harare’s seven water treatment chemicals

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I remember a time when, as kids, we played outside all day long, only coming inside for meals and when the day was done. When we got thirsty, it was a matter of simply opening a tap and drinking to your heart’s content. Some of us cupped our hands and splashed the cool water all over our faces and into our mouths at the same time, while others would cock their heads to one side and sip and slurp loudly.

Nowadays, the very thought of drinking tap water can induce cholera or typhoid-like symptoms in some of nervous and sensitive dispositions. Mothers everywhere shudder at the thought of their children drinking council water at will, as we used to do on those long, hot afternoons.

I remember a time when drinking water in homes was poured from the tap. When a water bottle was empty, we refilled it from the kitchen sink and put it in the fridge. We even poured our Mazoe, maybe added an ice cube or two, and diluted the cup under a running tap without batting an eyelid. Now, I even know some people who disinfect their dishwashing water.

I remember a time when mineral water was fancy. Only the rich or those that had been overseas had the priviledge of holding those blue bottles. Now everyone and their mother drinks the stuff, and many among us even know people who bottle and sell the stuff! I also remember a time when water from the taps would sometimes come out milky white, because the technicians at Harare City Council had put in too much lime or something in the water.

Now, our City Fathers are struggling to source all seven chemicals needed to make Harare water safe.

You might be wondering how I know this. Well, the City of Harare Water Department was represented at the Customer Service Week Brand Expo, and they brought with them a machine to demonstrate how they purify water. Also on display were seven small glass bottles, some of which contained the chemicals used to purify water in Harare. For those interested in the details, the life-saving chemicals are:

Powdered Activated Carbon
Sulphuric Acid
Chlorine Gas
Sodium Silicate
Liquid Ammonium Sulphate
White Hydrated Lime
Calcium hypochlorite.

Looking at those small bottles, I found it hard to think that so few ingredients make the difference between contracting typhoid / cholera (even death, in some cases), and a normal, healthy, diarrhoea-free existence.

Unfortunately they were not able to demonstrate the purification process; I would have loved to get a visual sense of the sheer volume of different chemical compounds it takes, on a daily basis, to ‘clean’ our water.

All I can say is that I miss the clean old Harare water, and the blissful ignorance of the work done behind the scenes to make it so fresh and clean.