Harare, the capital city of Zimbabwe, is situated upstream from its water supply, Lake Chivero, and sits in its own catchment area. Grey water from homes and industries flows through its polluted urban rivers back into the drinking water. The water treatment process used to enable a sustainable cycle in which Harare’s residents literally drank their own bathwater.
However, the extension of water supply and sanitation infrastructure has not been able to keep up with the urban population growth. The water system was designed for a population of 250, 000 – less than one-tenth of the current population.
A lack of investment in water infrastructure since the 1970s, and the collapse of the water purification process in particular, has seriously impacted the health, safety, dignity and livelihoods of Harare’s residents.
As a result, in Harare water has become a valuable commodity. Although the entire city has been affected, the iconic phrase from Mark Reisner’s Cadillac Desert, “water flows upstream towards power and money,” is quite literally true in Harare where the wealthier suburbs are located at the apex of the water supply cycle. These residents can afford to dig their own boreholes or buy water. But for those ‘living downstream’ in the poorer high-density suburbs, which are totally dependent on the municipality, Harare’s water system forms a potentially deadly cycle for which a viable solution is yet to be found.
Although The Cycle tells the story of Harare, its intention is to create awareness about the need for urban water management in cities around the world. This work was completed for the 2012 Media and Advocacy Photography Mentorship funded by the Market Photo Workshop and mentored by photojournalist Jonathan Torgovnik.