Ten people push down on a metal pump, drawing up groundwater from a crudely dug borehole in Chitungwiza, about 30km (18.6 miles) southeast of the heart of
Zimbabwe ‘s capital Harare.
The water pours into a plastic bucket and another empty container rotates in, fed by a queue of more than three dozen people waiting their turn to collect the life-sustaining liquid.
Among those waiting is 34-year-old mother of two Florence Kaseke. “I woke up at 4am this morning and joined the queue to get water,” she tells Al Jazeera.
“I then went home around 6am to prepare for my children so they could go to school. And I came back here at 8am to check how the queue was doing and then went home again for an hour or so,” she says.
Kaseke reckons she’ll get water by 9pm, but people have been known to spend all night waiting their turn.
Her experience is not uncommon in Zimbabwe, where the task of gathering water has completely consumed many people’s lives.
“Most of the time, we are here at the boreholes,” 75-year-old Sarah Zanga tells Al Jazeera. “I am too old for this.”
Water is essential to life, but in Zimbabwe, access to it has grown precarious. The Chitungwiza City Council has been failing to provide water consistently to the area’s crowded townships for over eight months.
“The water situation is bad,” 21-year-old Chitungwiza resident Fortune Magaya tells Al Jazeera. “Water only comes on Saturdays for a few hours. But not at all times. On some Saturdays, it doesn’t come.”
When it does flow, people stockpile as much as they can. If they run out while the taps are running dry – which is often the case – residents face a difficult choice. They must either queue at a borehole, or buy water at extortionate prices.
Magaya says he buys around 40 litres (11 gallons) of water a week for himself and his family, but only for cooking. The cost, he says, varies according to supply.
Some of the area’s more affluent residents have hired private drilling companies to sink boreholes on their properties to pump and sell water to their less-fortunate neighbours.
A recent report by Zimbabwe Peace Project recorded a truck in Chitungwize selling buckets of water for 1.50 Zimbabwean dollars each ($0.0625).
But since most of the boreholes use electric pumps, prices can double when the power is out. Blackouts can last up to 18 hours a day in some parts of Zimbabwe.
“It pains us to buy water the way we do now,” says Magaya.
More : Aljazeera