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Hwange Game Water Supply

Jaelle Claypole

  • Hwange National Park, at 17 000 km2 is the largest national park in Zimbabwe. The fences of a park protect wildlife; on the other hand they also restrict the movement of animals when their water supply dries up, and so most parks have boreholes that pump out the precious liquid from deep underground, to sustain the wildlife in the area. Hwange has 57 boreholes, of which Wilderness Camps of Zimbabwe drilled and supplied all engines, piping and the pumps on 18 of them. Since February 2002, Wilderness has taken over pumping 22 boreholes 24 hours a day, therefore supporting the Department of National Parks both logistically and financially. This work includes daily refuelling and maintenance, oils topped up, and a full oil and filter change every 50 hours!

    The engines driving borehole pumps are now aging rapidly and can no longer keep up the constant pressure. Engine breakdowns are now a daily occurrence and spares are hard to come by in Zimbabwe at the moment. As a result, animals are dying of thirst in various areas in the park as the boreholes fail and repairs are delayed. This project aims to replace all the engines – as a breakdown occurs, a new engine is fitted. While hard work, this keeps the water flowing into the pans.

    In the past year, the Trust donated two Lister LT1 engines pulleys, belts and basic service kits (oil, diesel and air filters) for the Hwange Concessions. As soon as they were received both pumps were set up – one at Samavundlha Pan in the Makalolo Concession and the other at Scotts Pan in the Linkwasha Concession. Since these are the two busiest waterholes in the area, the pumps which the Listers replaced were old, always breaking down and not very reliable and as a result it was very difficult to maintain the water level in the waterholes. Especially if, in the dry season, a pump was down for two weeks, there was no way to possibly catch up with the water. With the new pumps pumping it was an amazing sight to see the level of water rise so rapidly – even with all the wildlife coming down to drink! Those working in the Park are very grateful, and as Ron, the concession manager, says, "They are amazing engines and have certainly made a huge difference for the wildlife visiting these holes".

  • Annual Report 2011
    Wilderness Safaris has been supplying water to the wildlife in the south-eastern section of Hwange National Park since 1997, taking on the responsibility of drilling, pumping and maintaining a number of waterholes in and around the Linkwasha Concession.

    2010 has been a year of experimentation and change with regards to pumping, including two new windmills arriving to replace diesel engines as well as other experimental pumping systems.

    With the experimental windmill at Mbiza Pan bearing positive results, in August 2010 two more windmills were installed on the concession (Ngamo Pan and Airstrip 2 Pan). These 12-metre towers are expected to produce a higher yield of water than the ten-metre tower at Mbiza. Both have been installed with water meters and have been pumping on average between 16 000 and 18 000 litres a day, however this is expected to slow down as winds subside.

    Although windmills do not pump as much as Lister engines, they work well in these areas as water is most needed in the driest and windiest months (March-November). In the recent October game count figures, 700 elephants were recorded coming to the waterhole to drink over a 24-hour period. It is gratifying to see them quench their thirst on the new water pumped by the windmills.

    In March, we were kindly lent a Kubota engine to test on the concession. The benefits of Kubota engines include less carbon emissions compared to the current Lister engines and less noise pollution. A flow meter was fitted to the Kubota engine in order to compare its yield to Lister engines. Since its installation, it has been pumping an average of 48 700 litres a day. Being such a success, Wilderness purchased and installed an additional two Kubotas on the concession. We are considering them as an alternative to the Lister engines, which are costly to replace, and hoping to obtain more in 2011.