Two large dams supplying water to Gulu town have finally dried up completely following the persistent drought in Northern Uganda. The dams are Oyitino I constructed in the late 1960s and Oyitino II built in 2016, all in Bungatira Sub County in Aswa County.
Torrential rainfall that fell briefly in March and April failed to refill the two dams. In its latest weather forecast, the National Meteorological Authority said northern Uganda would receive near normal rainfall in its first season falling between February and June.
But with barely a month left to the end of the season, proper adaptation is critical for the estimated 200,000 people living in this sprawling city. Every day, long queues form around few boreholes in Gulu town as desperate residents collect the little water they can fetch from swamps, spring wells and piped water sources.
At Uhuru spring well in Bank Lane, women gather as early as 5am to find water. Agnes Naroso, a resident of Kony Paco village was among those collecting water from the piped water source. She told URN the dilemma of women living in Gulu town.
Another woman who spoke on condition of anonymity told URN that some residents come to the borehole with more than 10 Jerrycans to last few days from localities as distant as 5Kilometers out of town.
37-year-old David Oryema, a resident of Kasubi Central ward in Bar Dege Division, says he travels an average of 5Km on a motorbike to fetch six jerrycans of water for his family from a borehole within Oyitino pumping site in Bungatira Sub County.
The crisis has lasted for at least six months. In March, the Gulu court and magistrate courts suspended trial proceedings to cope with the deteriorating sanitation crisis that also affected Gulu regional and teaching hospital.
To mitigate the unfolding crisis, National Water and Sewerage Corporation has stationed a response team in Gulu town to ensure that temporal solutions are found for the problem. They are being headed Francis Owot, the director of Finance and Accounts, National Water and Sewerage Corporation.
Owot told URN that they are desperately scouring areas in the North, South, East and West of Gulu town for large underground water reserves to restore supply to residents in the northern Uganda business hub. He says so far, their hunt has resulted into three mini pumping sites where very deep boreholes have been sunk around the town.
The three boreholes in Unyama, Onang and Mican villages can collectively generate 900,000 liters of water every day.
With nothing from the two dams reaching the 6,235 cubic meter storage facilities in Boma, Pece, Army barracks, Customs Corner and Lacor, the figure being produced from the three boreholes is just a drop in sinks and latrines, as institutions such as Gulu Hospital take up to 14,000 liters daily.
In the meantime, underground search has identified five new sites in Aworanga, Bungatira and Bank Lane, behind Hotel Kakanyero in the heart of Gulu Town. The corporation hopes they can yield enough quantity to meet the estimated 15 million liters of daily demands.
National Water and Sewerage Corporation has embarked on enlarging Oyitino II to store plenty of storm water for the worst of time. Owot says the World Bank has also joined the battle against the worst water crisis in decades by committing to sink a third large dam near Oyitino I and II.
The project is at consultancy stage after passing an environmental impact assessment test.
Martin Ojara Mapenduzi, the Gulu LC V chairperson says a long term adaptation project will draw water from Nile River, located some 74Kilometers on Gulu – Kampala highway.
Francis Owot says the Karuma water works will also supply other towns in the region including Kamdini, Minakulu and Bobi.