Alternative source of water needed for north-central Namibia

28 Oct 2013 16:10pm
WINDHOEK, 28 OCT (NAMPA) - An alternative source of water supply must be developed for the north-central parts of the country, Minister of Agriculture, Water and Forestry (MAWF) John Mutorwa says.
He was speaking during the official opening of the 9th International Water Association (IWA) Conference on Water Reclamation, which commenced here on Monday.
The four-day conference has brought together experts on water recycling from places as far away as the United States of America (USA), Europe, South America, Japan, China, Singapore, Australia, Mexico and South Africa.
“Water is unevenly distributed in the north-central area, and perennial rivers occur only on the northern and southern borders of Namibia, which are also shared with neighbouring countries.
Where the bulk of our people live in the north-central parts of the country, very limited water resources are available. Water is taken from a point, fairly deep into Angola, and distributed by canal and pipelines to serve this huge area,” Mutorwa informed the delegates.
Focusing on Windhoek, the minister said it has the largest single concentration of population, approaching 18 per cent of the total national population of just over 2.1 million.
He said the only natural water resource available to it is the Windhoek aquifer, with a sustainable yield of less than seven per cent of the city’s current demand.
“For the bulk of water supply, the city has to rely on an erratic rainfall - with an average annual precipitation of 360 millimetres (mm) - to fill three dams built on ephemeral rivers.
It needs to be said that during the previous rainy season, the three dams which supply and supplement water to Windhoek received no inflow,” he stated.
Turning to the coastal towns, Mutorwa said very limited underground water resources have to sustain these towns, which are active engines of the economy. Thus, they cannot grow and prosper without water.
“Simply relying on the natural or blue water resources of our country will not and cannot suffice,” he stressed.
Mutorwa furthermore stated that his ministry, together with the City of Windhoek and NamWater, are working on a scheme to artificially recharge the Windhoek aquifer with a blend of reclaimed and surface water.
This will enable the three institutions to supply the medium-term demand of the central areas up to at least the year 2019.
“The MAWF has furthermore commissioned a study, and has appointed a professional team to do an engineering feasibility study into all available options for the augmentation of water supply, not only to the central areas, but also to that of the Cuvelai area in the central-north of the country,” he noted.
This area is dependent on a single source of supply from the Kunene River, and it is essential that an alternative source be developed.
During this exercise, options such as the Ohangwena II aquifer, the Northern karst aquifers and the Kavango River are being investigated.
“All these schemes represent mega-investments in infrastructure to bring water over vast, long distances to the major population centres,” he pointed out.
The total water revenues generated in Namibia cannot sustain this type of capital investment. Thus, major central government funding will have to be injected and allocated.
Meanwhile, Mutorwa congratulated the conference organisers for their choice of theme, which is ‘Water reuse’, stating that it is something largely overlooked.
The streams of wastewater generated in the country’s towns and cities should be viewed as resources, rather than waste products, he added.