MANY Keetmanshoop residents have no choice but to fetch drinking water from a stream flowing from a spring called 'Fonteintjie', just outside town.
The Fonteintjie stream, filled with weeds and algae, has become the only source of water for poorer residents of the town, who live in informal settlements.
Horses, donkeys and dogs also drink from the same water source, which runs past the town's Ileni informal settlement.
Spotted while collecting water from the stream, 58-year-old unemployed Maria Higoam said she had no choice but to drink the untreated water from the fountain, as the water supply to her house had been cut off due to an unpaid water bill of N$3 000.
Asked whether she was aware that untreated water posed a health risk, Higoam replied: "What can I do, I am forced by circumstances to compromise my health by drinking the poor quality water daily."
A community activist and paralegal, Johannes (Eddie) Goliath, who is advocating for free access to water for all, said close to 500 households do not have access to safe drinking water in Keetmanshoop. Denying people water is a violation of human rights, Goliath maintained.
"The provision of water and ensuring its affordability is not a charity act, but an obligation of the State and the right of each resident," Goliath said.
According to municipal statistics, between 300 and 500 households have been disconnected from the town's water network due to debt.
A senior municipal official revealed that residents owe the town council N$30 million in unpaid water bills.