NamWater's top executive predicts that towns in central Namibia, including Windhoek, will run dry by September 2016 unless the rainy season refills the three main dams supplying these towns.
This was revealed by NamWater CEO Vaino Shivute during an in-depth interview with Inside Southern Africa (ISA) about the water shortage challenges Namibia is facing. He said the situation would not improve if nothing is done in terms of enhancing water supply and reducing consumption.
Shivute spoke about how water shortages will affect households, businesses and the Namibian economy at large and shed some light on the severity of the looming crisis, saying the only solution would be to tap underground water sources.
He indicated that the rain forecast for this year is not good, as the country expects a normal to below-normal rainy season. He said, based on experience, the country can expect the drought to continue.
He further explained that if the current situation continues and NamWater's prediction becomes reality it would have a negative impact on the economy, affecting agriculture and industries, and ultimately impacting at household level.
He said the 15 percent water saving proposed by the City of Windhoek was not achieved and that industry and households have to make a meaningful effort to reduce water consumption. Water savings of between 20 percent and 25 percent per month could help stretch the water supply for another six months. Shivute said the central areas of Namibia are especially hard hit by the drought, because the three supply dams (Von Bach, Swakoppoort and Omatako) did not receive enough inflow during the last rainy season: "As a result there is not enough water to take them forward for two consecutive rainy seasons, as per our planning norms."
BOREHOLES RUNNING DRY
Shivute said in other parts of the country bulk water supply sources are also under pressure, noting that whenever there is a drought local water resources, such as hand-dug wells, as well as boreholes tend to dry up.
"People will then have to rely on bulk water supply sources and this increases demand on those sources. For example, the boreholes that supply Karasbsurg are being rationed. The town does not receive its normal volume of water supply," he said. In the Cuvelai, a number of hand-dug wells can no longer supply water as usual and thus both people and livestock are increasingly dependent on bulk and rural pipeline network, he said.
WINDHOEK UNDER PRESSURE
The City of Windhoek supplies about 500 000 cubic metres per annum from underground water sources, such as boreholes into the Windhoek aquifer. But during a meeting in April earlier last year, the City was requested to increase water supply from its boreholes from 0.5 million cubic meter per year to five million cubic metres. He said the Windhoek must then increase its supply from boreholes further to seven million cubic meters per annum and further to nine million cubic meter per year. The city has increased the supply of water from boreholes to five million cubic metres per annum. "However, to increase the supply further to seven million and then nine million cubic metres per annum, it needs to invest significant amounts of money.
NamWater is looking at various options to relieve the current water scarcity. Shivute said recycling of sewage water would not eradicate water shortages, but would increase the supply source and ensure that water is used for a longer period. Windhoek is currently using recycled water from the treatment plant at Goreangab. "This plant when in full production supplies about 20 percent to 25 percent of the water needs of the city. If the recycling of water is extended to other major towns it will certainly augment water supply to those towns. Thus water recycling is a feasible proposition, but water recycling must be used to augment current water supply," the NamWater CEO said.
Asked whether tapping into underground water sources offers a solution, Shivute said about 60 percent of water supplied to towns, villages and rural communities in Namibia came from underground water sources. "Thus underground water is an important source to Namibia currently."
Noting that around 50% of Namibia's water supply in the dams is lost through evaporation, Shivute added that NamWater and the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry (MAWF) and Wndhoek Municipality embarked on a project a few years ago aimed at banking water in the Windhoek Aquifer. This can be done by injecting large amounts of water into the aquifer.
Shivute said during April 2015 it was agreed that Namwater must supply more water from Kombat mine as well as Berg Aukas mine to augment the current water supply from the three central dams system. "It is important to mention here that there is currently a system to convey water from Grootfontein to Windhoek," but the City of Windhoek can only supply the volumes required once it has sourced the required funds, Shivute explained.