9 August 2018

Namibia: City Faces a Water Crisis, Again

Photo: New Era
Namibia's Goreangab residents use contaminated water (file photo).

THE City of Windhoek once again announced a water crisis and is restricting hair saloons, car washes and construction sites from using too much water.

During the past four years, the local media has been saturated with reports about how the city will run out of water, and promises to come up with long-term solutions have fallen by the wayside.

Being the capital city of Namibia and housing up to a quarter of the country's population of 2,4 million, the city relies on NamWater for 70% of its water, while the other 30% comes from surface water and boreholes.

However, due to poor rainfall, NamWater this week reported low water levels at the three dams where Windhoek draws its water from.

According to the report, the three dams supplying the central parts of Namibia - including Windhoek and Okahandja - with water are currently a combined 29,9% full, according to the corporation's latest weekly dam bulletin.

The Swakoppoort, Von Bach and Omatako dams had a combined total of 46 million cubic metres of water on Monday, compared to 73,5 million cubic metres a year ago when the three dams were 47,6% of their total storage capacity of 154,5 million cubic metres.

The City of Windhoek's spokesperson Lydia Amutenya said the supply situation needs to be taken seriously by all stakeholders to make sure that the city survives water scarcity, "and not run out of water completely".

The city has a drought response plan, which includes various categories between A and E, based on the severity of the water crisis.

Amutenya explained that the city has now moved from Category B, which means there was a need to be alert about the low water levels, to Category C, which shows that there is a drought, and water savings need to be increased to 10%.

She said by the end of last month, the city had managed to achieve water savings that are higher than the 5% target. But all residents, businesses and consumers still need to do their best to keep the situation under control, as "with concerted efforts, we will survive the drought."

"The city is well-known for water recycling through our reclamation plant, and there are also plans to construct a second reclamation plant in the foreseeable future that is expected to augment water supply," she said, adding that the only effective measure to conserve water now is to use it sparingly.

The city published a statement in local media this week, urging residents to use water sparingly in a bid to prolong the usage of the little available water.

Speaking to The Namibian on Tuesday, the Popular Democratic Movement's councillor Ignatius Semba said the city should come up with a long-term solution to the water crisis.

He said the issue of water is not being taken seriously by the city or central government as they keep coming up with solutions which are not implemented, such as the idea of a desalination plant.

"It is a known fact that Namibia is a dry country, and we are a desert. We need long-term solutions, as opposed to quick fixes," said Semba.

The Rally for Democracy and Progress's president, Jeremiah Nambinga, and city councillor Brunhilde Cornelius also called for better solutions.

"I do not think the government has thought of harvesting water. Some think it might not help, but it could because restricting people from using water will not help," he stated.

Former Nudo president Asser Mbai suggested that the city should come up with a better plan to manage the influx of people from the regions.

He said this contributes to the water issue, as more people means more services should be provided.

"Maybe come up with a plan that looks at how many people are allowed to come in and stay in Windhoek per month or year, and thus know what you are dealing with," Mbai urged.

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