26 March 2019

Namibia: City Residents Fail to Curb Water Use

WINDHOEK residents have failed to reduce their use of water since January this year, adding to fears that the city's taps could run dry.

Figures showing the continued overconsumption of water were revealed last week in the weekly municipality water watch, in which it was reported that Windhoek residents used 13% on average more than the targeted weekly usage, for the past 10 weeks.

According to the City of Windhoek's water management plan, the city's primary response to drought is to reduce water demand so that supply will be available during the duration of the drought.

To encourage water savings, the city implemented water scarcity tariffs at the start of this year, with residents required to pay more for water while also using less of it.

Statistics show that the overall water usage for the past ten weeks - from 7 January to 18 March - was 5,53 million cubic metres.

This was equal to the entire production of the 10 weeks.

One cubic metre is equal to 1 000 litres.

During the 10 weeks observed, the city aimed at getting residents to reduce their water use to about 4,7 million cubic metres due to uncertainty over the length of the ongoing drought.

However, residents consumed about 531 200 cubic metres on average per week for the past 10 weeks, which exceeded the weekly water use reduction targets of around 471 200 cubic metres by 60 000 cubic metres a week. This overconsumption has forced the municipality to tap into the water reserved for the following week.

City residents flocked to the Windhoek municipal offices at the end of February after receiving their water bills for January, complaining of sharply increased water accounts as a result of the limited water supply tariff that was implemented at the beginning of 2019.

However, despite hiked tariffs that are supposed to enforce reduced consumption on those using high quantities of water, at the beginning of March city residents' weekly consumption was around 63 400 cubic metres or 13,5% more than the city's consumption target of 471 200 cubic metres for the week.

Commenting on the failure to meet water savings targets and current dam levels, the City of Windhoek's chief engineer for bulk and wastewater, Sebastian Husselmann, said the city would face a water crisis soon if residents did not reduce their current water usage. "The run-dry date will move closer, and we will run out of water," said Husselmann.

This meant the city was emptying storage dams at a rate that would result in the two main dams holding water for Windhoek running dry before the drought ended, he said.

City spokesperson Lydia Amutenya also said that, with residents exceeding the city's weekly water consumption target of no more than 471 277 cubic metres by more than 13% weekly on average since January, "we are currently tapping on the next period water for current consumption".

The city water statistics dated 18 March indicate that the city sources 130 060 cubic metres of water from boreholes a week, 70 445 cubic metres from the water reclamation plant, and the major portion of 317 020 cubic metres from NamWater, which supplies water from the Von Bach, Swakoppoort and Omatako dams.

DAM LEVELS

The present level of the three central dams is at 33,7 million cubic metres, or a combined 21,8% of the dams' full capacity, according to NamWater's weekly dam bulletin.

The Swakoppoort Dam's level stood at 11,3 million cubic meters, or 17,8% of its capacity, at the start of last week, while the Von Bach Dam was at 22,16 million cubic metres (46,6% of it storage capacity) and the Omatako Dam was almost empty at 223 000 cubic metres (0,5% of capacity).

The chief executive officer of the city of Windhoek, Robert Kahimise, said the public's unresponsiveness to appeals to reduce water use was because the city lost momentum with creating public awareness to save water in the past two years.

"Usually the drought tariffs and saving water campaign works; I think we just lost momentum between last year and early this year," he said.

"It is not the first time we found ourselves in this unfortunate situation, and usually our residents have responded. So I will rather be optimistic that with more engagement from ourselves, as the city in encouraging residents to save, they will respond as they did years back," said Kahimise.

He added that the city would continue to sensitise residents and beef up its water saving campaign and awareness until the end of the city's financial year at the close of June when the city council would approve new water tariffs.

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