Namibia: Climate Change and Namibia's Aquifers

THE Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Land Reform recently revealed efforts are afoot to assess how climate change is impacting Nambia's groundwater resources.

Bertram Swartz, the deputy director of geohydrology in the ministry, says the government has signed an agreement with the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) for this assessment.

The project is titled 'Assessing the impact of climate change and variability on groundwater resources in major aquifers in Namibia'.

The agreement is between the IAEA and the Ministry of Health and Social Services, but its activities fall under the agriculture ministry.

Swartz says the project is co-funded by the government and the IAEA, and will run from 2020 to 2024.

He says it is still in its early stages and they would soon have a technical meeting to map out planned activities.

Two aquifer groups would be assessed - the lower Kuiseb aquifers and the coastal aquifers.

An aquifer is simply a body of permeable rock which can contain or transmit groundwater.

Swartz says the process would entail using isotope hydrology to investigate past climate variations, recharge over time, water sources and aquifer mixing for major aquifers in the country.

Isotopes are one of two or more species of atoms of chemical elements with the same atomic number and position in the periodic table, and nearly identical chemical behaviour, but with different atomic masses and physical properties.

This, Swartz says, would outline the evolution of groundwater in selected aquifers and possibly forecast recharge in future.

"With these climatic projections for the region and country, current and future impacts of climate on national groundwater resources could be predicted and could inform resources protection, resource governance, social equity and reasonable utilisation," he says.

He says the project is part of a large global cooperation assisted by the IAEA, which includes attention to health and agriculture issues.

"It is a broad cooperation. We are merely a specific project," Swartz says.

He says the project also has a capacity-building component, which the University of Namibia would be involved in.

As this is a project which needs high expertise, Swartz says, some involved Namibians would be given fellowships to study in Germany to help with the implementation thereof.

Established on 29 July 1957, the IAEA is an autonomous organisation that seeks to promote the peaceful use of nuclear energy and to inhibit its use for any military purpose, which include nuclear weapons.

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