Can Water Be Cheaper?

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By Surihe Gaomas WINDHOEK Water is life, but concerted efforts are crucial in preserving this scarce resource, especially in a semi-arid country like Namibia. Water is a critical for sustainable development, environmental integrity, alleviating poverty and hunger, while at the same time is an indispensable natural resource for human survival. It is with this momentum that Namibians will be celebrating World Wetlands/Water Day on Friday 31st of March this year under the local theme: ‘Water and Wetlands – Supporting life, Sustaining Livelihoods.’ This year around the event will be held in the harbour town of Walvis Bay. Although World Wetlands Day was celebrated on the 2nd of February this year and World Water Day on the 22nd of this month, a local Na-mibian organising water committee pooled resources and decided to commemo-rate these two events jointly this coming Friday. The organising committee for the Namibian celebration consists of representatives from various institutions such as the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry, Namwater, the Desert Research Foundation of Na-mibia and the Namibia Nature Foundation, plus many others. This year, schools throughout the country have been invited to take part in the art competition, which comprises of three categories, namely, painting, essays and poems. One winner from each category in each region will be announced and have the opportunity to go to Walvis Bay to attend the 2006 World Wetlands/Water Day celebration and prize-giving event on the 31st of this month. With over 90 percent of Namibians having access to water countrywide, Government has made great strides in meeting the basic needs of its citizens. Furthermore, after commissioning the Goreangab Water Reclamation Plant in December 2002, efforts were made to preserve water. It is at this plant where wastewater is filtered and purified and blended with potable water for household and business consumption. The plant produces 21 million litres of water per day, or 35 percent of Windhoek’s daily water consumption. Semi-purified water coming from the city’s sewerage plant is used to water the capital’s parks and sports fields. Another water-saving measure undertaken by the city authorities is the system of prepaid water points in squatter settlement areas. In order to nurture a responsible usage of water amongst the residents, those living in informal parts of the city buy water credit cards and insert the cards at the tap to receive water. However, those living in these areas at times find it difficult to afford water in the first place. “We are poor people, how can I afford to buy water or even this card?” are some of the sentiments expressed by locals. As a basic commodity, water is still expensive for the ordinary man on the street and locals feel that something needs to be done to bring down the price. However, the dilemma on the other hand is that the city authorities also need to make some kind of revenue to remain sustainable as a local authority. As of late rains have been favourable in the country and dam levels have been filling up to capacity. However, the shallow depth characteristics of some dams like that of the Omatako Dam makes it prone to loss of water due to evaporation. Public relations officer of Namwater Tommi-Riva Numbala told New Era recently that the only way this problem is handled is by transferring water from Omatako Dam to the much bigger Von Bach Dam. Furthermore, precautionary measures have also been put in place in cases where dam water is less, for the country’s inhabitants can depend on underground water from boreholes and aquifers as well. In a recent presentation on ‘Aquifer Protection in the Windhoek Well Field’ by Namwater’s Chief Hydrologist Piet du Pisani, after the construction of the Von Bach, Swakoppoort and Omatako dams between 1970 and 1982, the Windhoek aquifer had become a secondary source of supply. “It’s utilized mostly as an emergency supply in periods of drought and low levels of supply from the Three Dam System,” reads the presentation delivered last week at the Hydrogeological Association of Namibia (HAN) Conference in Windhoek. Due to the fast growth of the city’s population, the low levels of supply from the three main dams at times prove insufficient, leaving more reliance on natural aquifers. With the upcoming commemoration of World Wetlands/Water Day at Walvis Bay this coming Friday, preparations are in full swing. As a ‘ramsir’ or water catchment area that has elements of a lagoon, the harbour town of Walvis Bay was chosen for this year’s celebration. Last year’s event was held in Rundu.