Underground Water Search Shows Promise

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By Surihe Gaomas WINDHOEK Water is life and it seems through recently conducted surveys that Namibia is actually blessed with the life-giving natural resource, but underground. Although Namibia is one of the driest countries in sub-Saharan Africa, there seems to be significant groundwater resources available for socio-economic development. With increasing water demands due to urbanisation, population increase and rapid evaporation, the surface water resources cannot meet the ever-increasing water demands of the country. It is against this background that intensive research into the possibility of using groundwater in the future is fast gaining momentum. Yesterday, results of the underground water investigations in the Oshivelo Region, Eastern Caprivi and Eastern Omaheke areas revealed that important new groundwater resources have been detected in those areas, particularly in Eastern Caprivi and in the Eiseb Graben Area in Eastern Omaheke. The latest survey is based on the ongoing Namibian-German Cooperation Project where experts analysed for almost two years the project, “Investigation of Groundwater Resources and Airborne-Geophysical Investigations of Selected Mineral Targets in Namibia.” This is a joint cooperation between the German BGR (Federal Institute for Geosciences and Natural Resources), the Namibian Department of Water Affairs and the Geological Survey of Namibia. Addressing various experts in the hydro-geological arena in the capital yesterday, Minister of Agriculture, Water and Forestry Dr Nickey Iyambo said that such research surveys are welcome, as it would assist in the long-term sustainable use of a scarce natural resource. “The results…will provide information about the availability of water to assist developers and engineers to plan future infrastructure in such a way that these valuable yet vulnerable groundwater sources can be utilised sustainably to facilitate socio-economic development for the benefit of the people within these areas,” explained Minister Iyambo. Ultimately it is also viewed that such surveys would further assist in alleviating poverty through the provision of sustainable water supply in the future. Water resources are extremely limited in Namibia with rapid evaporation affecting surface water after good rains. Underground water therefore proves to be a key resource in such an arid country where 60 percent of the water supplied to Namibians comes from under the ground in any case. As a result, most areas’ groundwater is the only available water source and about 70 percent of this natural resource supplied throughout the country comes from groundwater. “The location and development of water resources therefore continues to be the backbone for the development of many of the remotely located and isolated rural communities as well as the smaller urban centres,” explained the minister. What’s more evident is that the development of groundwater resources often reduces the need for extensive construction of dams and pipelines, considered to be a much more costly exercise at the end of the day. Groundwater exploration projects like that by the German authorities are therefore seen to be filling the gaps of technical expertise and technology used to discover the areas where this natural resource can be tapped. According to the latest sur-vey, findings have been that the Eastern-Graben Area in Eastern Omaheke and the Eastern Caprivi have significant levels of underground water. Citing that the hydro-geological research was highly successful, German Ambassador to Namibia Dr Wolfgang Massing said that in the Eastern Caprivi there was a much extended freshwater occurrence detected in depths below 100 meters. In Eastern Omaheke an extremely productive sedimentary channel structure was detected, which is filled with fresh water below 150 meters. Dr Massing stressed that proper water management systems are needed to ensure sustainable use of this underground water in these areas. “There exists a high risk of desertification by overgrazing since the quantity of cattle that could be provided with water from the new-found reserve would far exceed the sustainable regional capacity,” added the German Ambassador to Namibia. During the event yesterday experts noted that the fast evaporation of water in Namibia is a concern. That is why some rainwater that collects in shallow dams are reverted to those with much higher surface capacity. Under Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry Piet Heyns noted this concern saying water management is the key in addressing this situation. Due to the high evaporation levels there is also little chance of groundwater recharge. “We must manage the demand and just not build new dams and pipelines which are expensive. Our big enemy is evaporation,” said Heyns. For instance, the Rundu-Groot-fontein pipeline costs approximately N$1-billion. That is why underground water sources, along with artificial recharge and desalination systems along the coastline, are seen to be the answers to this concern. At the same time, the project team leader of the groundwater resources investigation team Dr Frieder Schildknecht said that discoveries were that not much energy is required to pump out water from the ground at the three sites where the investigation was done. “There is good drinking quality water at the boreholes we drilled in these three areas and the results look promising,” concluded Dr Schildknecht.