Scientists prodded on massive aquifer

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The Omaheke Region is one of the driest areas in Namibia where farmers are losing their livestock.

WINDHOEK– The Minister of Agriculture, Water and Forestry, John Mutorwa has urged water scientists to move faster in making the hydrological research results into a massive underground aquifer publicly known.

He was referring to the recent newly discovered aquifer called Ohangwena II, that spans the northeastern region and, which flows under the boundary between Angola and Namibia. “Ohangwena has (underground) water. We had a meeting at State House to discuss drought. Cattle are dying. Then we asked, when are we going to utilise the water resources in Ohangwena? At one point those results must be known and be used in one way or another to solve a practical problem which is drought,” stressed Mutorwa. “If you found water, let the donkeys, cattle and farmers tell us that they drank that water.” Mutorwa who was speaking yesterday during the first two-day regional workshop on groundwater resources governance in trans-boundary aquifers, which Namibia, Botswana and South Africa share outlined the importance of water in arid Namibia. “Water is fundamental to the existence of life.”

The workshop is organised by the Ministry of Agriculture in partnership with Unesco to discuss the implementation of the regional – Groundwater Resources Governance in Trans-boundary Aquifers and the Stampriet-Kalahari/Karoo Aquifer project. The main goal of the project is to enhance cooperation on water security, reduce trans-boundary and water-use conflicts, and improve overall environmental sustainability. The project also aims to reinforce the capacity building of member states in managing groundwater resources; to strengthen cooperation among stakeholders and countries sharing aquifers, as well as to develop a long-term strategy for the monitoring and governance of trans-boundary aquifers. He urged governments involved in the project to redouble their efforts and to ensure that they support research initiatives and other activities through funding. “Research and research findings must have specific objectives. Scientists must use their findings to solve practical problems. Sometimes we do research and the results are clear, but we continue researching without applying those results,” Mutorwa said. According to him scientific results should be used to address and solve real, practical problems affecting human lives and the ecosystem. Namibia is considered one of the driest countries in sub-Sahara Africa, as it is largely covered by the Namib desert.

This is especially significant, because the nation faces further desertification in the face of climate change and recurrent droughts. The 800 000 people who live in the area corresponding to the span of Ohangwena II currently depend on a 40-year-old canal that crosses the Namibia-Angola border for their drinking water. The new aquifer could supply water to the residents of northern Namibia (who comprise 40 percent of the population) for an estimated 400 years. Historically, the scarcity of drinking water sources in the area has limited the scope of development. Namibia being the most arid country in sub-Saharan Africa, it is estimated that only 2 percent of the rainfall ends up as surface run-off and a mere 1 percent becomes available to recharge ground water. The balance of 97 percent is lost through evaporation and evaporation transpiration. “Only two percent of the rainfall ends up as surface run-off. These are the glaring realities of Namibia.

Sometimes when rains are good, we experience occasional floods. But these floods do not take away the reality,” Mutorwa told delegates who are gathered at UN House in the capital. Currently, Namibia is experiencing a devastating drought which prompted President Hifikepunye Pohamba to officially declare a national emergency in May already. The devastating effects of the drought are increasingly becoming more severe, particularly on livestock grazing and the availability of drinking water. Against this background Mutorwa said people must at all times regard water as precious, because “we do not have much of it.” The project has brought together representatives of the major international networks and strategic partners in the field of water and more specifically of trans-boundary aquifers and groundwater resources management.

By Albertina Nakale

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