WINDHOEK – The Namibian Water Resources Management Bill, which is expected to facilitate much better regulation of the country’s water resources, was passed in parliament last week and is now on its way to be signed by President Hifikepunye Pohamba, the Minister of Agriculture, Water and Forestry, John Mutorwa, revealed yesterday at the opening of the 9th International Water Association (IWA) Water Reuse conference at a local hotel in Windhoek.
“People do not only need water to drink. They need water for sanitation, for personal hygiene, for cultivating and processing of food and fodder, for sustaining livestock, for creating jobs through industry and manufacturing, for mining and mineral extraction, for leisure and sports activities and for beautifying the environment in which they live. Thus: water is life; and life is water,” said Mutorwa.
“With the world population increasing at the current rate and the ever improving standard of living in the most populous nations of the world, it begs the question of: how long will the finite water resources, currently at our disposal, really be able to sustain life on the planet Earth, as we know it? If climate change is brought into the mix, it seems apparent that countries that are currently suffering water supply shortages will find it ever more difficult to quench the thirst of their people,” added Mutorwa. He added that streams of waste water generated in towns and cities should be viewed as resources rather than waste products. “These are resources which might have been brought to the city or town at great cost and possibly over great distances. It is therefore pure folly to discharge this water and import new water from ever more distant locations,” continued Mutorwa.
Namibia is the most arid African country south of the Sahara and experiences low and varied rainfall, from a maximum of around 650 mm in the north-east to less than 50 mm per year along the coast. It is estimated that only two percent of Namibia’s rainfall ends up as surface run-off while a mere one percent is estimated to become available to recharge ground water. The balance of 97 percent is estimated to be lost through evaporation (83 percent) and evaporation transpiration (14 percent).
During his opening statement, Mutorwa singled out the City of Windhoek, which represents about 18 percent of the total Namibian population of 2.1 million people. The minister, who presides over Namibia’s water environment and the water sector, pointed out that the only natural water resource available to the city is the Windhoek aquifer, which has a sustainable yield of less than seven percent of the city’s current demand. For the bulk of water supply to the capital the city has to rely on erratic rainfall to fill three dams built on ephemeral rivers. “It needs to be said loud and clear today that during the previous rainy season, these three dams that supply and supplement water supply to Windhoek received no inflow,” said Mutorwa.
It is estimated that central Namibia has a total water consumption of 30 million cubic metres per annum while the current supply system yields about 20 million cubic metres. Of its demand of 26 million cubic metres, the City of Windhoek takes up approximately 17 million cubic metres, of which the shortfall of 9 million cubic metres is compensated for by a combination of groundwater and reused water. Reused water in Windhoek supplies 7.5 million cubic metres per annum of which 5.5 million cubic metres is used for drinking water and 2 million cubic metres is used for landscaping irrigation of parks, public gardens and sports fields. For this reason the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry, the City of Windhoek and NamWater are working on a scheme to artificially recharge the Windhoek aquifer with a blend of reclaimed and surface water.
The City of Windhoek was the first in the world to practice direct potable reuse of water when it commissioned the Goreangab Water Reclamation Plant in 1968. The plant has since undergone a series of upgrades and technological enhancements and today has a capacity of 21 000 cubic metres per day, representing about 60 percent of the city’s daily demand. At any given time the city’s drinking water contains between 20 and 25 percent reclaimed water. “Water reuse, especially in arid areas such as Namibia, is the answer to looming water shortages, It is a solution that is increasingly viable for communities as the cost of cleaning and piping water increases,” remarked the Mayor of Windhoek, Agnes Kafula, yesterday during her welcoming statement to delegates at the conference.
The ministry has also commissioned a study and has appointed a professional team to conduct an Engineering Feasibility Study and an Environmental Feasibility Study into all available options for the augmentation of water supply to the central areas of the country and for the Cuvelai area in the central north of Namibia.
IWA Executive Director, Ger Bergkamp, said the IWA is forging partnerships with the business community to develop new initiatives that will stimulate reuse of water across the globe, while signalling the growth of water reuse by municpalities and industries. Bergkamp announced pilot projects for water reuse in the oil and gas industry and the mining sector in Asia and Africa. He also highlighted the increased importance of waste water as an all round resource. “Increasingly other materials are recovered in waste water, and as such turning waste into a valuable resource. We see this already in for example the recovery of energy, phosporous and nitrogen. Now, increasingly, research groups are working on the recovery of cellulose and production of bio-plastics out of waste water,” Bergkamp added.
According to the Chair of the IWA Water Reuse Specialist Group, Dr Valentina Lazarova, over the past three decades several thousand successful water reuse projects with diverse applications around the world have demonstrated that water recycling is a proven water scarcity solution, which is an essential tool for mitigation of the impacts of climate change on the diminishing available fresh water resources and is of extreme importance to the planet’s biosphere.
By Edgar Brandt