Windhoek heading for water crisis – expert

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Windhoek

The current water shortage could be declared a water crisis early next year if the capacity of the main dams supplying Windhoek with water reaches 15 percent and if by that time there is no significant water inflow.

If the dam levels reach the critically low level of 15 percent the current water crisis will be declared a disaster.
This was said by a City of Windhoek technician from water demand management, Dieter Tolke, this week during his presentation at the Water Youth Namibia Forum held in Windhoek.
The latest figures from NamWater indicate the general water capacity of the dams has declined to a low level of 16.3 percent.

Tolke said 60 percent of the water supply of Windhoek derives from surface water and the city will reach the critical stage when there is no surface water available.

He said if the current dry spell continues the surface water levels are anticipated to be at 15 percent by the beginning of next year: “Now we are very close to the water crisis, but the drought has not been declared yet, that’s the important scenario.”

Tolke pointed out that the main culprits in water wastage continues to be big institutions. He said most of the water is wasted through pipe leakages that remain unrepaired.

“I have never seen a person with a broken pocket who allows the money to continuously fall out, but we do that with water. The thing is, water is money,” he stressed.

Tolke said these institutions are made up of individuals, who have failed in their responsibility to manage water. “We are all part of the public and it’s individuals who are supposed to save water, but we fail ourselves. If we are running out of water, who is to blame? Only us.

“The consumer is the person who saves water, not the water supplier (Namwater and City of Windhoek). The water supplier drives and supports initiatives to save water, while the community needs to save,” Tolke remarked, while encouraging people to do their own weekly meter readings.

The technician further said the rainy season is expected to replenish the dams with a limited supply, but this will not resolve the current water shortage.

“We’re not trying to be negative, but realistic. Our goal is to save 15 percent of water, but following this year’s rainy season we haven’t achieved the target.”

He further encouraged households to read the water meter weekly, while larger institutions should read daily.
He stressed that failing to do so, a user would not know how much water is being used, saved or wasted through leakages. With the below-average inflow of water, Tolke said the City has been dipping into their savings of water supplies, which they have been using for the past three years.

Moreover, he explained that since the year 2000 water demand increased by 50 percent, due to the influx to the city of the rural population, as well as infrastructure development.

During the question and answer session, one participant asked if water cannot be created in a laboratory for bulk use, considering the formula of H2O. The youth further asked if it is possible to draw water from the Kavango River to supply the rest of the country.

Professor Damas Mashauri of the Polytechnic of Namibia’s School of Enineering, whose presentation focused on the Masters in Integrated Water Resource Management programme that PoN offers, said water in the Kavango River is a resource shared with various countries, based on multilateral agreements.

“You can pump water from Kavango River to Omatako Dam and then into our central system, but it’s a trans-boundary question. There is the SADC Protocol… you can’t take water if two of the countries don’t agree. With any shared resources, you obviously need to have talks,” he explained.

Mashauri also said that creating water in a laboratory can be done, but asked “at what price?”
He further explained that some countries have tried to create artificial rain, where they seed clouds by spraying silver iodide or dry ice to make clouds heavier so that it can rain.

“The question is about the side effects. The clouds will be heavier and it rains, but the question is where does the silver iodide go? It will go into the potatoes, the plants and the groundwater. You solve one problem, but create another. It is better to use other methods to get water and conserve it,” he explained.

The event was held in collaboration with the Hanns Seidel Foundation, PoN and the Desert Research Foundation of Namibia (DRFN).

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