Although there are more than 300 car washes operating illegally in Windhoek, the City Police have failed to clamp down on these illicit businesses especially during a time of imminent water shortages and possible water restrictions in the central areas.
Car washes have been identified as some of the businesses that contribute heavily to water wastage as they use plenty of water daily.
The Windhoek Municipality spokesperson, Joshua Amukugo, yesterday revealed during a media briefing on the water crisis in the central areas that there are between 300 and 400 functional car washes in Windhoek, but only 30 are operating legally.
“These things of car washes are so complicated,” he said.
“We have the means and powers to ask the City Police to go and close down the car washes but the impact might be even more disastrous. That is why we are trying to do things systematically and in an orderly manner.”
“We have been trying to educate them to use buckets instead of hosepipes,” Amukugo said, adding that the municipality managed to get its message across to large industries that have reduced their water consumption.
He also revealed that the municipality has drilled 48 boreholes and plans to drill nine more during this current financial year, which will cost about N$100 million.
Approached for comment, City Police Chief Abraham Kanime said they are busy creating awareness among car wash owners on the seriousness of the water crisis around Windhoek before they close down such businesses, taking into consideration that many rely on them for a living.
“It affects the livelihoods of the poorest of the poor,” Kanime said.
“Therefore arresting or closing them down is not the first option. Last week we started counting and identifying them in each zone. We are also in the process of printing leaflets to tell them to stop using hosepipes and rather use buckets.”
“Only after we’ve reached most of them and if they continue to defy such orders, only then can we take steps to close down such businesses,” Kanime said, without giving the number of fines or warnings issued. He also cautioned residents to avoid using hosepipes but to use buckets to wash their cars. Kanime urged people to minimise water usage in their households.
The Minister of Agriculture, Water and Forestry, John Mutorwa, said the government has various strategies to avoid the central areas running dry.
Mutorwa said securing long-term water supply to the central areas include only two viable options, namely, desalination of seawater and drawing water from a permanent reliable water source. Further, he admitted that such exercises are very costly.
Although he refused to divulge the exact figures as the issue still has to go to Cabinet, Mutorwa said it will cost millions of dollars.
He said if residents adhere to the 25 percent water saving, the taps will not run dry by August this year, as earlier reported.
“Yes, we have laws, but do we have to wait until there is punishment? I think … maybe, but is that how we should manage a very important resource like this one (water)?” Mutorwa wanted to know.
On the car washes, he said the Windhoek Municipality would not be able to fight all transgressors.
On the effects of the economy, he said there is nothing one can do without water.
“If this situation persists, obviously there will be economic effects. It’s too ghastly to contemplate, but I don’t think we will reach there, but the stronger we get the message across, the better. Prevention is better than cure. Some people think we are just bluffing. Von Bach Dam is just 22 percent full, Omatako is dry (6-7 percent), Avis Dam, you can take your car and drive there,” he noted. The central areas are supplied with water from Omatako, Von Bach and Swakkopport dams. The three dams receive their underground water from Kombat mine and Berg Aukas in Grootfontein.
NamWater Chief Executive Officer, Dr Vaino Shivute, applauded all their customers who have since reduced water consumption through water recycling. These include Navachab mine which reduced its consumption by between 15 and 20 percent and it intends to save more. Another business he mentioned is the chicken farm near Okahandja that plans to reduce water consumption by about 50 percent. Namibia Breweries, he said, also plans to reduce its water consumption.