With the shortage of water on every Windhoek resident’s mind, President Hage Geingob’s Harambee Prosperity Plan (HPP) has targeted water as the second focal point in immediate and future infrastructure development.
HPP promises to increase access to water for human consumption (safe potable water) from 50 percent to 100 percent of the population by 2020 and to ensure there are sufficient water reserves for industrialisation, land servicing and housing development purposes. The following strategies and actions will be deployed to ensure that the goals with regard to water security will be met during the Harambee period:
A Cabinet committee on Water Supply Security: A Cabinet committee will be established, reporting to the president on a monthly basis on the water situation, including the effectiveness of water management measures. Implementation of a national water resources monitoring system: There is still a lack of data and information on Namibia’s water resources. Therefore, one of the key actions under Harambee will be the timely assessment of data and distribution of information to all relevant stakeholders. This would, for example, allow more coordinated drought relief activities and timely implementation of water saving measures. This will be done by March 2017.
In the north of the country, government will develop infrastructure to use the newly discovered underground water resources. The current state of investigation allows safe assumptions for continuous and back-up supply scenarios. Despite the relatively high investments, the long-term costs would be lower compared to the current supply, as the water needs minimal treatment and the capacity of the existing network can be increased.
The water challenge in the North will be overcome by introducing a good mix of available resources, including surface water, groundwater, rain water and water re-use. The Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry will present a detailed implementation plan before September 2016.
In central Namibia government will implement the Windhoek Managed Aquifer Recharge concept. This will result in the improved usage of the Windhoek Aquifer as a water bank through managed recharge, in combination with increased water re-use. The details of the implementation plan are still being fleshed out and will be finalised by the end of July.
According to the 2011 Census, 87 percent of Namibians had access to potable or safe water. While this is a significant achievement, access to safe water still varies widely across regions. “For example, while almost all households in urban areas have access to safe water, less than 70 percent of households in rural areas have access to it,” reads the HPP in part.
It is an NDP4 target that access to water for human consumption should increase to 100 percent of the population by 2017 and that there should be sufficient water reserves available for industrial purposes. However, during the NDP4 period, Namibia experienced one of the worst recorded droughts. The drought has not ended and reminds all that Namibia is a semi-arid country, prone to devastating drought.
“The situation is likely to worsen and it is predicted that Namibia will be negatively affected by global climate change, which has become the reality of our times. In addition to industries, availability of water is becoming increasingly a concern as a number of dams and water reservoirs supplying, in particular, the City of Windhoek are running low. Similarly in coastal towns of Walvis Bay and Swakopmund, the alluvial ground water reserves used for supply are over-utilised. It is predicted that if there are no sufficient inflows into the dams that supply the City of Windhoek, that the city will run out of water by August 2016,” it further stated.
At the coast, focus will be on desalination by using renewable energy. To meet the increased demand for water at the coast as a result of uranium mining activities, government will construct a 25 million cubic metre (m3) per annum seawater desalination plant by the end of the MTEF period (2016/17 – 2018/19).
The target is designed to address the water security of the coastal towns by augmenting water supply to meet the growing demand of the mining sector and the coastal towns of the Erongo Region. In the spirit of Harambee, and to free up resources for construction of water infrastructure in other parts of the country, consideration will be given to develop this desalination plant on a public-private partnership basis.
In the South of the country government plans to increase the capacity of impounded water with 850 million m3 by construction of the Neckartal Dam in the Fish River by the end of the MTEF period. The target is designed to ensure water supply and food security by providing irrigation water and safe drinking water. It will further result in availability of reliable safe water within close proximity to the users. Incentives to bring industrial sites closer to water resources: The idea is to locate water intensive industries away from the central region and close to the perennial rivers. This would also reduce the influx of migrants from those areas. Specific incentive proposals will be ready by July 2017. Simonis Storm Securities (SSS) recently said the economic consequences of water shortages in Windhoek will have spill-over effects and affect economic activity across the country, severely impacting water-dependent and water-intensive industries and placing Namibia’s strong GDP growth rate in jeopardy.
Namibia Breweries is the biggest industrial consumer of water in Windhoek. Last week, Namibia Breweries reported that it used on average four litres of water to produce each final product. They produced about 1,6 million litres of beer in Namibia last year.
This boils down to about 3,2 million units sold in Namibia for the year, the firm said. The firm said if water restrictions were implemented in Namibia, Namibia Breweries would surely feel the impact, as they are heavily reliant on water supply.
Other companies that will also be affected are Meatco and its Okapuka feedlot. The feedlot at Okapuka currently holds about 9 000 cattle on a daily basis. Each animal drinks about 50 litres of water a day, which equates to 450 000 litres. The total capacity of the feedlot is about 11 000.
In case of water shortages, the number of cattle held in the feedlot will have to be reduced to match the water supply, or – in the worst case – shut down completely. This will then have a knock-on effect on the Meatco abattoir, which is reliant on a steady supply of slaughter animals from Okapuka, the SSS report said.