President Hage Geingob yesterday described as ‘scary’ the acute water shortage in Namibia, with at least N$24 billion needed to satisfactorily improve on the current 33.5 percent water available countrywide.
However, only N$255 million is available for water supply projects in the country between this year and 2019, it was announced at State House yesterday.
The central areas of the country currently have 11 percent of water from Swakoppoort, Von Bach and Omatako dams – a huge cause for concern among both households and industries.
If water is, hypothetically, cut off, businesses in the central areas would lose up to N$4.2 billion in revenue, which would inevitably affect households due to job losses.
Water users in the central areas are required to cut up to 30 percent of water usage until the next rainy season.
The ministry of agriculture’s most recent augmentation study indicated that the only water supply options available for the central region are Kavango River abstraction and desalinated water from the coast.
Cabinet is currently studying a proposal to buy a coastal desalination plant from French mining company Areva, for about N$3 billion.
However, the N$255 million currently available for water supply purposes in the current medium term expenditure framework is geared towards defined projects, namely groundwater project initiative (N$40 million), feasibility study, planning and design for the construction of a dam at Noordoewer (N$12 million) and continuing construction of the Neckartal dam (N$203 million).
The agricultural sector, for example, which employs 15.9 percent of the country’s workforce would be heavily hit in the event of a total water cut-off, a situation that would affect food security in the country.
The mining sector, which provides 47 percent of exports and contributes 15.9 percent to the gross domestic product (GDP), could also be adversely affected by the water shortage.
Irrigation uses 204.6 million cubic metres of water per year. That demand will increase to 400 million cubic metres.
The acute water shortage in the country is attributed to climate change effects, insufficient capacity to carry our research into new potential sources and lack of development for new and existing water supply infrastructure.
Planned and ongoing supply measures by the government include immediately pumping more water from Berg Aukas, installation of bigger pumps at Kombat and rehabilitation of the eastern national water carrier system (canals) at a cost of N$44 million.
In the medium term, more feasibility studies will be finalised and current designs would be turned into actual construction of facilities.
In the long term, government will embark on desalinating water from the sea, manage aquifer recharge systems such as City of Windhoek boreholes and manage water use efficiency among citizens.
In the north-central areas, government aims to start immediate water supply into Olushandja dam, rehabilitate Etaka and pump water to Uuvudhiya – while production boreholes will be developed at Oshandi in Ohangwena Region.
Also in Ohangwena, bulk water pipes would be connected at Epembe, while minor boreholes would be drilled in the region for aquifer management.
At the coast, government aims to desalinate seawater as well as acquire the Areva plant, among other efforts.
In the south, government is pushing for the completion of Neckartal dam, for which a N$2.9 billion tender was awarded to Italian company Salini. Also in the south, a feasibility study for Noordoewer dam will soon graduate to design and construction stage.
After the presentation of the water situation by officials from the City of Windhoek as well the ministry of agriculture, President Geingob expressed grave concern.
“The figures are scary – but we needed to sit and find joint solutions,” he said.
“We neglected to take action against all these problems, but let us not despair. This is the Land of the Brave, we can withstand even the drought.”
“Cabinet insisted that we must now address the issue of water scarcity. Water is scarce and we are trying to address this in the Harambee plan,” the president added.
“I might declare an emergency. We have a crisis when it comes to water and energy.”