Ohangwena aquifer Namibia’s ‘best water backup plan’

by Helvy Shaanika

Ongwediva

If government funds infrastructure to pump and distribute water from the aquifer that was discovered in Ohangwena Region about four years ago the country will have a solid water supply backup for a long time.

This is the view of Marting Quinger, the project manager for the German Federal Institute for Geoscience and Natural Resources, also known as BRG, who said the organisation, in partnership with the agriculture ministry and NamWater, is in the process of drafting a proposal to Cabinet to get funding for infrastructure that would supply water to the whole northern part of the country.



It is estimated that the north is home to half of the Namibian population.

Although Quinger could not confirm the cost estimate of the project, New Era understands that about N$50 million would be needed for the construction of the pipeline from the underground water source in Ohangwena Region to other regions in the north.

Quinger maintained that NamWater would have to determine the cost and not BRG.

According to him, it was already determined that the water source regenerates and its sources flow from Angola.

It is however not known how much water refills the aquifer at a specific time.

Two boreholes to measure the volume of water recharged in the aquifer at a specific time will need to be drilled. The contactor to drill the boreholes has already been appointed.

Currently the town of Eenhana and community members in Omundaungilo consume water from the aquifer. This consumption is part of the investigation to determine the volume of water that refills the aquifer after water is drawn. This will provide an understanding about the sustainability of the water source.

The aquifer in Ohangwena covers a distance of about 100 kilometres from Ondobe towards Okongo – these are the areas with fresh water.

Water at other areas would need fluoride treatment, which is really not a big deal – according to Quinger. However, as the aquifer stretches there are areas where the water is saline and only fit for animal consumption.

Generating water from the aquifer will be the best backup plan for the country, as currently the northern part has only one water source.

“A country should not have one water source. This is a world practice. If something happens to one source, there must be a backup source,” he explains.

According to Quinger, although early reports suggest that the aquifer contained about five billion cubic metres, further investigation has now revealed that the source contains at least 20 billion cubic metres, four times the initially estimated volume. He however maintained that media reports  suggesting that the discovered source could supply the north for at least 400 years are wrong.

“One cannot give a time frame as to how long the source will last, but all I can say is that, in 2011, the water demand in the north was 12 million cubic metres per year. It might have increased now and we have always been getting that water from Calueque in Angola. So if the source is refilling at about eight million cubic metres, it would be a very good volume for the north. But at the moment we really don’t know by how much water it is refilling – it could be more it could be less,” said Quinger.

Quinger also explained that the water source is not an underground cave filled with water, but a massive volume of water in spongy sand. Thus, using water from the aquifer will never leave an empty hole underground.

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