Query: What is the current water situation in Namibia, taking into consideration that we received relatively good rains late last year and early this year?
Response: Namibia received below to normal average rainfall during the previous rain season, which has brought relief to water users in the country. The current water situation can be summarised in the following manner.
Central Namibia – despite considerable inflow in the three-dam system, the area does not have reliable water availability in case the subsequent rain season happens to be below average. The average amount of water available in the dams is around half of the available capacity (see table below).
North Central (Oshana, Omusati, Ohangwena and Oshikoto) are supplied mainly through pipelines tapping water from the Kunene River. The flow in the Kunene River is sufficiently high, thus the supply is guaranteed. Some parts of the four regions aquifers have received substantial recharges allowing most of the boreholes to have improved quantity and quality water conditions.
Coastal areas: Groundwater recharge for Omdel and Kuiseb aquifers was minimal and brought little relief to coastal areas. The supply from the aquifers and desalinated water from the Areva plant just meets the basic water needs of the coastal areas. Urgent interventions are thus required in developing additional water sources.
Kunene is still grappling with water shortages because of poor rainfall in the region.
Kavango West and East, as well as Zambezi regions received average rainfall. Both river water and aquifer recharges made significant improvement. Inland areas, however, require more infrastructure development.
Omaheke is badly affected and some boreholes are already drying up. Rehabilitation and drilling of additional boreholes will be required soon.
Southern parts of the country normally have limited groundwater resources and did not benefit much from the previous rainy season. One could say their situation is normal. The dams, such as Oanob, Hardap and Naute, received significant inflows, which is good for the nearby towns and irrigation schemes.
Query: What percentage does the central areas of Namibia currently have from Swakopport, Von Bach and Omatako dams?
Response: from Namwater Dam Bulletin as of 19 June 2017
Query: Can government guarantee both households and industries not to be concerned about water shortages?
Response: Government cannot guarantee anyone not to be concerned about water shortages, given the fact that Namibia is a dry country that is prone to effects of climate change. Government through its water laws and policies tries to ensure equitable allocation of available water to all. Government also develops infrastructure to secure maximum water supply system yield – from dams and aquifers that can be done by standards.
The water users are expected to form partnerships with government in ensuring water security in the country and not to be spectators watching what government is doing.
Interventions, such as recycling of water, locating/re-locating high water consuming industries to water-rich areas and implementing water demand management measures are some of the possible interventions.
Query: What is government doing to ensure that what was experienced over the past year does not repeat itself?
Response: The government assessed the drought situation last year, which led to President Hage Geingob putting in place a Cabinet Committee on Water Supply Security (CCWSS). Its task is to ensure that Windhoek never runs dry and ensure that Namibia becomes a water-secure country.
Windhoek, which was expected to run dry by December 2016, is now predicted to be able to withstand three consecutive years without proper rainfall. That is all due to technical interventions by the CCWSS and its technical committee of experts. More work is ongoing to do the same for the coastal areas of Namibia.
Please take note that the government is also strengthening the development of water supply infrastructure to increase the yield of the water supply system through dam constructions, like Neckartal dam, and feasibility studies to transfer water to water-scarce areas (desalination and the Okavango link). In addition, government has prepared a project proposal for floodwater harvesting that is ready for implementation once financial resources are secured.
Query: Why does government only wait for critical times before they act in terms of water shortage?
Response: This is not true. Government has consistently developed water supply infrastructure to serve as water sources when there is no rainfall and when the underground water tables are too low.
Query: Last year, the Ministry of Agriculture’s augmentation study indicated that the only water supply options available for central regions are Kavango River abstraction and desalinated water from the coast. Are these options still viable and do they still stand, and if so, how far are the projections?
Response: The Okavango-link studies are almost completed. All the technical studies are completed, with the exception of the environmental reports, which are expected by end July 2017.
The desalination is part of the comprehensive approach of the TCE and CCWSS to ensure water security for the coastal areas. A rapid assessment study was carried out last year. Preliminary work for a full study is underway. The two options are still being considered.
Query: What happened to the planned immediate measures by government to embark on pumping more water from Berg Aukas, installation of bigger pumps at Kombat and rehabilitation of the eastern national water carrier system (canal) and at what cost are these activities being carried out?
Response: All those proposals have already been implemented and were part of the interventions that prevented Windhoek from drying up in December 2016. The cost was around N$50 million.
Query: There were plans to immediately start water supply into Olushandja dam, rehabilitate Etaka and pump water to Uuvudhiya, while production boreholes would be developed at Oshandi in Ohangwena Region. How far are these plans in being realised?
Response: Water supply into Olushandja has always been pumped from Kunene River. That is why it does not dry up, despite high evaporation rate in that area.
The rehabilitation of Etaka Canal is still being investigated. The MAWF through its Directorate of Water Supply and Sanitation Coordination is busy with a study on how the Etaka Canal can be rehabilitated.
The boreholes in Oshandi will be developed with the installation of a de-floridisation plant due to the high level of fluoride in the water. As soon as such plant is acquired, the work will commence.
Query: In the south, government was pushing for the completion of Neckartal dam. How far is this project?
Response: The envisaged date of completion is around December 2017. That will, however, be followed by the development of an irrigation system before benefits can be reaped from the dam.
* Margaret Kalo, senior public relations officer in the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry, e-mail: Margaret.firstname.lastname@example.org