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Namibia Must Act Now On Water Supply – Schlettwein

Summary

THE City of Windhoek has just informed the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Land Reform that the capital city will be aiming to reduce its water consumption to 108 litres per person per month.This was revealed by water minister Calle Schlettwein duri…

THE City of Windhoek has just informed the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Land Reform that the capital city will be aiming to reduce its water consumption to 108 litres per person per month.

This was revealed by water minister Calle Schlettwein during the third workshop on the Desalination Feasibility Study last week.

The workshop focused on assimilating and deliberating the outcomes of the feasibility study, which investigated how and at what cost seawater could be desalinated and delivered as potable water to both the capital city and the coastal areas in the long run.

Despite abundant rains, this target is till relevant given the unreliable supply of water to the capital city and the central regions.

Schlettwein said: "These strategies, however good, may not secure water supply in the long term."

He said to avoid challenges seen in other parts of the world, such as Cape Town, Sao Paulo and Perth, the country must act now.

While the local economy is on it knees, expansionary fiscal policy cannot come to the rescue, and policymakers are desperate for private-sector investments.

The central regions' prolonged water crisis put a damper on policymakers' hopes, he said.

Schlettwein said the drought-prone inland regions have challenged the realisation of both agricultural and economic development, as well as the securing of sufficient potable water to Windhoek and the central coastal area (CCA) towns.

The expansion of the production capacity of uranium mines is also hampered by inadequate water supply.

Schlettwein said: "This has left Namibia carrying out robust planning and detailed socio-economic water demand studies, and investigating sources that include desalination - a weather-resilient seawater source in abundance in the Atlantic central coastal area."

Schlettwein said the increased water demand from uranium mines and communities in the CCA towns, given the dwindling existing conventional groundwater sources from the Omdel and Kuiseb water schemes, left the country with only two options: to do nothing or to desalinate water.

He said erratic rainfall patterns in the country, which have from time to time replenished groundwater sources and pushed the urgency of moving to alternative sources, have not helped the situation.

The feasibility study has also investigated the preferred choice between a new desalination plant, or acquiring, rehabilitating and extending the existing Orano desalination plant.

Workshop participants were warned not to be tempted to recommend huge, expensive desalination plants and transmission pipelines which cannot be sustained.

In 2011, the ministry through local consultants embarked on a study for the augmentation of water supply to Namibia's central areas.

This project would oversee water supplied up to Windhoek from the Okavango River.

However, the government has mooted the feasibility study for the desalination plant and water-carriage system.

Schlettwein said development proposals of a desalination plant to meet coastal water demands is no longer debatable, but is rather a matter of when and how such a solution would be implemented by the government.

The outcome of the workshop is currently awaited.

ENERGY DEPENDENCE

The country is not only struggling to adequately supply water for production purposes, but electricity production also relies on the adequate inflow of water into the Ruacana hydroelectric power plant.

This depends on seasonal factors which cannot be controlled.

Local electricity is predominantly generated by the hydroelectric system, contributing more than 80% of NamPower's units to the system.

This means 64% of the country's electricity needs were imported, and the rest (36%) was generated locally.

Almost half (48%) of Namibia's energy requirement is supplied by load-shedding king, Eskom.

Source: The Namibian