Namibia: Mutorwa Asked to Declare Drought Emergency

NAMWATER has asked the agriculture minister to declare a hydrological drought after the current water-saving methods failed to curb wastage.

This was revealed by NamWater's manager for water supply in Khomas, Koos Theron on Friday when he took the media and interested citizens on a trip to the Von Bach and Swakoppoort dams.

Theron said the water situation has deteriorated faster than anticipated, and minister John Mutorwa has been asked to declare a hydrological drought.

This means NamWater will not be able to supply water from the three dams whose levels are critically low, and that for the first time ever, the water may not last until the next rainy season.

According to Theron, NamWater recommended during a workshop about two weeks ago that all viable water supply sources as well as options like desalination and the transfer of water to the central area from the North be investigated.

Theron said transfers from the Omatako and Swakoppoort dams will stop at the end of next month, and that by either March or May next year, the Swakoppoort Dam will run dry, while the Von Bach Dam could also be dry by December this year.

NamWater warned that the country's central area is using more water than what is available on a sustainable basis.

The supply to the central area, which includes Windhoek, Okahandja and Karibib must be increased as soon as possible to avoid dire economic consequences, especially for Windhoek, Theron noted.

Last week, NamWater announced that Windhoek households should use less than 90 litres per person per day.

Over the last three months, Windhoek residents have managed to use about 20% less water than normal.

He said when dams run dry, the expected volume to reach the Von Bach Dam is only 6,3 million cubic metres per year, Okahandja 1,25 million cubic metres, Otjihase-system 0,052 million cubic metres and the Hosea Kutako International Airport 0,007 million cubic metres.

The Von Bach Dam, which also supplies users in the vicinity of Windhoek connected to the main supply grid, will have 1,55 million cubic metres, and only 3,4 million cubic metres will be left for Windhoek per year when it would normally need 23,6 million cubic metres.

Once the Von Bach Dam runs dry, the City of Windhoek will have to rely on boreholes, its water reclamation plant and a small volume of water pumped from the disused Kombat and Berg Aukas mines, Theron explained.

He said NamWater has also warned that drawing water from Windhoek's aquifer is an emergency option only, and would not be sustainable in the long term.

When all of the boreholes planned by the City of Windhoek are in operation, it is projected that the city would pump about eight million cubic metres from the aquifer - whereas it is calculated that the aquifer can supply only half-a-million cubic metres on a sustainable basis.

The three dams supplying the central areas of Namibia - including Windhoek, Okahandja and Karibib - only held 11,6% of their combined capacity yesterday, according to NamWater's latest weekly dam bulletin.

While the Swakoppoort, Von Bach and Omatako dams can store a combined 155,5 million cubic metres, the three dams held only 18,1 million cubic metres yesterday.

A week ago, the three dams had 18,5 million cubic metres, and a year ago they had 38,6 million cubic metres for use in the central area.

The Von Bach Dam is now 21,4% full (34,8% a year ago), Swakoppoort is only 10,3% of capacity (32,3% a year ago), and Omatako is 2,7% full (2,8% a year ago).

Source: The Namibian