Namibia faces 'high water stress'

18 April 2019 | Disasters

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Namibia, which is already challenged by prolonged droughts and severe water shortages in some areas, has been identified as one of the countries that will face high water stress by 2040.

According to a report by international not-for-profit organisation WaterAid, physical water scarcity is getting worse, exacerbated by the growing demand on water resources by climate and population changes.

By 2040 it is predicted that 33 countries are likely to face extremely high water stress, while many other countries including Namibia and most of southern Africa, India, China, the United States and Australia will face high water stress.

Over the past years, Namibia's water sector has increasingly come under pressure. Demand for water has steadily increased driven by increased urbanisation, mining operations, the construction sector and developments in tourism and agriculture.

According to a 2016 report by the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) Namibia's total estimated renewable freshwater water resources were around 600 million cubic metres per year - a pitiful amount that will be overexploited at current rates of demand, with projected demand for 2025 anticipated at 635 million cubic metres. Namibia's dams are currently 29.6% full, while last year this time they were 44% full.

Windhoek's water consumption in 1990 was estimated at 15 million cubic metres per year and the city's growth at 3.5%. It was calculated that groundwater reserves together with the surface water used through the pipeline supply system was sufficient for residents. However, since the capital grew at a rate of 4.3%, Windhoek was classified as a water stressed city.

Its current water abstraction is estimated at about 40 million cubic metres per year, which is expected to double within the next 30 years.

The WaterAid report says globally about 4 billion people in the world live in physically water-scarce areas and 844 million do not have access to clean water close to home.

“The world's water crisis is getting worse, yet globally we use six times as much water today as we did 100 years ago, driven by population growth and changes in diets and consumer habits.” It says the progress made since 2000 to deliver clean water to 1.5 billion people around the world, is now under threat. “The human right to water must take priority ahead of other competing demands.

“It is important that production is made sustainable, so that it does not impede the day-to-day ability of people to get clean water for their basic needs.” The report calls for everyone, everywhere to have secure access to water when and where they need it by 2030. According to the report progress made to provide basic household access to water in Namibia from 2000 to 2015 increased from 77% to 79%.

The report called on governments to prioritise the human right to clean water, ensure that effective regulations and monitoring systems are in place for sustainable water use and safely manage sanitation, as well as recognise the true value of water.

It said this meant that limits should be imposed on the amount of water extracted from aquifers for irrigation or manufacturing and the monitoring of the impact of production on shared aquifers to help ward off shortages.

“It means ensuring the safe separation and treatment of human waste to prevent water contamination. And it also means supporting producers to change inefficient water use practices and providing incentives for companies to recycle water, harvest rainwater, irrigate more efficiently and reduce the amount of water used in production.” According to the report the focus should be on reducing water consumption in areas of greatest shortage, rather than setting general targets.