Water everywhere, but not a drop to drink

Kalahari Ohangwena Aquifer yet untapped

29 May 2019 | Disasters

Despite the fact that Ohangwena has a massive aquifer estimated to hold around 20 billion cubic metres of fresh water, inhabitants of the Omundaungilo, Oshikunde, Okongo and Epembe constituencies are consuming water that is unfit for human consumption.

Questions are also being asked about why NamWater feels the need to construct a N$5.65 million defluoridation treatment plant at Eenhana, while the Kalahari Ohangwena Aquifer (KOH) research team has established there is fresh water in the Omhalapapa area near the Angolan border, which offers a direct supply without any treatment needed.

NamWater has already invested millions in drilling three boreholes at Eenhana to supply water to the residents, but this water is high in fluoride.

It is currently being mixed with pipeline water before being consumed, while the KOH research team has reported they are supplying Omundaungilo and the surrounding areas with freshwater directly from two boreholes at Omhalapapa, which is about 40 kilometres north-east of Eenhana.

Since 2007, the Federal Institute for Geoscience and Natural Resources (BGR), the department of water affairs and NamWater have been testing the Kalahari Ohangwena Aquifer, which consists of the KOH-2 aquifer that contains freshwater, which lies below the KOH-1 aquifer, which contains salty water.

The aquifer was discovered in 2006, and forms part of the Cuvelai-Etosha Basin. On Monday, the KOH team held a research closing ceremony. During the ceremony, BGR project manager Martin Quinger said the research and testing phase was successful and the water is ready to be used.

“We have two methods on how we are going to use this water for the public consumption. One is direct rural supply from the boreholes at Omhalapapa close to Omundaungilo. This place is close to Angola and the water quality in the area is 100% perfect for direct supply. The other option is the piped water scheme here in Eenhana where NamWater has invested a lot of money to put quality infrastructure (in place) that is already supplying water to the residents,” said Quinger.

“The good thing is that at Omhalapapa the freshwater level is on a shallow level and even the KOH-1 aquifer contains fresh water. In Eenhana the water contains high fluoride content, which can be a problem if people consume such water for a very longer period.” Quinger said currently there are two borehole at Omhalapapa supplying water directly to the community, the KOH-1 which was installed in 2009, supplying Omhalapapa and the surrounding villages, and the KOH-2 monitoring borehole, which was installed in 2012, which is supplying Omundaungilo.

Borehole that was installed at Omundaungilo is reported to be useless due to the high salt content.

According to NamWater CEO and former deputy executive director in the agriculture ministry, Abraham Nehemia, NamWater is busy with the implementation of a master plan that will determine how water from their Eenhana plant will be used, while the construction of defluoridation treatment plant at Eenhana has commenced.

Nehemia said the plant will reduce the fluoride content of the water before they supply it to residents.

“We cannot directly supply residents with the water from the aquifer because it contains a high fluoride content. At the moment we are mixing the water with piped water that Eenhana gets from Oshakati water treatment plant via the Oshakati-Omakango-Omafo pipeline,” Nehemia said.

The plant, which is expected to be completed by September this year, is being constructed with grants to the tune of N$5.65 million provided by Germany through the BGR.

Ohangwena governor Usko Nghaamwa said all alternatives to provide water need to be treated as emergency, because the region is in crisis while seated on a water source.

Deputy agriculture minister Anna Shiweda, however, said: “Namibians need to know that and understand that we need to search for additional water sources elsewhere. The Ohangwena aquifer will not be the solution to the country's water crisis, but it is just one of the solutions.”

ILENI NANDJATO