Worst drought since 1930

Low rainfall breaks records

23 May 2019 | Disasters

Low rainfall in the Khomas Region has plunged the area around Windhoek into the second worst drought in a century.

Several other regions are also in the grips of a severe drought.

A report issued by the Namibia Meteorological Service (NMS) states that the rainfall received in the Khomas Region this year was less than a third of the average seasonal rainfall.

As a result, this is the “worst drought for the Windhoek area on record over the past century, only surpassed by the 1929/30 rainfall season,” Simon Dirkse of NMS sums up.

Last week, the City of Windhoek scaled up its water savings target to a mandatory 15% and introduced new water restrictions.

The NMS report underlines that low rainfall patterns were observed in most regions of the country in the past rainy season.

Record-breaking low rainfall was received in the western parts of Zambezi, several parts of the two Kavango regions and the southern regions of Namibia.

The bulk of the Erongo, Otjozondjupa and Omaheke regions received less than 40% of their average seasonal rainfall, Dirkse says.

Only small pockets and individual farms in eastern Erongo, western Omaheke and the Otjiwarongo district received 70% of the expected seasonal rainfall.

Data for the western parts of the Zambezi Region show the area is experiencing one of its worst droughts in 59 years, comparable only to the 1964/5 and 2002/03 seasons.

The eastern parts of the Zambezi Region received between 60% and 80% of its average rainfall between October and April.

And, while rainfall performance in the Kavango regions initially looked promising with above-normal rainfall recorded by the end of December, the deterioration since then was marked, with “most rainfall reporting stations receiving below-normal rainfall” between January and the end of April.

Some areas in the Kavango regions did experience overall good rainfall, including Mashare which received 513 mm (91% of its seasonal average), followed by Ruuga with 351.2 mm (65% of its seasonal average). Rundu and Ndonga-Linena received 59% and 47% respectively of their annual average rainfall.

“The rest of the places received less than 45% of their seasonal rainfall,” the report states.

Dirkse concludes that for the two Kavango regions it is the seventh worst rainy season since 1960/61. The 1964/65 season was the driest ever measured in the region.

Meanwhile, the bulk of the north-central regions - Ohangwena, Oshana, Omusati and Oshikoto - received only one-third of their average seasonal rainfall from October last year to April this year.

The eastern part of the Ohangwena Region is the best off, having received around 80% of its seasonal rainfall.

“The dry conditions started biting these regions from the onset of rains,” Dirkse notes, adding that the situation continued throughout the season, with below normal rainfall reported every month until the end of April.

Most parts of the Kunene Region received less than one-third of their average seasonal rainfall.

The southern parts of the Kunene Region received close to 50% of their seasonal rainfall but more than half of that, 55%, was recorded over a few days in October.

The latest dam bulletin issued on Monday indicates that the total level of the three central dams supplying the capital city is currently at 18.8%, compared to 35.1% last year.

Earlier this month, President Hage Geingob declared the drought a national emergency.

JANA-MARI SMITH