Desalination plants coming

Brackish groundwater will be treated for dehydrated southern villages.

30 August 2019 | Local News

NamWater plans to set up desalination plants for the small southern communities at Grünau and Bethanie, where groundwater supplies are too brackish for consumption.

Construction of the desalination plants at both settlements is envisaged to start early next year, with the plants expected to be in operation by the middle of 2020.

The desalination plants are intended to bring groundwater, which is high in salt concentration in the area, to drinking water quality that is in compliance with national quality standards. The two projects are sponsored through a grant from the Adaptation Fund, which is a US-based funding agency operating under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. The plants will be implemented as pilot projects to test the technology, and to assess whether similar ones can be installed elsewhere.

According to the environmental and social impact assessment (ESIA) reports prepared by NamWater and KPM Environmental Consulting, the proposed desalination process is to pass the groundwater through a reverse osmosis membrane at high pressure to remove the fluorides and other elements from the water. Solar panels will be used to supply the plants with energy. The wastewater from the process will be high in salt concentration, but is not considered to be hazardous. Some of the wastewater will be recycled into the treatment system, and the final wastewater will be passed through pipes into evaporation ponds located next to the plants.



Tariff increase concerns

During the consultation processes at the settlements, where unemployment is high, communities expressed concern that the projects might bring about unaffordable tariff increases.

The ESIA reports indicate that the operational cost of treating the water at the proposed desalination plants will be more expensive than the existing water supply process.

However, such fears are allayed for now. The Adaptation Fund will sponsor the projects until mid-2020, during which time the tariffs will not increase “by more than the typical increases in tariffs across Namibia”.

After the middle of 2020, NamWater will work with the ministry of agriculture, water and forestry to plan tariff levels that include a system of subsidies.

The agriculture ministry is responsible for any tariff changes proposed by NamWater. Tariff levels are approved by cabinet.



CATHERINE SASMAN

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