N$3bn for water security

A high-level technical committee has completed the first two phases of ensuring water supply to the country.

27 May 2019 | Disasters

Cabinet's approval of over N$3 billion to fund critical water supply projects over the next five years marks a crucial step towards ensuring the medium- and long-term security of water supply to key areas in Namibia amidst increasing consumer demand on dwindling water resources and a crippling drought.

Pedro Maritz, an expert member of the technical committee (TCE) operating under the Cabinet Committee of Water Supply Security (CCWSS) established by President Hage Geingob in 2016, explained last week that on 2 April cabinet endorsed the CCWSS technical committee's recommendations to fund a number of crucial projects to “avert the collapse of vital water supply systems in key areas”.

Maritz was speaking at a water forum hosted on Tuesday night by the Scientific Society of Namibia on the current and future outlook of water supply to the country.

He said over the past three years, the team, in line with their mandate, succeeded to identify key priority areas to address the critical water supply challenges through Namibia.

He said the findings and recommendations presented to cabinet formed part of the team's second phase commitments to identify core water supply projects to ensure medium- to long-term water supply requirements for the entire country.

Maritz underlined that the first phase's goal was to address the water supply situation in Windhoek, together with foreseen shortfalls in the central area of Namibia (CAN).

The majority of activities under phase one are complete and have doubled the city's ability to abstract water from the Windhoek aquifer through an upgraded borehole network, to around 12 million cubic metres annually.

Another key achievement of phase one activities since 2016 include the upgrading of the water abstraction and supply scheme from the Karst area around Grootfontein to the Von Bach Dam, which has doubled the supply capacity from this source.

Nevertheless, Maritz cautioned that despite these achievements “we are still in trouble. It's difficult to supply this country with water”.



The next step

Cabinet's endorsement in April of the initial emergency programme together with the required N$3.094 billion direct funding over the next five years was based on findings and recommendations from the team's extensive investigations into viable options to improve medium- to longer-term water security to key centres.

The team also recommended a creation of “a special ring-fenced budget vote to ensure that any appropriation for the projects could only be used for these key undertakings”.

Maritz explained that as part of phase two's investigation and planning for the future, it was necessary to “go back to the grindstone” to ensure proper studies are undertaken to identify viable projects that would boost the country's water supply security.

He underlined that water supply is a costly business and “we wanted to make sure that we are employing the best possible solutions”.

Of 47 alternative options investigated by a team of experts to improve and update the short to medium- and long-term planning proposals for the central area of Namibia, only two were found to be viable for now and form part of the projects to be implemented over the next five years.

The first is to upgrade the feed water systems from the Gammams, Ujams and Otjomuise water treatment plants to enable and serve the building of a second direct potable water reclamation plant in Windhoek.

The second is the opening up of a water abstraction and supply system to harness the safe potential of the Karst Four area in the area around and in between Abenab and Tsumeb in the north.

The other projects to be implemented over the next five years include the Oshakati purification plant duplication and the development of the initial Ohangwena well field exploration project.

Moreover, the team will oversee the replacement of the Rundu purification plant, and the replacement of the two crucial spinal cord pipelines at the coast, the Kuiseb to Swakopmund pipeline and the Omdel to Swakopmund pipeline.

The funding is likely to be provided through a special vote vested in the agriculture, water and forestry ministry and the CCWSS with assistance of the technical experts will likely assume overall responsibility for the projects.

The N$3 billion funding will also be used to cover the final stretches the TCE's phase one initiative projects.

The majority of phase one's activities were funded directly by government through treasury, Maritz explained, to the tune of around N$300 million.

He described government's direct involvement as a major breakthrough.

“This shows a wide acceptance by government that it has a direct and important role to play in securing water supply to all communities and especially the major growth points in Namibia,” he said.

Maritz underlined that the team continues to investigate long-term water supply options, including a link to the Kavango and Kunene rivers, the coastal desalination plant and a link to dams in the south.

JANA-MARI SMITH

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