Northern water woes deepen

07 May 2019 | Agriculture

The Oshana and Omusati regional councils are set to approach the water ministry, in a bid to get NamWater to pump water to Uuvudhiya in order to recharge and rehabilitate Lake Oponona, which has become too salty for animals to drink from.

The two regions held a consultative meeting with NamWater officials last week to deliberate on pumping water from the Olushandja Dam to Uuvudhiya to recharge Lake Oponona.

During a meeting with the Namibia National Farmers Union (NNFU) and the Oshana regional council at Oshakati last week, Uuvudhiya constituency councillor Amutenya Ndahafa said cattle are refusing to drink from the lake as the water has become too salty and farmers have started driving their cattle long distances to places where there is piped water.

Lake Oponona gets its water from the Cuvelai drainage system - a network of oshanas that run from southern Angola to the Etosha salt pan, but due to poor rainfall this year, no water has reached the lake this year.

“Following better rainfall last year, the lake received good inflows of water and it was filled up. This year the area did not receive any rainfall and no water flow from the Cuvelai drainage system reached the lake.

The water has now turned too salty and the animals do not want to drink it anymore,” Ndahafa said. “Farmers in Uuvudhiya depend on Lake Oponona and Lake Yinakulu yomadhiya for water. Oponona's water is naturally salty, but once it is mixed with rainwater it becomes usable for animal consumption. We are therefore calling on NamWater to pump water to Uuvudhiya to recharge Lake Oponona.”

The Uuvudhiya area has good grazing and is home to a number of animal posts for farmers from Ohangwena, Oshikoto, Omusati and Oshana, but there is no proper water supply.

Farmers are now relying on the Oshakati-Omapale pipeline which has several water points.

Ndahafa said many farmers frustrated by the slow water flow in the pipeline have approached his office.

He said due to the high water demand in the area, the pipeline does not have the capacity to provide water to all the livestock in Uuvudhiya.

NamWater is also owed N$3.4 million by those using water from the pipeline.

Oshana governor Elia Irimari said during the meeting with NamWater officials at Outapi, NamWater updated the two governors on the current water supply situation in the north, including the rehabilitation of the damaged Calueque-Oshakati canal. “The plan to pump water to Oponona is on the cards. NamWater is currently fixing the broken canal before they consider pumping the water. We are informed that water at Oponona has turned salty and is causing animal deaths,” said Irimari.

NamWater spokesperson Johannes Shigwedha all the stakeholders involved had to agree to certain conditions before water is pumped from Olushandja to Uuvudhiya. “At the moment we have closed the pumps at the Calueque Dam in Angola and we are now drawing water from Olushandja Dam to supply its purification plants at Outapi, Ogongo and Oshakati. We had a meeting with the two governors where we addressed the water situation. The Olushandja-Uuvudhiya stream affects the Omusati and Oshana regions, so there is a need for all the stakeholders involved to come together before water is pumped,” Shigwedha said.

In July 2016, NamWater started pumping water from the Olushandja Dam, making use of a 130-kilometre-long disused canal, but until January 2017 the water did not reach Oponona.

Local farmers assisted in cleaning the canal to make the water flow faster, but the soil was too dry and simply sunk away.

ILENI NANDJATO

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