Running out of options

Prompted by diminishing water-supply options, the agriculture ministry is looking into supplying desalinated water to the central areas of the country.

30 January 2020 | Local News

The ministry of agriculture is to study the potential of supplying desalinated water to the central area, including Windhoek and Okahandja.

Part of the project will also study the potential of supplying the central areas with water from the Okavango River, NamWater CEO Abraham Nehemia said yesterday.

The study was prompted by the diminishing water-supply options for the central areas caused by dwindling rainfall.

“The study is looking at addressing the demand of water. We need to do a study to assess how much water will be needed,” said Nehemia.

According to him, Windhoek and surrounding areas are running out of water-supply options.

“The threat for Windhoek and the central areas is still there. We do not have sufficient water,” he said.

Nehemia did not say whether the government would build new desalination plants or acquire the existing Erongo desalination plant which currently supplies water to Walvis Bay, Arandis and Swakopmund, as well as the Husab and Rössing uranium mines.

“We are looking at all possible solutions. We are looking at this holistically. The [Erongo] plant will be part of the study,” said Nehemia.

The project is urgent, he indicated. “We want the plant[s] as in yesterday.”

The estimated cost of the project is upwards of N$10 billion, he said.

On the potential cost implications for end users, Nehemia said the study would also look at incorporating other water-supply sources such as the Omdel Dam, aquifers and boreholes to cut costs.

Referring to water from the Okavango River, Nehemia said Botswana and Angola, with which Namibia shares that river, had been informed about plans to tap into that resource.

Technical studies have been completed and shared with those countries and they have been given time to assess them. According to Nehemia, potential water supply from the Okavango River would be limited if the government chose to go with that option.

University of Namibia academic Frank Kavishe last year said three desalination plants would be sufficient.

Kavishe said water for household and agricultural purposes should not be a challenge for Namibia, as the country has a 1 500-kilometre coastline to support three desalination plants.

“One plant should be between Swakopmund and Henties Bay to supply water to the central areas of Namibia, including Windhoek. Another one at the mouth of the Kunene River can supply water to northern Namibia,” he said.

A third, he said, should be located at Lüderitz to supply southern Namibia.

He recommended that all these plants should be powered by a combination of solar photovoltaic, concentrate solar, wind and ocean wave energy.

“The establishment of these desalination plants would allow Namibia to adapt to climate change by providing a sustainable and reliable water source in the midst of recurrent drought, while also mitigating against climate change by increasing dependency on clean renewable energy with its associated zero carbon emissions,” Kavishe said.

The study is being funded by the German KfW Bank.


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