Water plan still far from reality

Namibia's newest dam is nearing completion but it won't be relieving the water shortage in the central area anytime soon.

23 August 2018 | Infrastructure

While central Namibia is expected to experience another drought in the coming season and water restrictions are already in place, a plan to connect all the major dams in the country has not yet been studied.

Namibian Sun reported in 2016 after an interview with then agriculture minister John Mutorwa that the Neckartal Dam would be part of an integral water master plan that would include the connection of storage dams.

This master plan, which has been in existence since 1974, consists of several strategies to ensure future water supply.

In terms of the plan the Neckartal and Naute dams in the far south would first be connected with the Hardap Dam at Mariental.

Hardap would then be connected to the Oanob Dam near Rehoboth, which would then be connected to the Von Bach Dam outside Okahandja, which supplies water to central Namibia.

With the Neckartal Dam now 99% completed and expected to be commissioned in October, it seems that the connection of the major dams will remain nothing more than a pipe dream for now.

In an interview with Namibian Sun the director of water resource management in the agriculture ministry, Maria Amakali, confirmed that there has been no progress on this specific strategy.

Asked whether any feasibility studies had been conducted, Amakali said that had not been done either.

Amakali could not confirm whether there is any timeframe for this project, saying that it is a long-term strategy.

She added, though, that the ministry has been hard at work on other strategies contained in the water master plan.

The water master plan firstly looks at sourcing water from the perennial rivers forming Namibia's borders.

The next step is to supply the central northern areas with water from the Kunene River, while developing another water-supply system from the Okavango River.

Water from the Fish River in the south will be stored in new dams such as Neckartal, and groundwater sources will be exploited in rural areas.

Desalination plants along the coast are next on the agenda, followed by the connection of the major inland dams.

Amakali said several solutions have been identified to avert a water crisis in the country.

In central Namibia the Gammams water reclamation works in Windhoek must be expanded, and a pipeline linking the capital with the Karst area in the north is being investigated.

The Von Bach, Omatako and Swakoppoort dams supply the central area. Water is also piped from the Karstland aquifers at Kombat and Berg Aukas to the Omatako Dam and then to the Von Bach Dam for purification.

Amakali said currently about 40% of Windhoek's water comes from these dams, while the rest is groundwater and reclaimed water from the treatment plant.

The central area's dams are about 29% full at the moment, in comparison to 46.5% at the same time last year.

“We are only in August and our rainy season normally only starts in November/December. People have to start realising the seriousness of the matter and change their behaviour,” said Amakali.

Other plans to bring more water to the central area involve the construction of a desalination plant at the coast and the Okavango link pipeline. Feasibility studies are under way.

A solution identified for the central coastal area is to rehabilitate and upgrade the Kuiseb boreholes to increase the volume of water from that source.

Another option is the replacement of pipelines from the Kuiseb collector system and the Omaruru aquifers.

A permanent arrangement is necessary on how the Orano desalination plant at Wlotzkasbaken will fit into the future water supply chain.

For the central northern area, identified solutions include the supply of electricity to and commissioning of the new permanent pumping station at the Calueque Dam in Angola.

The canal system from Calueque to Oshakati needs rehabilitation and the water purification works at Oshakati should be expanded.

The Ohangwena groundwater source should be gradually developed and incorporated.

At Rundu the upgrading and expansion of both the water supply scheme and purification works has been identified as crucial.

Reliable sources say that these identified solutions could cost several billion dollars.

“The objective is to ensure access of safe drinking water for all Namibians,” said Amakali.


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