Water supply in spotlight

Careful planning and wise investment strategies are key to ensuring fair water supply to all Namibians, including informal settlements, farms and mines.

29 October 2020 | Local News

ELLANIE SMIT





WINDHOEK



Investments in water infrastructure need to be scaled up to ensure safe supply to all consumers - from households and informal settlements to mines, powerplants, irrigation schemes, livestock producers and small-scale farmers.

This is according to agriculture minister Calle Schlettwein, who said no one must be left out.

He added that the time has come for the country to be smart in its decisions on where development initiatives are located.

“Industrial development and subsequent urbanisation have to happen where water provision is the most feasible.”

Schlettwein spoke at the Economic Association of Namibia (EAN) conference last week, which took place under the theme ‘Maximising agricultural potential for Namibia’s development’.

Desalination

Desalination offers great opportunities for developments along the coast, where the ocean provides an almost limitless reservoir of water.

According to him, significant economic and commercial opportunities could open up when these large projects and programmes are properly planned, appropriately de-risked and affordably financed.

“With such a coordinated approach, this development can become a strong growth driver. Again, it is important that all stakeholders are contributing; it has to be a close and integrated cooperation between public and private entities,” the minister said.

Stressing that water is a scarce resource, Schlettwein said Namibia is the driest country in the southern African sub-continent, characterised by erratic rainfall, high evaporation rates and poor soil.

According to him, over 55% of the water demand in the country comes out of ground water aquifers, and the remainder from surface water from perennial rivers at the northern and southern borders as well as dams in the southern, central and eastern parts of Namibia.

Sustainable water provision

He said sustainable water provision is anchored in sustainable resource management of a very scarce commodity.

“This has important consequences. Environmental sustainability, but also developmental progress and sustainability, must be considered carefully. Demand for water cannot be the only determining factor,” Schlettwein said.

He pointed out that the occurrence of water resources does not correlate well with localities where demand is.

“Windhoek, our capital, is a case in point. The demand for water for human and industrial consumption in the capital far outstrips availability and must hence be augmented by sophisticated integrated water supply infrastructure, sourcing water from finite ground water aquifers and surface water sources, while moving large volumes over long distances of between 10 and 400 km. Availability and cost are pivotal factors determining developmental potential,” he said.

Water for irrigation

Schlettwein further explained that water for irrigation is mostly tapped from the perennial rivers at the northern and southern borders and the Hardap Dam.

He said an impediment for competitive agriculture is the cost of power, which is about three times more expensive than in South Africa.

The minister added that this poses serious viability and competitiveness challenges, but also presents investment opportunities in alternative power supply options.

“We need well-coordinated institutionalised water development planning capacity to ensure that available water resources are utilised optimally. Smart agriculture and smart water utilisation methods and technologies need to be roped in together with affordable financing packages for infrastructure development,” Schlettwein said.

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