Windhoek water supply on brink of failure

05 October 2016 | Disasters

Water savings plunged from 32% to 24% in recent weeks, prompting the City of Windhoek to once again plead with residents to take the water crisis seriously and increase savings to reach the 40% target.

“We expected people to behave otherwise, but what we are observing is really quite discouraging,” City of Windhoek spokesperson Joshua Amukugo said on Monday.

He said the refusal of many in the city to save water is “disappointing and scary” and emphasised that the municipality’s strategy for weathering the storm is heavily dependent on the cooperation of all residents.

Amukugo warned that the water crisis has not abated, but is facing its most serious challenge yet, as the dams are expected to run dry soon.

“Given the current water crisis with the traditional supply system on the brink of failing, the supply to Windhoek is in a very precarious situation.”

The Omatako Dam has run dry, with the Swakoppoort measuring approximately 7.8% of capacity and the Von Bach Dam 15.8%. Overall the dams are at 8.1% capacity, compared to 18.7% last year.

Once the dams run dry, the only water supply will be from the municipality’s boreholes (46%), reclaimed water (16%) and only 8% from NamWater. Those sources can only supply about a third of the city’s normal water usage.

Amukugo said the 40% water saving target set for residents, including businesses and the public sector, is “critical to get us through to the next rainy season”.

The bulk of the supply will be sourced from the aquifer, which holds “sufficient water to sustain the city for between two and three years in the absence of the NamWater supply system, and not 13 years as reported,” Amukugo added.

Nevertheless, much needs to be done in order to harvest the groundwater.

“The City of Windhoek is currently actively developing the Windhoek aquifer as the only viable source to sustain the city through the drought. The City is increasing the potential for abstraction from this source to meet the emergency demand brought on as a result of the failure of the normal supply system,” Amukugo said.

However, this is “by no means considered a sustainable (long-term) supply solution and is only implemented as an emergency action to fight the effects of the devastating drought currently experienced.”

The City clarified that the aquifer currently shows a high water table as a result of recharge activities implemented between 2009 and 2011.

The water in the aquifer “has been stored as an emergency supply” and exceptional rains experienced in the previous decade replenished it at an above-normal rate.

According to the City, the plan is to continue to develop the aquifer as a “full backup supply for emergencies” over the next years and to continue to recharge it when sufficient water is available.

The municipality and some members of the public blame the steep decline in water savings on recent media reports in which the minister of agriculture, water and forestry, John Mutorwa, said the city would not run dry because it had alternative water resources.

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