…Namibia key in finding ways out of water crisis
By Hilary Mare
OVER the past decade, concerns and wide recognition about drought events and water scarcity have grown across the Sub Saharan Region.
The year 2013 will always be remembered by Namibian farmers as one of the toughest and most challenging periods in 30 years due to the debilitating and devastating drought still threatening the agricultural sector and the country’s food security.
Like other hazards, the impacts of drought span economic, environmental and social sectors and can be reduced through mitigation and preparedness. Because droughts are a normal part of climate variability for virtually all regions, it is important to develop plans to deal with these extended periods of water shortage in a timely, systematic manner as they evolve.
“It is critical that we interrogate the issue of how best we can insure our communities and farmers so that they can cope and bounce back from drought events. This is where we need the private sector and our international partners on board. The burden of drought must not only fall on Governments – ipso facto, in Namibia our economy and businesses will no longer be able to operate if the country runs dry. This situation places responsibilities and obligations on all of us. We all have a role to play – from civil society to the private sector; including the young and the old. Once again I call upon all of us to embrace the spirit of Harambee. Let us pull in the same direction – the same direction towards a more drought prepared and drought resilient Africa; for it has been said that: where there is unity, there is always victory.
“This year we have estimated that the Namibian Government needs to raise N$659 million (approximately US$48 million) for our drought relief programme in order to allow the country to continue distributing food to the needy and vulnerable. In Southern Africa alone, an estimated US$3 billion is required to assist countries affected by drought. These are significant sums of money and we need the support and solidarity of the international community in order to ensure that lives are saved and that our critical short term needs are met.
“It is important that we distinguish between our short term and long term needs. Enhancing our drought preparedness and resilience to drought over the long term will reduce the expenditures associated with providing emergency relief and response measures and in so doing; we will guarantee the long term sustainability of these programs,” President Hage Geingob said last year in view of the stance Namibia and the region must take to avert a water related crisis.
Essentially and in response and of great importance to the region, from September 12 to 14, 2017, local and international representatives from the environmental sector will meet at the Johannesburg Expo Centre for the second edition of IFAT Africa. The follow-up event to IFAT Environmental Technology Forum Africa, which took place for the first time in 2015, will focus on water, sewage, refuse and recycling.
“The current water crisis is one of the most serious environmental problems facing Southern Africa,” says Stefan Rummel, Managing Director of Messe München. “With IFAT Africa, we offer a platform for discussing solutions to these problems and presenting the relevant technologies.”
The south of the continent has been suffering for many months from a severe drought, 2015 was the driest year in Namibia since weather records began in 1904. This further increases the pressure which is already on the water supply due to rapid population growth and continuing urbanisation.
Making even greater use of surface water
Infrastructure development should assist in alleviating problems. As Germany Trade & Invest (GTAI) reported, the South African Department of Water and Sanitation has identified relevant projects with an investment volume of R2.7 trillion (over €178 billion) to be carried out between now and 2035.
The lion’s share of the projects will focus on greater use of surface water, which is already under considerable pressure. This will require, among other things, new dams, pumping stations, pipelines and treatment facilities.
South Africa’s neighbours also want to and must invest in their water infrastructure. Botswana, for example, is planning a pipeline project. By 2019, 1.4 billion Botswana pula (over €131 million) will be spent on improving the
North-South Carrier which will pump water from the newly built Dikgatlong dam over 350 km as far as Gaborone.
The groundwater reserves in Southern Africa will also play a key role in the future water supply. Namibia is currently carrying out research into the newly discovered Ohangwena II aquifer. If the planned development project goes ahead, it will create business opportunities for modern drilling technologies, special materials for deep wells and filtering systems. However, there are natural factors in South Africa and its neighbouring countries which in many cases prevent making greater use of the groundwater.
For example, the relevant reservoirs are often very deep and of a relatively poor quality which means that complex preparatory work needs to be carried out before they are used.
The thirsting countries are also increasingly looking at the ocean. According to the GTAI, three complete feasibility studies for desalination plants for the South African cities of Cape Town, Durban and Port Elizabeth have already been submitted. In the longer term, desalination plants could provide around a tenth of the water supply in the Cape.
Namibia is also planning a modern desalination plant subsidised by the KfW Development Bank. A feasibility study will be produced by the end of 2018.
Reducing water losses
In addition to developing new supply channels, using precious water resources more economically and intelligently will be crucial. In South Africa, crumbling pipeline systems and illegal water extraction mean that huge amounts of drinking water are lost. In certain areas, 70 percent of the amount originally provided can be lost in this way. The country’s larger cities are therefore increasingly on the lookout for systems to detect leaks and for modern pressure management. This will also generate a need for new pumps, valves and water metres.
To prevent half of the water from evaporating in reservoirs, more water will be stored in future underground in Namibia. In years with heavy rainfall, surface water collected from the three-dam system will be stored in the Windhoek Aquifer so that it can then be used during periods of drought.
According to GTAI, the ‘Windhoek Managed Aquifer Recharge Scheme’ will cost around N$700 million (over €48 million) and will require drilling systems, pumps, pipelines, filtering systems, etc.
Reusing waste water
A further element in the combination of measures against drought in Southern Africa is the reuse of (partially) treated waste water wherever possible. Potential users of this service water include not only agriculture and industrial companies but also municipal institutions, offices and residential buildings. According to the GTAI’s observations, industry in Namibia is investing in water recycling systems with their own water treatment facilities, in part due to pressure from restrictions imposed by the state. And in South Africa, there will be promising business opportunities for small-scale treatment systems as part of decentralised structures.
Confidente. Lifting the Lid. Copyright © 2015