Ensuring a sustainable coastal water supply

Erongo Water Forum established

31 December 2018 | Local News

Lilo Nilenge, chairperson of management committee; “It is also necessary to review the role that the Erongo Water Forum will play in the future development and maintenance of the water infrastructure at the coast.”

Leandrea Louw - A governmental technical committee has shot down a proposal by the Erongo Water Forum (EWF) to acquire the current Areva desalination plant or to construct a new one with distribution pipelines to improve the water supply to the region under a new business utility with a form of ownership by local authorities.

The committee informed the EWF which intended to form a new business utility owned by local authorities in August 2017 that such a proposal will dilute the efforts and business of the current bulk water supplier NamWater at the coast.

The EWF, which was initiated by the office of the governor with the town councils of Henties Bay, Swakopmund, Walvis Bay and Arandis as members, then proposed a separate plant/system which will mainly supply water for agricultural actives planned for the future and potable water to smaller communities, with the aim of alleviating poverty levels in the region.

This proposal was recently discussed by a technical committee of experts (TCE) and it was decided to include such an investigation into the German Development Bank KfW study which looked at the water demand and security of supply for the central coastal area.

The study by a consultant is earmarked to commence in early 2019. Due to the vastness of the area and costs of such a proposed green scheme project, it will take at least a few years to bring it to fruition, and thus, it will only be discussed after establishing the feasibility of the envisioned project.

The Walvis Bay municipal council in principle approved a five-year infrastructure proposal plan with Namwater. Tariffs were proposed by NamWater for the next five years in order to ensure sustainable water supply to the coastal towns in the Erongo Region.

Lilo Niilenge, the chairperson of the management committee (MC) of the municipality of Walvis Bay explained that the EWF received notice letters from NamWater on the yearly tariff increases, with the latest kicking off at the beginning of December 2018.

“A request was made to NamWater to demonstrate the makeup of the tariff structure to enable EWF members to understand the content and/or legitimacy of the proposed increase.”

The EWF technical representatives subsequently met with NamWater’s technical representatives (engineers, planners, legal and hydrologists) to discuss the makeup of the tariff structures, including the permit granted to extract more water from the Kuiseb aquifer to off-set the historical over-abstraction of the Omdel aquifer.

Although the authority to extract more water was granted, extra boreholes need to be drilled and the infrastructure must be installed to be able to extract the higher quota. This will be achieved over the next few years, starting in 2019, with an initial investment of N$12 million. The new borehole infrastructure capacity for the Kuiseb aquifer, is estimated to be around N$130 million.

The replacement of old infrastructure (pipes, pumps, electrical equipment, reservoirs) make up the bulk of the costs earmarked for the next few years.

The tariffs as proposed are based on the infrastructure upgrades, replacements and new developments for the next five years. The extra infrastructure capacity from the new higher-yield permit needs to be installed as a priority to reduce the tariffs or cost to the towns when the blended rate which is an interest rate charged on a loan that represents the combination of a previous rate and a new rate is applied.

In the meantime, NamWater will also charge the blended rate when the towns consume more than what the current permitted yield capacity allows for.

“For the EWF to pursue the development of water infrastructure without the active involvement of NamWater and the government, may not yield the desired results to ensure water sustainability and affordability. In fact, it may just have the opposite effect to create more conflict and higher costs.”

Consultations were thus initiated with NamWater to better understand the current water infrastructure status and future plans for the region.

The EWF technical committee subsequently recommended that a review of the role that forum will play in the future development and maintenance of the water infrastructure at the coast was needed.

During consultations with NamWater on its proposed Five Year Capital Infrastructure Development and Upgrade Plan, a number of principles were considered and recommendations tabled.

These included that NamWater must supply cost breakdowns for the next five years tied to a long-term payment obligation. Due to the fact that local authorities at the coast cannot deliver water at the given costs and time as calculated by NamWater, an agreement must be reached which remains open for input by the EWF.

Costs calculated by NamWater must be audited by a qualified third party as the effects of tariffs are linked to long-term financial obligations by NamWater and its clients. NamWater should also appoint an auditor with input of EWF members and pay for this service.

Principles detailing the allocation of portions (quotas) of water should form part of the third-party audit and be incorporated into the annual supply agreements.