Options are running out

Existing water resources can no longer supply Windhoek in the long-term. For this reason, several experts met to advise whether the capital should receive drinking water from the Okavango River or a desalination plant in future.

12 February 2020 | Infrastructure

Swakopmund • [email protected]

“The threat to Windhoek remains a reality. We just don’t have enough water,” said NamWater’s managing director, Abraham Nehemia, during a water conference held in the capital recently.

“There are no other options to supply the central areas of the country with water.”

The reason for the recent two-day meeting of numerous experts is part of a commissioned feasibility study in which long-term solutions are researched to guarantee the water supply for the central coast and the capital. The study is being written in collaboration with the German KfW Development Dank.

At the conference, Nehemia made the urgency of a desalination plant clear: “We need it yesterday already.”

However, such an undertaking would be extremely costly, placing the cost of a desalination project at N$10 billion.

“However, we are considering all options.”

At the same event, the German ambassador to Namibia, Herbert Beck, said his government has undertaken to support Namibia in the search for ways to desalinate seawater as a reliable and sustainable source of drinking water.

“Namibia is the driest country in sub-Saharan Africa and faces unique challenges due to its water resources. Windhoek and the coastal towns of Walvis Bay and Swakopmund are under pressure to meet the increasing need for water supply at a time when resources are becoming increasingly unreliable and the use of existing resources is unsustainable over a longer period of time,” he said.

Thanks to the desalination plant close to Wlotzkasbaken, which was originally built by Orano Mining Namibia (then Areva Resources Namibia) for its own water supply for the Trekkopje mine, water supply to the coast is guaranteed. Twelve million cubic meters of drinking water is currently produced there every year. The maximum output of the plant is 20 million m³ per year.

“The desalination plant already plays an important role in the water supply,” Hilifa Mbako, chairman of the Orano supervisory board, told Allgemeine Zeitung. He estimates that 75% of the drinking water in Swakopmund, the nearby uranium mines and other industries would come from the desalination plant.

“The current desalination plant’s capacity can be increased to 45 million cubic meters, whereafter the entire coast, the mines and Windhoek can be supplied,” he added. But: “In the long-term, the construction of a second desalination plant is being considered.”

Orano is currently negotiating with NamWater for a long-term drinking water supply contract.