New desalination plant for Namibia

06 June 2021 | Infrastructure

Calle Schlettwein; Minister; “…no longer merely a potential but a reality…”

Swakopmund

“Another desalination plant for Namibia is no longer merely a potential, but a reality as government will build such a facility,” minister of Agriculture, Water and Land Reform (AWLR) Calle Schlettwein said on the outskirts of Swakopmund on Saturday.

Schlettwein was officiating the ground-breaking of the Kuiseb Collector 2 pipeline between Schwartzekuppe and Swakopmund.

He said that government has taken a principled decision to build a new desalination plant over and above the one which is already in existence.

“The feasibility study for the construction of a new desalination plant has been completed and shows that an additional desalination plant is viable and needed. A site has already been identified for this large project that needs resourcing. We believe that through a public private partnership through which private sector capital can be leveraged to fund the construction process while keeping NamWater the owner of the source, which is the water that will be produced.”

Challenges

Schlettwein said that there are two problems that go with the construction of a desalination plant: Firstly, that it requires much energy to desalinate water, and secondly that, since the ocean is at the lowest point of the country, much power is needed to pump water inland which comes at considerable cost.

Dire situation

The minister, who paid a visit of the planned desalination plant site located between Swakopmund and Henties Bay on Saturday, said the move is aimed at resolving water production constraints in the region in addition to that of the central area of the country.

“We are running into a situation where resources that we tapped into to satisfy the water need are becoming limited. This requires from NamWater to go further and further away from Windhoek to tap into additional resources. We compared the cost for development in Windhoek to that of for instance the coast. A good argument to be made is that many industries can be settled at the coast where there is a limitless water resource that can be desalinated.”

Coastal move

Schlettwein pointed out that such a move will mean a shift of development to the coast.

“Following the lines of creating Walvis Bay and Swakopmund as the logistic hubs of not only Namibia but for the SADC hinterland brings about a must for a desalination plant at the coast. It will ensure that Namibia is ahead of the curve, enabling limitless provision of water for potential investors who do not react on promises but on factual situations.”

The minister said that the construction of a new desalination plant has generated much discussion.

“Everyone is of the opinion that Namibia is a dry country with limited resources. However, we have an unlimited resource with the ocean right on our doorstep. Water from the ocean is not palatable, so it must be desalinated to be made fit for human consumption. It must also be transported from the coast to wherever it is needed.”

Existing plant

Located 35km north of Swakopmund, the Erongo desalination plant is the largest reverse osmosis seawater desalination plant in southern Africa.

Originally built by Orano (then Areva Resources Namibia) to supply water to its Trekkopje Mine near Arandis, the plant has become an important contributor to the overall supply of the potable water delivery system managed by NamWater.

This plant currently supplies NamWater with 12 million cubic meters of water a year.

This water is mostly sold to mines and industry located outside the coastal towns. It has the short-term capacity of 20 million cubic meters per year that can be increased to 45 million cubic meters a year over the medium to long term.

According to NamWater, the Erongo region’s water demands for the communities and the mines currently stands at about 20 million cubic meters per annum.

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