Namibia – Water Crisis Escalates

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Livelihoods at risk as ongoing drought puts excessive strain on the water supply system across the country.

Water supplies in Namibia have reached a critical level forcing the authorities in Windhoek Municipality to declare a water crisis on December 3rd. Poor rainfall and high temperatures have put excessive strain on the bulk water supply system and analysts have said the agricultural sector is likely to be hit hardest.

National water company NamWater stated in 2014 that it would need Namibian Dollar (N)$8 billion to supply the current 33 million cubic metres needed per annum. The company stated that it intended to extract 3.5m cubic metres from the Von Bach and Swakopport dams, but government-owned daily New Era reported that both were already overexploited and another, Omatako, which supplies water to the capital, currently has no water.

According to reports the water crisis has been exacerbated by rising populations in Windhoek; the population increased from 250,262 in 2001 to 342,141 in 2011, without an increase in the capacity of water infrastructure.

City municipality spokesperson Lydia Amutenya said in a statement on December 3rd that there was only a combined 15 percent of water left in Swakoppoort and Von Bach dams. The authorities recently set aside N$458m for the fast-track of the Neckartal Dam.

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According to a report by the Namibian Economist the government is the largest consumer of water in Windhoek and there is a significant amount of wastage due to leaks and broken pipes.

The report identified certain industries such as Namib Poultry Industries which requires around 240,000 cubic metres of fresh water per year. The Meatco feedlot in Okapuka, in Windhoek municipality, holds 9000 cattle and requires around 450 cubic metres of water per day.

The water shortage has also been affecting miners at small-scale mines in Xoboxobos, 80km from the village of Uis in Erongo region. The miners face a constant water shortage due to the remote location, having to pay around N$10,000 for water; currently the constituency office in Uis is unable to supply water for at least two months, reported New Era.

Immediate concerns resulting from the water crisis are for livelihoods; food supply, health, economic productivity and employment are all likely to be affected. The Namibian also added that there are concerns that the shortages could lead to an increase in domestic violence.

Often, within rural communities, it is the women who collect water from boreholes or water tanks, and during crisis periods they may have to travel lengthy distances to secure water, this is known to cause tension within households. In southeastern Uganda a water scarcity led to a noticed increase in domestic violence.

BBC News Online reported that over the past two years, the weak or absent rains have left at least 500,000 people needing emergency food aid. The government has launched a well-drilled programme for food deliveries to most affect areas; Namibia’s response has been admired in South Africa.

However, already one of the driest countries in the world, Namibia is being put under increasing strain and questions have arisen of how the country will cope with climate change. A report published by the government in 2011 stated that over the previous 40 years there had been a marked increase in days over 35C.

Maria Johansson from an NGO the Creative Entrepreneurs Solutions (CES) said, “the country is already importing 70% of its foodstuffs. India has already said it won’t export any pearl millet to Namibia. Currently, Namibia is buying from Zambia but what if Zambia doesn’t produce? This is a global problem.”

Find out more in the Africa Research Bulletin

SUB-SAHARAN AFRICA: Growth Slows, Food Insecurity Rises
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol.52, Issue.9, Pp.20979A–20980C
NAMIBIA: State of Emergency
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol.50, Issue.5, Pp.19982A–19982B
Namibia: Selected Economic Indicators baseline scenario, 2014–2018
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol.52, Issue.9, Pp.20998B–20998C

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