Water discovery awaits statutory framework
The Under Secretary in the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry at the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry, Abraham Nehemia, said that the water source found in the northern part of the country, dubbed Ohangwena II, will contribute enormously to the goals of Vision 2030.
Earlier this year, the BBC reported on the discovery of an immense aquifer under the Ohangwena Region. Preliminary geological work indicated that the aquifer straddles the Namibian Angolan border and contain vast quantities of fossil water.
Section 3.7.3 of Vision 2030 outlines that Namibia is facing a shortage of water and the only permanently flowing rivers lie near to or form part of the country international boundaries. The lack of readily available fresh water in the interior remains the most important limiting factor for development. Over the Vision 2030 period, water demand in some areas of the country will increase rapidly while it is envisaged to increase only moderately in other areas.
Finding water at source is only part of the solution to solve general water requirements. Distribution and treatment are equally substantial problems which typically ask for large investments to turn natural water into potable water, or water for irrigation. The current problem of distributing the available water to where it is most needed, is exacerbated by the cost factor. Due to full exploitation of developed resources, expensive new water sources such as desalination plant and new dams will have to be developed.
However, with the discovery of the water source in Ohangwena, which is said to be the oldest water source found in the country, it is estimated that this aquifer may hold enough water to supply the northern regions for the next 400 years.
Nehemia explained that more technical work is being done on the new discovery to determine just how long and deep the water runs. He says although official reports have reached the minister’s office; it will take at least five to six years before the comprehensive technical analysis is complete. He says after Cabinet has been briefed about the water source, the ministry will make a formal statement regarding the water source.
It is reported that the fresh groundwater of Ohangwena II has a small layer of salt water sitting right on top of it, hence no one is allowed to extract water from it as it might create a hydraulic shortcut between the two waters, leading to the salty water from the upper layer contaminating the deep water or vice versa. Nehemia emphasised that even though the water source belongs to the people, government still has to place certain laws to regulate the utilization of the water so that it can be maintained properly.
The fresh-water source was found 300 meters below the arid landscape, flowing under the boundary between Angola and Namibia and contains roughly 5 billion cubic meters of water. According to the International Business Times, on the Namibian side of the border the aquifer covers an area of about 50km by 30km.