Diversified utilisation of Cuvelai water covered by researchers in book format
The German researchers behind the CuveWaters project in Namibia recently made their results available in a more popular format, publishing a compendium based on the contributions from 25 authors, as a single printed reference work.
The CuveWaters project ran from 2004 to 2015 focussing on water use from multiple sources in the Cuvelai drainage system that originate in Angola before terminating in Lake Oponono and Etosha in the southern part of Owamboland.
The Cuvelai consists of five major drainage lines, two in the east crossing the Ohangwena and Oshikoto regions ending in the Etosha pan, and three in the west running through the Oshana and Omusati regions, before reaching a central collector known as Lake Opono. This is a very large seasonal floodpan, the overflow of which may also reach the Etosha pan in very wet years.
The drainage lines are all ephemeral running only in the second half of the rain season as a slow perculation that moves north to south, from Angola to Etosha. Along the way, this migrating water feeds a complex system of so-called eeshona, small to medium inter-connected pans that flood only once a year during the efundja, the local term for the annual intrusion of flood water.
The goal of the CuveWaters project was to identify applicable harvesting and storage techniques to enable the population in the four O regions to utilise the available natural water in such a way that it can be used throughout the year. The project ran under the auspices of the Institute for Socio-Ecological Development (ISOE) in close collaboration with the Technical University of Darmstadt, and working together with local partners, the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry, the Outapi Town Council and the Desert Research Foundation of Namibia.
The book is published under the title “CuveWaters: Integrated Water Resources Management in Central Northern Namibia (Cuvelai Basin) in the SADC region.” The project work was transdisciplinary, described by the authors as indicative of how science, technology and society could be linked to establish a so-called multi-resource mix for water use to sustainably improve people’s living conditions in the project area.
The book traces an ideal-typical transdisciplinary research protocol: From the creation of a joint research object to the development and piloting of individual technologies, to the communication and dissemination of an Integrated Water Resources Management system.
Following the proposed integrated research protocol, the CuveWaters project has succeeded in making water of different qualities available for various purposes, simultaneously contributing to food security, waste water disposal, and improved hygiene.
The technological solutions which were identified and implemented together with the Namibian partners include systems for rain water and flood water harvesting which provide irrigation water for agricultural crops so that cereals and vegetables can be cultivated all year round.
In addition, plants for solar-coupled groundwater desalination and a new energy-efficient sanitary and waste water concept with subsequent water re-use were developed. As a result, about 1500 inhabitants of Outapi now have access to ablution with showers and toilets.
“The transdisciplinary research approach was developed to combine the knowledge of different disciplines while including the experience of those affected in practice, so that solutions appropriate to their needs can be found and also be socially anchored. In order to be able to continue operating the facilities independently, residents were for example trained in the construction, operation and maintenance of water harvesting facilities. Strengthening the local population’s self-responsibility through “capacity development” while simultaneously developing concepts for so-called “good governance” at the institutional side, was part of the project. The aim was to achieve a long-term maintenance of the structures that had been established,” stated the authors.
“The CuveWaters book clearly indicates to researchers, experts and practitioners alike how technological and social innovations have to go hand in hand if the common goal of sustainable water supply and waste water disposal is to be achieved” said Stefan Liehr, ISOE water researcher and co-editor of the book.
Stefan Liehr, Johanna Kramm, Alexander Jokisch & Katharina Müller (ed.) (2018): Integrated Water Resources Management in Water-scarce Regions: Water Harvesting, Groundwater Desalination and Water Reuse in Namibia. IWA Publishing.