Need for desalination no more debatable – water shortage for coast grows rapidly

During the information sharing and consultative meeting about the water supply to the coastal areas of Namibia with stakeholders in Swakopmund yesterday, the Minister of Agriculture, Water and Forestry, Mr John Mutorwa, made it clear that the national water utility Namwater is running out of sufficient water for the central coastal region. The only future for the coastal towns lies in the desalination of seawater.

According to Mutorwa the main objective of the meeting was to provide an overall plan and strategies on how to deal with the issue of water supply both in the short, medium and long term and to provide and seek some information with regard to the situation of water in Erongo and to see what it is that the government is planning to do for the coastal areas of Erongo Region. Mutorwa further said that the issue is exasperated due to the draught. As a consequence the coast is confronted with the question of unavailability of resources. “Let’s look at the coast. The two important sources for water supply, the Kuiseb aquifer and the Omdel aquifer, are both experiencing a lot of pressure, which means the water supply is depleted – not completely, but we are getting there and we can’t count on the rain.”
Mutorwa emphasized that the issue of water supply to the coast has been on the government agenda and is regarded as crucial. According to the Harambee Prosperity Plan, the focus for the coast lies on desalination by using renewable energy (solar and wind) to meet increased demand for water at the coast. As a result of uranium mining activities government will be constructing a new desalination plant by the end of the middle term expenditure framework period, which is anticipated for the 2018/19 financial year. “The availability of resources (money) is a different matter, but the political commitment of government is very clear. We now know that for the coast, even if we get a lot of rain at the end of the day, the issue of desalination is an option that is no more debatable. Government has taken the decision on the basis of studies and facts and at the end of the day desalination of seawater for the coast is the only way to go,” he said. The Minister added that this will also “eventually be for the interior of the country.”
Mutorwa also said the issue of desalination has always been a discussion, but every time it was postponed due to the costs involved. “They always said it is too expensive, but now due to climatic changes and the draught in this year the subject cannot be postponed anymore,” he said; and added: “Going forward it is the target to address water security for the coastal towns by amending water supply in order to meet the growing demand of the mining sector because we know all the very important sectors contributing to the Namibian economy are at the coast”.
Speaking on the issue of the Areva desalination plant Mutorwa said the decision of constructing a desalination plant was taken during a cabinet meeting in July 2015, even though the Areva Desalination Plant was inaugurated in 2009 and through that the government put together what they call the National Desalination Task Force to spearhead this consisting of senior officials of the government.
Caption: Minister of Agriculture, Water and Forestry John Mutorwa

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