99FM – Your Inspiration Station

Water – It’s a people problem!

Despite the random good years of rain in Namibia, there are facts that we cannot dismiss: 

  • Namibia is an arid country and as such, is prone to droughts.
  • Without significant global policy change, the world will only have 60% of the water it needs by 2030. 
  • In a warming world, droughts will expand and dry places will get drier. 

In short, we have a water crisis. 

Pierre van Rensburg from the City of Windhoek shared his insights with 99FM’s Master Your Destiny in this throwback interview. 

PVR: It’s important for people to realise how the water supply system works for the central area. Basically there’s a state-owned supply system, centred on the Von Bach Dam and operated by NamWater. The City of Windhoek, just like any other town, buys water from NamWater, the bulk supplier. This system supplies water to Windhoek, eastwards to the airport, including all the housing developments in between, to the north up to Okakarara with all the towns and villages in between, and to the west of Karibib, including the Navachab Mine, which is quite a big consumer. So everybody gets water from the same system. 

The system has a finite capacity, like any other system, and we’ve been exceeding that capacity since 2012. Regardless of us having a drought, which we have at the moment, that system would still have been failing slowly because we are overdrawing from the system. 

The Government launched a project in 2014 looking at the long-term augmentation of the system, basically, to add to the water supply system so that we can increase its threshold. That addition can only come in maybe eight to ten years’ time. In the meantime, we need to survive with what we have and that is the challenge. So even though everybody is in a race against time to augment the system and drill boreholes, those can only augment it by so much.

At the end of the day, it’s down to people using less water. And this is not just a drought thing’. The drought’s just basically exposed that the system is inadequate. When you hit the system with a drought, it will just collapse and that’s what we are seeing now. 

It’s also not a short-term drought problem. Even if we get normal inflow into the dams, we’re still drawing more water per annum from the dams than they can supply.