Water in the Eiseb-Epukiro basin comes from surface water collected in excavation dams in the ephemeral water courses and from ground water. The main easterly flowing water courses (commonly referred to as omiramba) are the Otjizondjou, Eiseb and Epukiro. Groundwater sources prevail in this basin and the most significant aquifer is in the Eiseb ‘Graben’ area. Several excavation/earth dams are found in the basin which collect seasonal surface water, and are primarily used for livestock water supply. Although the dams are expensive to build, the water is free for people and livestock to use. The major disadvantages of earth dams are that it can only recharge water in one place and it is not good for storing water because they lose most of the water through evaporation. The water in earth dams is usually dirty and is not safe for people to drink, unless it is filtered and boiled.
Who supplies and manages the water in the basin? The institutions responsible for water resources are divided into the following categories for ensuring efficient and effective management there of:
• Overall water resource inventory, monitoring, control, regulation and management: Directorate of Resources Management within the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry (MAWF)
• Bulkwater supply: Namibia Water Corporation (NamWater) abstracts water from primary sources (e.g. rivers, aquifers or dams) and supplies to some end-users directly.
• Self-providers: Commercial farmers, tour operators, mines and nature conservation (parks), subjected to appropriate agreements and licences, supply their own water.
• Water supply to rural areas: Directorate of Water Supply and Sanitation in the MAWF.
• Water supply to urban areas: Local Authorities and Regional Councils buy water from NamWater for delivery to end users.
The Constitution of the Republic of Namibia is the primary law for sustainable resource management and equal distribution of water to the people. Specific documents dealing with water management include the: Water and Sanitation Policy of 1993; Namibia Water Corporation (NamWater) Act of 1997; National Water Policy White Paper of 2000; Water Act 54 of 1956 and Regulations, soon to be replaced by the Water Resources Management Act (2004) [which has not yet entered into force and is currently under revision] and the Water Supply and Sanitation Sector Policy of 2008.
The Water Resources Management Act makes provision for the establishment of basin management committees (BMCs) to make sure that integrated management takes place at the basin level. The role of a BMC is to provide scope for addressing various issues affecting water resources in the basin, ranging from efficient water use to monitoring the health of the basin.
The aim of such a committee (encouraging gender equality where possible) is to equip basin communities to take full ownership of their own development (through developing a strategic basin management plan) with strong support from the relevant service providers. The committee is ideal for knowledge and experience sharing to realize a common vision for the basin, through principles such as stakeholder participation, transparency and information sharing. The process is currently being implemented in phases and thus the Eiseb-Epukiro Basin Management Committee is still pending, based on demand and priority assessments.
The supply of water from surface and groundwater resources to competing demands is prioritised in Namibia. The first priority is water for domestic purposes (including livestock water for both subsistence and commercial farming) and the second is water for economic activities such as mining, industries and irrigation. Gobabis is located in the Nossob-Auob River Basin, but obtains groundwater from the Eiseb-Epukiro River Basin.
About 33 000 people are estimated to occupy rural areas in the basin, using water mainly for domestic livestock farming purposes. The main settlements and villages include Epukiro, Otjinene, Summerdown, Gam and Rietfontein.
Water-use activities in the basin are mostly attributed to large-scale commercial farming activities, supplying water to an estimated 450 000 cattle, sheep, goats, donkeys and horses. Towards the eastern part of the basin, borehole water is difficult to access due to thick layers of Kalahari deposits, making it difficult to find water for abstraction. Some parts of the basin depend on imported water from the Karst area in the Okavango-Omatako River Basin.
Water demand management (WDM) is a very important part of IWRM. WDM aims to improve water use efficiency by reducing water losses or changing the wasteful way people use water. WDM is an approach to achieve „water use efficiency“. WDM is implemented through education and information; training; using economic and financial principles; water pricing and tariff policies (e.g. rising block tariffs) and technical measures.
The price of water is determined by the cost to develop a water source; the distance the water has to be transported by pipeline to the consumer; and the topography which determines the pumping cost to supply the water.
The consumer base and technology, i.e. household taps or pre-paid meters, that are affordable to various income groups, also have an effect on the cost of water. The ability of Local Authorities to enforce credit control measures also influences water consumption.
Municipal costs to provide a household with water and sanitation services include charges for water collection from a source; water production (treatment of raw water to drinking water standards); water delivery to the consumer and wastewater treatment and disposal. Wastewater collection and treatment contribute to hygienic environments and form part of the water chain to prevent pollution in order to ensure that good water quality and sanitation is achieved. Therefore it is essential that water consumers PAY for water services to ensure continued quality and efficient service delivery.
In rural areas, the community based water management programme under the Directorate of Water Supply and Sanitation Coordination, established mechanisms for users to pay for water services. In addition, mechanisms for transparent and targeted subsidies for those who are unable to pay for water services are being considered. Local water point committees manage local aspects of water services, preventing problems such as illegal connections and vandalism to pipelines.
Different ways to save water in urban households:
1. Schedule watering of gardens for early or late in the day (before 10 am and after 4 pm)
2. Avoid the use of hosepipes for cleaning pavements, floors or cars; instead use buckets
3. Make use of retrofits (replacement with equipment specifically designed to reduce water use) such as:
3.1 Low flush and dual flush cisterns that are being used more and more.
3.2 The volume of existing toilet cisterns can be decreased by:
*Placing a 1 to 2 litre plastic bottle filled with water, or a brick wrapped in plastic, inside the cistern. This will decrease the volume of water held within it.
* Bending the swimmer arm inside the cistern downwards so that the inflow valve is shut off when the water reaches a lower level than previously.
4. Fix or report to the municipality any moisture or leak problems immediately. Most water leaks occur from toilet cisterns. A single leaking toilet cistern can lose up to 7 000 litres of water per day in a household.
5. Explore rain water harvesting (collection and storage of rain from run-off areas such as roofs) options. Remember - the first flush of new rain should be discarded, before collection starts.
6. Keep track of water usage by regularly reading the water meters.
The quality of water is determined by its aesthetic (colour, smell, turbidity), and the chemical and bacteriological quality. There is a direct link between water quality and health and therefore it is important to be able to differentiate between safe and unsafe water sources. Water quality is determined by both natural and human-induced contaminants (pollutants) that may have found their way into the water supply. Naturally, water contains varying concentrations of dissolved oxygen and other gases, microscopic living organisms, tiny particles of dead decaying organic matter, inorganic salts and sediments. Most of the groundwater resources in the basin are of good quality, suitable for domestic, livestock and irrigation purposes. In some areas, water is reported to taste sweet, however in designated areas it is common knowledge that water is unsafe to drink, hence residents should take care.
Quality guidelines for drinking water have been set out by the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry, Water Environment Division. Groundwater monitoring is considered very important not only to understand and identify water quality trends and related indicators, but also to determine availability of good quality water sources. The Geohydrology division in the MAWF is responsible for groundwater investigation and monitoring.
Sanitation is vital for human health, generates economic benefits, contributes to dignity and social development, and protects the environment. Sanitation promotion focuses on stimulating demand for ownership and use of a physical good. Access to basic sanitation refers to access to facilities that hygienically separate human excreta from human, animal, and insect contact. Hygiene promotion focuses on changing personal behavior related to safe management of excreta, such as washing hands and disposing safely of household wastewater. Both are essential to maximize health benefits. Lack of sanitation facilities and poor hygiene cause water-borne diseases such as diarrhea, cholera, typhoid and several parasitic infections. Provision has been made for both urban and sanitation management objectives and principles in the Water and Sanitation Sector Policy of 2008, to contribute towards improved health and quality of life.
Considering that Namibia is a water-scarce country, in most (rural and urban) instances, the most affordable individual household or community sanitation option is ecological or dry sanitation facilities. Where possible it should be left to individuals to decide on the most appropriate technological and payment options as well as maintenance responsibility allocation. The institutions responsible for water sanitation and hygiene are divided into the following categories:
• Public health issues and awareness: Ministry of Health and Social Services; Directorate of Water Supply and Sanitation Coordination within the MAWF; Regional Councils and Local Authorities
• Health policies and legislation: Ministry of Health and Social Services
• Advice and research on alternative sanitation options and development: Habitat Research and Development Centre
The IWRM challenges in the basin are linked with climate variability and associated changes. In particular, the basin is highly prone to the following challenges:
• Land degradation and deforestation: The topsoil of land contains valuable nutrients for vegetation to grow. When vegetation cover or trees are destroyed (either through high population growth or overgrazing due to high livestock concentrations in an area) the land becomes vulnerable and results in topsoil being easily blown away by wind; increased run-off (rainwater not infiltrating in the soil) and therefore causes loss of agricultural productivity (soil fertility).
• Bush encroachment: Invader bushes are the highest single consumer of groundwater, with detrimental long-term consequences on the sustainability of groundwater resources and fodder availability.
Due to the arid and highly variable climate in Namibia, water resource managers and users have to focus on improving efficiency of water resource use through improvement of water demand management practices.
The water supply development potential in the basin is limited although new groundwater sources are being explored in the Eiseb Graben in the Gam area. A potential water demand increase is envisaged with the planned expansion of the Trans Kalahari Highway, opening up development opportunities in the future.