Where does the water in the basin come from

The water comes from ephemeral rivers, boreholes and wells. The ephemeral rivers only flow after heavy rain in the basin. There are two major westward flowing rivers, the Ugab and Huab, as well as other smaller west flowing rivers (which only flow after exceptionally high rainfall events) such as the Uniab, Koigab, Messum and Orawab. The water courses are all characterized by dry, sandy or rocky riverbeds.

The major water supply source in the basin is groundwater. Some of the largest groundwater sources are the aquifers (an aquifer is an underground geological formation that can store water for abstraction and use) on Braunfels, which supply Khorixas and the Damara Marble aquifer supplying Otjiwarongo town with water. Most of the groundwater is provided through boreholes (mainly diesel powered, but some are solar or wind powered) and pipeline schemes. Some settlements receive water from springs (where groundwater water runs out on the surface), especially at Fransfontein and Gainatseb. Hand-dug wells along the rivers are also quite common in the basin.

Several excavation/earth dams are found in the basin which 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 loose most of the water through evaporation.

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 Local Authorities and other large consumers as well as directly to some end-users.

• Self-providers: These are commercial farmers, tour operators, mines and nature conservation (parks), subject to appropriate agreements and licences, which supply their own water.

• Water supply to rural areas: Directorate of Water Supply and Sanitation Coordination in the MAWF.

• Water supply to urban areas: Local Authorities and Regional Councils buy water from NamWater or supply water from own boreholes (such as Outjo) 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.

However the process of establishing basin management committees is currently being implemented in phases and thus the Ugab-Huab Basin Management Committee is still pending, based on demand and priority assessments.

Who uses water and how?

The supply of water from surface and groundwater resources to competing demands is prioritised in Namibia. The first 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. The water in this basin is largely used for domestic and livestock farming, however it also supports great numbers of wildlife and natural vegetation.

Specific water intensive activities in the basin are:

• Domestic purposes: The urban population of the basin is estimated at 46 000. Towns in the basin include Outjo; Otavi, Otjiwarongo and Khorixas. Surrounding settlements support approximately 3 600 people, while the rural population is estimated at 22 000. Although Terrace Bay is part of the Kunene River Basin, it receives groundwater from the Uniab River through a water supply scheme operated by NamWater.

• Subsistence and small-scale farming: goats predominant in this area but there are also a large number of cattle and a small number of sheep and donkeys. The total number of stock in the basin is 385 300.

• Large-scale commercial farming: The basin is a prime farming area, dominated by cattle and goats.

• Mining: Okuruso Fluorspar mine near Outjo makes use of groundwater resources.

The river system supports large trees, bushes and grasses which can be used by livestock and wildlife as fodder. The vegetation along the major rivers in the basin forms a linear oasis (a strip of dense vegetation growing along a watercourse) across the Namib desert.

How to use water more efficiently through WDM

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 supply services is determined by the cost to develop a water source; the distance the water has to be transported by pipeline/canal, the treatment costs, storage of treated water, pipelines 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 is 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 issues such as illegal connections and vandalism to pipelines.

Different ways to save water in urban households:

1. Schedule garden watering 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 Reducing the volume of existing toilet cisterns can be achieved 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.

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.


Water quality

The quality of water is determined by its aesthetic (colour, smell, turbidity), 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. The water is described to be highly saline when the concentration of salts dissolved in the water is high. This includes nitrates, fluorides and sulphates as well as sodium chloride and carbonates. Water with high salinity tastes salty and is usually called ‘brackish’ water.

Many people in the basin are exposed to "dirty" unsafe water from open wells.

Dirty water can have a colour (yellow, brown or black), but it can also be clear and contain invisible bacteria or chemicals that are harmful to humans and animals. Therefore it is advisable to "clean/cook" water before drinking it.

The following ways are used to clean water:

• Step 1: Remove dirt that you can see, through filtering by using a sieve wire or a dense cloth of material

• Step 2: Boil water or keep water in a clean container in the sun for two days

• Step 3: Store clean water in a clean container with a cover

The 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 the availability of acceptable quality water sources. The Geohydrology division in the MAWF is responsible for groundwater investigation and monitoring.

Water sanitation and hygiene

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 options are ecological or dry sanitation facilities. Where possible it should be left to the individual 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

Challenges of IWRM in th basin

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) 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 availability of fodder.

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.

Future of water in the basin

There are plans to build a dam at Zebraskop on the Ugab River to meet the water needs of a growing population at Khorixas and nearby communities, however this project is on hold pending an environmental assessment (investigating the environmental impacts of the proposed development and suggesting ways to avoid negative impacts as part of the planning process). Decentralisation of WDM in Khorixas could delay this requirement for a dam for decades. There is great potential for tourism in the basin, due to the presence of numerous wildlife (including rhinos, elephants, lions and giraffes), wetlands, riparian forests and exposed mountainous geology. The Brandberg mountain, Doros Crater and the Vingerklip and Skeleton Coast Park are major attractions in this basin.

General Documents