Nam water recycling


Windhoek – Delegates to the 9th International Water Association’s (IWA) have praised the City of Windhoek for recycling sewerage into potable water, saying it is one of the most important methods of sustainable water management.

Stakeholders in the water sector, including consumers, service providers, NGOs, water resources managers, manufacturers, and financiers, met in the Namibian capital from October 27-31 to deliberate and share innovations and emerging solutions in terms of water reuse in Africa.

The conference ended with the over 170 delegates touring Goreangab Reclamation Plant on the outskirts of Windhoek to familiarise themselves with the city’s practice of treating sewage effluent into reusable potable water, a unique practice that was widely hailed in conference papers.

Windhoek is one of the few cities in the world that employs drinking water re-use technologies. Wastewater treatment in the city is essential, particularly because water is a scarce commodity.

For this reason, the city has adopted a policy of treating wastewater in order to meet the growing water demand. Currently, there are three water treatment plants in Windhoek, which treat wastewater for consumption. At least 35 percent of drinking water in Windhoek is reclaimed.

Piet du Pisani, who chaired the IWA, said the main aim of the conference was to come up with best ways to develop, treat and provide water of appropriate quality for appropriate use.

While potable water is at the very high end of the scale and might still be a bridge too far for many countries, treating water to be reused for irrigation, industry, cooling and many other purposes will [be the best method to consider].

He revealed that of the approximately 100 000 chemical compounds developed annually, only roughly 2 000 are tested for their effects on the water environment.

“That leaves 98 000 potential enemies that enter unnoticed into our effluents. These figures cause panic in certain circles reform, and reuse of effluent is considered too risky by some and many end users will not accept it currently,” he said.

He argued that these same compounds will at any rate end up in many of our ‘blue resources’, such as rivers, dams and aquifers, which are then utilised without fear and sometimes without proper treatment. In the mind of people the waste water is too risky to reclaim, but once it is discharged to a natural water body, this risk “disappears”.

Water scarcity or lack of safe drinking water is one of the world's leading problems affecting more than 1.1 billion people globally, meaning that one in every six people lacks access to safe drinking water.

The Joint Monitoring Programme for Water Supply and Sanitation set up by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) defines safe drinking water as “water with microbial, chemical and physical characteristics that meets WHO guidelines or national standards on drinking water quality”.

Hydrologists generally assess water scarcity by looking at a population-to-water equation that treats 1 700 cubic metres per person as the national threshold for meeting water requirements for agricultural and industrial production, energy, and the environment. 

As of 2006, one third of all nations suffered from clean water scarcity, but Sub-Saharan Africa had the largest number of water-stressed countries of any other place on the globe and of an estimated 800 million people who living in Africa ‑ 300 million live in water stressed environment.

According to findings presented at the 2012 Conference on Water Scarcity in Africa: Issues and Challenges, by 2030, it is estimated that 75 million to 250 million people in Africa will be living in areas of high water stress, which will likely displace anywhere between 24 million and 700 million people, as conditions become increasingly unliveable.

In Africa, the struggle for access to clean drinking water is indicative of how water scarcity leads to the stalling of human progress.

It is an issue that touches all aspects of development including health, agricultural productivity, education and opportunities of women and children, stability and peace, as well as economic productivity. All issues are interconnected and experience much overlap, that any improvement to the availability to clean water in Africa has the potential to solve a number of developmental barriers.

November 2013
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