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Home / Dams running dry… as Gobabis turns to water rationing

Dams running dry… as Gobabis turns to water rationing

2024-04-03  Otniel Hembapu

Dams running dry… as Gobabis turns to water rationing

Otniel Hembapu

Iuze Mukube


Taps have run dry in Omaheke’s regional capital Gobabis, pushing the municipality into dusk-to-dawn water rationing to balance demands.

The dwindling water levels at the Otjivero Dam has left Gobabis in a precarious situation.

Operated by the country’s water utility NamWater, this dam is the main water source for the town and the settlement of Omitara in the Omaheke region.

The Gobabis municipality’s spokesperson Taekulu Ueitele indicated that rationing will start from 8 April until further notice, or until the dam’s water levels improve.

This will be conducted daily between 21h00 and 04h00.

“This is a decision that was
taken by the municipality after consultations with NamWater, who informed us that it would be wise to turn to rationing until the situation improves at the dams. As you might be aware, the Otjivero dam is the main source of water supply to both Gobabis and Omitara. 





But with the current low water levels, NamWater informed us that the dam is only able to feed Omitara, but not Gobabis. Therefore our decision to devise a rationing process until things get better, and it will be done in a responsible manner so that residents are not affected,” he stated.

The Otjivero dam’s current water levels are sitting well below 4.6% at the main dam, and at a mere 1.9% at the silt trap dam.  

The dam is located on the White Nossob river in the Nossob catchment.

On how the rationing will affect schools and healthcare institutions across the town, Ueitele gave the assurance that the process will not entirely disrupt the operations of healthcare centres or the wellbeing of learners, as additional measures will be put in place to ensure efficiency, particularly activating boreholes.

The Otjivero dam consists of a main and a silt trap dam.

It also has a water purification treatment plant which supplies water to Omitara while a treatment plant is located at Gobabis, connected by a 110 km-long pipeline.

It supplies water to both Gobabis and Omitara in conjunction with the Daan Viljoen and Tilda Viljoen dams, which are also in the Gobabis vicinity.

The situation is no better in the national capital Windhoek, where the municipality is pleading with residents to use water sparingly in the face of low dam levels.

On the diminishing water supply, City of Windhoek spokesperson Harold Akwenye painted a bleak picture.

“Regarding the current status of dams and groundwater reservoirs in our area, the situation is dire. With Namwater supplying below 40% of the water, Windhoek has had to resort to activating alternative sources such as boreholes and its reclamation plant to supplement the dwindling supply,” he told New Era recently.

The situation has not improved, if his remarks upon follow-up yesterday are anything to go by.

“The water situation is really below expected levels,” Akwenye said.


Water crisis

This situation is not new, it appears.

“Windhoek is facing a water shortage situation, declared as Category C
Water Scarcity since June 2023, and will soon be forced to declare a more severe category [D Severe Water Scarcity].
The primary reason behind this
escalating situation is the insufficient rainfall received, and the critically low levels of water in the three central dam systems (Omatako Dam 1%, Von Bach Dam 12%, and Swakoppoort Dam
41%) managed by NamWater. The available surface water is currently more than 50% less than the same time last year,” City of Windhoek’s water technician Dieter Tolke said in a statement obtained by this paper.

The only dams which showed an increase are the Goreangab Dam, which rose from 99% capacity to 102.1%, and the Daan Viljoen Dam, which remained steady at 5.5%, the City said.

Communities dependent on these water sources are facing unprecedented challenges, from restricted access to potable water to dwindling agricultural yields.

Only through concerted efforts to conserve, innovate and adapt can the nation hope to navigate these turbulent waters.

In response, the City has implemented various initiatives aimed at promoting public awareness and community involvement in preserving groundwater reservoirs, said Akwenye.

He emphasised the collective national responsibility in safeguarding precious water resources for current and future generations.

“These initiatives include prohibitions in watering plants and lawns at home, washing cars with buckets, refraining from filling up swimming pools, and to promptly fix leaking taps in residences as well as to adopt shorter showering routines to conserve water,” he pleaded.

He continued: “With limited rainfall, the inflows to the dams are significantly reduced, directly impacting water availability in both the central area and Windhoek as a whole”.


Running dry

Water levels at the Tilda Viljoen Dam are currently at 5% when compared to 40% recorded during this time last year, while the Daan Viljoen Dam is at 5.5% when compared to 16% observed this time last year.

The Otjivero, Daan Viljoen and Tilda Viljoen Dams operate as a sub-system, known as the Molopo sub-system, which allows them to supply the demands imposed upon them until the dams reach their respective minimum operating levels.

Water is first transferred from the Otjivero silt to the Otjivero main dam, which then tops up the two Viljoen dams before supplying to Gobabis. There are also other boreholes around the town which help supplement the three dams.

NamWater recently shared that the Swakoppoort Dam is currently sitting at 39%, when compared to what it had this time last year (76.4%), while the Von Bach Dam is at a worrying 12% when juxtaposed to 28,7% last year this time.

Meanwhile, the Omatako Dam is at 0.7% when compared to 2.6% last year, and the Hardap Dam, which is critical for that region’s various irrigation schemes, is at 12.2% in comparison to the 41.6% it boasted in 2023. The under-utilised Neckartal Dam is sitting at 83.7%, slightly lower than the 93.5% it had this time last year.

The Naute Dam is at 39.8%, which is lower than the 67.8% of last year, and the Oanob Dam, which is one of the country’s vital dams, is currently at 42.7% when compared to 62.5% of 2023, while the Olushandja Dam is at 37.4% and the Friedenau Dam at 55.4%.

National water demand in 2015 was estimated at about 334 million cubic meters per year. It is projected to reach 583 and 772 million cubic meters per year between next year and 2030.

About 99% and 87% of urban and rural populations of Namibia, respectively,
have access to potable water, and through various government efforts, integrated water resources management allows for the achievement of a sustainable water resources management regime.


2024-04-03  Otniel Hembapu

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