• April 5th, 2020

Desal plant cost could hit N$10bn

Edgar Brandt

WINDHOEK – The formulation of a long-term solution for Namibia’s unending water woes through the construction of a desalination plant to serve the coastal and central regions is likely to require an investment of no less than N$10 billion. 
With an investment of this magnitude it is highly likely that much of the cost will have to be carried down to the end-user.  
“The financing of the combined project for supply to both the coastal areas and Windhoek is not likely to be cheaper than N$10 billion, hence its bankability must be given due diligence,” said Minister of Agriculture, Water and Forestry, Alfeus !Naruseb, yesterday.
“To this effect, government requested ILF Consulting Engineers to critically compare the cost component of the project with the cost of supplying Windhoek from the Okavango River.”
Government has for years been considering and investigating the option of extracting water from the Okavango River to supply the growing population in Windhoek and farming needs in northern Namibia.

Speaking at the opening of a two-day workshop outside Windhoek on the feasibility for a desalination plant, !Naruseb said that despite good rains in some parts of the country, especially in the northern areas, it is important to note that only negligible showers fell in the central areas of the country with insignificant inflows into the dams during the current rainy season. 
The feasibility study on a long-term water solution commenced in February 2019 and is expected to be completed during the first half of 2020. 
“The country’s climatic conditions make it imperative to have a permanent conventional water supply source. Limited water supplies and or water deficits for growth and for existing economic centres such as Windhoek, which is exacerbated by the ever-growing population and urbanisation, is a cause for serious concern,” the minister said.
“The feasibility study project for which we are gathered here today, foresees the supply of desalinated water from the Atlantic coast to meet the deficits at the central coastal areas and the central area of Namibia that includes Windhoek. If found feasible, desalinated water through bilateral agreements could also be transported to Gaborone, Botswana.”
The minister added that development partners such as Germany’s development agency, KfW, have already seeded funds for a feasibility study to examine and support the bankability of the project in view of government’s financial position, as well as that of NamWater. 
During the opening address at the workshop, !Naruseb noted that water supply as a commodity is not cheap but said it is his hope that the solutions crafted would make potable water affordable to government, NamWater and the end consumers.
Government has previously endeavoured and currently prioritises various initiatives to provide water supply solutions to the central areas of the country, in particular Windhoek, which has been confirmed as being “extremely water stressed”. 
These initiatives include boreholes drilled in the Karst areas to transfer abstracted water to the capital and the Windhoek-managed Aquifer Recharge Storage Project, where the aquifer in the city becomes a water bank. 
Said !Naruseb: “With the challenge of growing water demand, new long-term sources become imperative to sustainably supply Windhoek, even though they are distant and may be very expensive.” 
Water deficits to meet the future water demand for the coastal areas up until 2050 is estimated in the order of 36 million cubic metres while additional water to be supplied to Windhoek and en-route users over the same period is about 32 million cubic metres per annum. 

In addition, possible demand for Gaborone in Botswana if considered, means an additional 20 million cubic metres per annum. 
However, a substantial amount of power is required to treat and transmit desalinated water and the consultants conducting the feasibility study have been directed to consult with NamPower on utilising solar photovoltaic power, which is abundant in Namibia.
“Yes, people are saying that the feasibility study is belated and should have been done yesteryear. The observation is correct only in the context of water demands that have surpassed developed sources. On the other hand, it is government’s undertaking to develop the country considering the environmental, social, financial, technological, institutional and economic aspects, hence the study. It is important to note that this project could have many ramifications if done hurriedly,” !Naruseb added. 
Responding to a question from New Era on the urgency of a long-term water solution, NamWater CEO Abraham Nehemia said the desalination plant was long overdue.
Referring to Windhoek and the central areas as being “extremely water insecure”, Nehemia noted that the desalinated water would be produced at a cost, which has to be covered by somebody. 
“It is up to everyone involved to look at the most affordable option for the supply of water. We have to be flexible with the tariffs because we don’t want to produce water that nobody can afford,” Nehemia added. 


Edgar Brandt
2020-01-30 07:03:19 | 2 months ago

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