WINDHOEK – NamWater yesterday confirmed it would stop providing water to irrigation schemes along the Hardap Dam due to the low level of water.
The water utility’s spokesperson, Johannes Shigwedha, in a statement said this was purely due to the poor water inflow into the dam, situated some 30 km north of Mariental in the Hardap region.
According to information at hand, about 1 000 households benefit directly or indirectly from the Hardap irrigation schemes and will negatively be affected by the decision as their irrigation purely relies on the water.
“It was recommended that the irrigation water be discontinued as soon as possible – no later than 1st of February this year. We will monitor the situation once the dam receive inflow,” Shigwedha said.
He said while the water utility hopes for rain, which according to him will result into possible inflows to the Hardap Dam, a pump station to increase potable water supply to Mariental town will in the meantime be availed. This, he said, is required due to the expected increase on the demand of potable water. The dam is currently having a water level of about 6.6%, which is not sufficient to meet all its supply demand. Chairperson of the Hardap Farmers Association Dawie de Klerk last week told New Era that farmers in the area have committed themselves to stop production on 40% of their irrigated land to rescue the situation until end of January when the rainy season starts. “We are looking forward to the rainy season ahead this year and also in 2021, so the chances that the town will be without water is zero. But if there is no inflow into the dam, it will be detrimental. The whole community will be affected; the whole socio-economic system of the Hardap region will be affected,” De Klerk, who could not be reached for comment yesterday, was quoted as saying. Farmers and workers at the Hardap scheme are concerned about the decrease in the dam level. “It’s like a ripple effect, the scheme supports the town, the Kaap Agri, Agra, the Cooperation and the banks. Everyone is worried,” said Nerine Blankestein, a farmer. “We don’t know what we will do if the water gets closed. How will the farmers pay us? We are not even sure if they will pay us this month,” said Mpunza Joseph, a farm worker. Hardap Dam is Namibia’s second largest dam with a capacity of 320 million cubic metres. The dam supplies Mariental and the surrounding settlements with potable water as well as irrigation water to the farmers in the vicinity.
Meanwhile, The Namibian last year reported that about 3.5 billion litres of water released in August 2017 from the Hardap Dam to feed the N$5.7 billion Neckartal Dam project evaporated before reaching the intended destination. According to the report, the first dispatch of 1.5 billion litres of water released on 10 August 2017 did not even reach Gibeon, which is 93 kilometres south of Hardap Dam. The other 2 billion litres released on 27 August the same year dried up before reaching the village of Berseba, about 30 kilometres from the Neckartal Dam. This was reportedly despite a warning by then agriculture minister John Mutorwa. According to The Namibian, the agriculture ministry had requested NamWater in July 2017 to release water for use in the construction of the Neckartal Dam. Andries Kok, the NamWater acting chief in the south, wrote to stakeholders on 23 July 2017 informing them that a meeting chaired by the water utility’s chief executive officer had resolved, after considering all options and financial impacts, that releasing water from the Hardap Dam was the most viable option to solve the water shortage at the Neckartal Dam construction project.