The use of treated effluent water for agricultural and mariculture purposes, although controversial, is a practice commonly utilised all over the world. Furthermore, the recycling and reuse of effluent water have increased significantly over the last four decades with transnational organisations like the United Nations and the World Health Organisation encouraging the reuse of treated effluent water as a means to reduce the stress on the world’s natural water sources. This drive for water sustainability, amongst other things, has resulted in numerous international instruments being drafted and signed by world leaders, for example, the Millennium Development Goals which was signed by the United Nations General Assembly in 2000. The Millennium Development Goals were succeeded by the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which amongst other things again emphasised the importance of reusing wastewater (example Goal 6). The United Nations and the World Health Organization have also highlighted that the reuse of wastewater can also address social woes like unemployment and that, if treated correctly, wastewater can be a rich source of nutrition for agricultural crops. This can, for example, be seen in India and Pakistan where millions of hectares of land is irrigated with wastewater, which in turn feeds hundreds of thousands of people in this region annually.
In Namibia, where large parts of the country have a lack of natural water, the reuse of wastewater becomes particularly important and essential. Seeing that Namibia is also a signatory of the above-mentioned United Nations General Assembly Resolutions, it also has a responsibility to adopt and implement national strategies to preserve water and to ensure the sustainability of water exploitation. Currently, a large effluent treatment plant in Windhoek, which was constructed in the 1960s already, is used to reclaim much of Windhoek’s wastewater for use by the general public. Besides the effluent treatment plant in Windhoek and the Lüderitz Town Council, in collaboration with national government and its European partners in the European Union, constructed a sophisticated effluent treatment plant which can treat effluent water up to international standards before discharging the treated water. Amazingly, this treated effluent water can now be used for agricultural purposes. Although the construction of desalination plants for the above purposes was a possibility, the construction of such plants is deemed too capital intensive to be feasible at this point in time.
In Lüderitz, a pilot programme has been launched between private partners and government, facilitated by the //Kharas Regional Council, to explore the possibility of using treated effluent water for growing crops, as well as for aquaponics and hydroponics projects. The //Kharas Regional Council initially provided its private partner with four hectares of land on which to launch the pilot programme, where 10 people are already employed. Initial results have indicated that the water and soil standards are not only suitable for agricultural purposes, but that plant and animal life thrive in the area where the treated water is discharged. With the aforementioned success, the //Kharas Regional Council has encouraged the further expansion of operations which will result in meaningful employment and development opportunities, not only for the //Kharas region but for Namibia in general. The envisioned expansion includes the construction of a piggery, an abattoir and a butchery. The strategy is to employ as many individuals as possible from the various operations which use reclaimed wastewater, while also bringing as much development to the Lüderitz area as possible. The overarching idea is to use the reclaimed water to grow crops which in turn will be fed to the pigs, effectively reducing the price of pork which will be sold to the local population, retailers and //Kharas in general. The construction of a dairy farm is also being pursued, which will also significantly reduce the price of milk which is to be sold to //Kharas and eventually to the rest of Namibia.
In conclusion, the use of treated effluent water is not a problem in need of a solution but can be used for the social and economic upliftment of all Namibian citizens. By utilising wastewater which would otherwise have been disregarded, we will be able to create meaningful employment and development opportunities for all Namibians. Although the proposed developments are ambitious, they can undoubtedly be achieved through public-private partnerships and a joint vision for Namibia and its people by the private sector and government.
(Reverend Jan. A. Scholtz is the //Kharas regional chairperson and !Nami#nus constituency councillor and is a holder of Diploma in Theology, B-Theo (SA), a Diploma in Youth Work and Development from the University of Zambia (UNZA), Diploma in Education III (KOK) BA (HED) from UNISA
(This article is written in his personal capacity).