Saturday, April 28, 2012

Namibia: Huge Water Reserves Are Still Untapped

Experts from the United Nations Environmental Program are therefore urging African countries not to even attempt to access this newly found reserves but instead, focus on improving the ground water supply by creating better collection and storage tools. According their spokesperson, Nick Nutalli, there is currently a lot of water available, but it is rarely collected. Hopefully, things will change in the near future.

A new study has revealed that Africa sits on huge untapped, underground water reserves especially in its more arid regions.

According to the study done by the British Geological Survey and University of London (UCL), the greatest (very high) ground water storage is in northern Africa, in the large sedimentary basins in Libya, Algeria and Chad.

Other African areas identified are parts of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Republic of Congo, Mauritania, large parts of Senegal and Gambia.

In southern Africa, parts of Namibia, Angola, Botswana, a small part of Malawi and Zambia have been identified as having a high potential of groundwater resources.

The fact that Namibia, which is regarded as a water-scarce country, sits on some of these huge water resources, is not new, according to the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry.

The Under Secretary in the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry, Abraham Nehemia, said most of this underground water found in the Cuvelai can not be optimally utilised because it is salty, brackish and contains fluoride, iron and other heavy metals.

The areas identified in the study with high underground water potential include parts of Omusati, Ohangwena, Oshikoto, the whole of Oshana, parts of Caprivi, Kavango, Otjozondjupa and Omaheke.

"Moreover, 60 percent of water use in Namibia is from underground water sources," Nehemia stated.

He said the water in the three north-central regions is very salty and brackish, while water in the Caprivi and Kavango contain fluoride, iron and other heavy metals

Nehemia did not quite agree with the study stating that the Omaheke sits on huge underground water sources, as Omaheke is a problem when it comes to water.

"Boreholes are drying and water is very limited," he said.

According to Nehemia, they have created artificial aquifers in the Omdel area, where water from the Omaruru river is filtrated in the ground and pumped out later, using boreholes.

This is a good mechanism of water saving, taking the high evaporation rate into account.

British scientists are, however, cautious about the best way of accessing these hidden resources, suggesting that widespread drilling of large boreholes might not work.

One of the lead authors of the study, Dr Alan MacDonald, said high-yielding boreholes should not be developed without a thorough understanding of the local groundwater conditions.

They suggest a slow means of water extraction, stating that this could be more efficient.
In addition, the study suggests that there are sufficient reserves to be able to cope with the impact of climate change.

"Even in the lowest storage aquifers in semi-arid areas with currently very little rainfall, ground water is indicated to have a residence time in the ground of 20 to 70 years," Dr. 

Helen Bonsor from the British Geological Survey added.

Among southern African countries with moderate to low underground water sources are South Africa, large parts of Botswana, Zimbabwe, Malawi and Mozambique.

Countries with very low underground water sources are parts of Algeria, Niger, Mauritania and Morocco.

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