From: Servaas van den Bosch, SciDevNet, More from this Affiliate
Published September 28, 2012 05:46 AM

Go Slowly to tap Namibia's groundwater

The extraction of the much needed water from a large underground aquifer in northern Namibia may need to wait for further studies, officials have warned at a water investment conference.

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The aquifer, discovered in July, may contain enough water to sustain about one million people living in the area for 400 years at the current consumption rate, as well as boost development through irrigation in this poor, heavily overgrazed area where women and children walk for hours to get fresh water from boreholes.

But officials and scientists have cautioned against too much optimism until further studies have been conducted. One reason is that the aquifer is under a smaller, polluted water resource, so it is still unclear how it could be tapped.

"We need to determine the extent of the water reserve and its accessibility first. There is a lot of brackish [partly salty] water in the area," Abraham Nehemia, under-secretary at Namibia's agriculture, water and forestry ministry, told SciDev.Net on the sidelines of the Namibia Water Investment Conference, held this month (12—14 September) in the capital, Windhoek.

Heike Wanke, a hydrogeologist at the University of Namibia, also warned against rushing into exploitation.

"The positioning near a polluted aquifer means boreholes must be drilled at appropriate places," Wanke said, adding that studies on the age of the aquifer which will also inform sustainable extraction rates have not been completed yet.

Photo of Namibia child via Shutterstock.

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