By Ester Mbathera
WALVIS Bay's municipality has launched a feasibility study to appoint a competing agent and transactional adviser to develop a direct potable reclamation (DPR) plant at the town.
But not everyone is enthusiastic about this.
According to John Esterhuizen, the municipality's general manager for wastewater and environmental management, the plant will produce safe drinking water from treated municipal waste water.
Esterhuizen says plans to construct such a plant are motivated by the town's population growth, coupled with the reduction in rainfall in the region.
"We are doing it because of the scarcity of water ... We looked around and Windhoek has been doing it for 50 years," he says.
The delay in setting up a large seawater desalination plant is another factor that led to the town looking for an alternative source of water.
The town currently depends on boreholes in the Kuiseb River and Omdel Aquifer, which has been the traditional water supply for decades.
"Borehole water is running out. You have expensive desalination water, so maybe there is something in between, and that is where DPR comes in," Esterhuizen says.
Currently, raw sewage collected from the town's sewerage systems is treated, and the treated water is then used to irrigate sports fields and parks around town, while the rest is pumped into a water reservoir south-east of the town.
"We are giving water to the plants and birds, but we still have an excess. What shall we do with the excess? We thought of going the Windhoek route of direct potable water treatment. It is still cheaper than desalinated water," Esterhuizen says.
Frank Kavishe, the University of Namibia's acting pro vice chancellor for research, innovation and development, says treating water is not a long-term solution to address the town's water shortage - especially given the effects of climate change.
"If you are going to treat waste water you must have waste water to treat in the first place. If you have severe drought and the rivers and aquifers are dry, where will you get the water to give you waste water? So that is why I believe the only solution is to go to the ocean. Seawater is the only long-term solution," Kavishe says.
He says recycling water requires many precautions and extremely advanced technology to make sure all micro-organisms are removed.
Countries with these technologies are treating waste water for agricultural purposes, but not for human consumption, he says.
The Confederation of Namibian Fishing Association has expressed its dismay about the municipality's lack of consultations with stakeholders.
"Under these circumstances it is a major concern to the industry that the municipality has not found it necessary to share its plans to recycle water and to establish, through contact with the relevant actors, whether the use of recycled water would pose a problem to industry," the fishing association's chairman Matti Amukwa says.
Walvis Bay has about 13 fish processing plants which produce high-value products for supermarkets in Europe and which have to comply with European standards.