Water wars highly exaggerated

THE Executive Director of the International Water Association (IWA), Paul Reiter, was in Namibia this week to prepare for an international conference on water reuse that Namibia will host late in 2013.

The IWA regards Windhoek, which has had a water recycling system for many years now, as a pioneer of water reuse and Reiter says delegates to the conference will learn immensely from Namibia.


Namibia – and Windhoek in particular – is famous for water recycling. “We are very excited about having a conference here. We are expecting about 500 to 700 people. It’s a win-win situation for city and country.”

Reiter says apart from having the conference, the IWA is thinking about including a training schedule and honouring pioneers of water recycling in southern Africa.

The IWA is a global organisation with members in 132 countries, who Reiter says, “tend to be the best people in their fields”. It has 10,000 members.

“The people who will be coming here are the top experts on reuse.

“We have this fantastic array of skills and we hope to exchange knowledge with Namibia. Nobody has everything figured out in the world.”

Reiter grew up in southern California, which he says has similarities with Namibia in terms of dryness.

“What is interesting about a water scarce country like Namibia is that circumstances force it to become innovative. The lessons from here, if you think of it as a laboratory, can be played out in many other countries.”

He says the challenge of the underground aquifer recently discovered in northern Namibia is using it in a sustainable fashion.

The Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry announced last week that a newly discovered aquifer in northern Namibia might be vast enough to supply 40 percent of the population for hundreds of years.

The discovery of the aquifer about 300 metres (980 feet) underground from Eenhana to Okongo and stretching from Okankolo into southern Angola was the result of a five-year project between Government, NamWater and the German Federal Institute of Geosciences and Natural Resources.

Reiter says the use of water from desalination plants will increase around the world because the latest technology will lower the energy costs needed for such schemes.

“Desalination will become standard; the advantage is that it comes with its own storage.”

He adds that most countries are adopting security through diversity, which means that they do not rely on one water source. “That is the future for the planet, security through diversity.”

Reiter disagrees with the popular opinion carried in many publications that the control of the world’s water resources will be the source of conflicts and wars in future.

“That line is so appealing journalistically. My opinion is that water brings people together – it does not create wars.

“I will give you an example, the only surviving element of the Oslo Peace Accord between the Palestinians and the Israelis was the one about water. Maybe water is a vehicle for peace and not war.”