Water matters
Issue 4 (May 2009) If you arrive in Namibia in the rainy season, it’s difficult to believe that water is a scarce resource.


Legend has it that the rains will arrive on the anniversary of the Kaiser’s Birthday – Kaiser Wilhelm II’s birthday fell on 27 January. More often than not, the legend is pretty accurate, give or take a day or two. In the years when the Kaiser’s birthday comes and goes with no rain, Namibians get nervous.

Equally, too much rain can also be problematic. In central-northern Namibia, people rely on the flow of water, known as the efundja, into the flat pans called oshanas. Every year, prior to its arrival, farmers plant mahango seeds in the oshanas. The water irrigates the millet-like crop, which is then harvested and stored for consumption throughout the rest of the year. The waters also bring with them tilapia, a species of fish that supplements diets in the north.

However, if the flow of water is too great, homesteads, towns and crops are submerged, and roads and bridges are washed away. It happened in 2008.

The waters that flow into the oshanas come from rain in the area, but are also fed by water that washes down from the Cuvelai catchment area in Angola. Although there may be very little rain in Namibia, it is still possible for the oshanas to flood if rainfall is strong enough over the border in Angola.

The Cuvelai catchment area lies in the northern part of the Cuvelai Basin, also known as the Ovambo Basin. The basin is a system of oshanas and rivers that lies on a long slope that begins in Angola and ends in Namibia.

The future availability of water is a very real concern for all Namibians. Please be considerate in your use of this resource.
• If possible, shower instead of bathing.
• Do not overfill baths or take excessively long showers.
• Do not leave taps running or dripping.

• Report any leaking taps or toilets with a continuous water flow.
• Try to use biodegradable soaps.
• Don’t leave the water to run while shaving or brushing teeth.
• Do not request laundry unless it is necessary. If not actually dirty, towels can be reused.
• Use a bucket of water and a cloth to wash a car, rather than a hosepipe.
• Keep cold water in the fridge or cool box.

• Don’t wait for the tap to run until the water gets cold.

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