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Desalination plant output hits record high

SINCE it started operating in 2010, the Erongo desalination plant has produced a milestone total of 50 million cubic metres of potable water.

Originally built by Orano (then Areva Resources Namibia) to supply water to its Trekkopje Mine near Arandis, the desalination plant is now an important contributor to the overall supply of the potable water delivery system managed by Namwater.

It provides about 75% of the overall drinking water to Swakopmund, as well as the nearby uranium mines and other industries.

Located 35 kilometres north of Swakopmund, it is the largest reverse osmosis seawater desalination plant in southern Africa.

Developed and owned by Orano Mining Namibia, the plant is operated by Nafasi Water (formerly Aveng Water).

According to Orano Mining Namibia managing director Hilifa Mbako, the ongoing production of potable water is determined by demand, but the current capacity of the plant is 20 million cubic metres per year. It can be upgraded to supply 26 million cubic metres per year within the existing buildings. There is also the possibility of further extension to supply 45 million cubic metres of water, should the future demand it.

The seawater desalination process consists of screen filtration, ultrafiltration, reverse osmosis, limestone contact and chlorination, and finally the clean water is supplied to Namwater through a pipeline from the plant to add to their supply for the region.

“The Erongo desalination plant is already fulfilling a critical role in water provision for the Erongo region, and with the uranium industry showing signs of eventual recovery, it needs a sustainable and reliable water resource,” said Mbako, adding that the availability of water, through a desalination plant or plants, has the ability to unlock “enormous potential” from industry to agriculture.

The Trekkopje mine near Arandis is still in care and maintenance as a result of the continued depression in the uranium price, and the portion of water it requires from the plant is quite small.

Nafasi Water develops, builds and operates world-class industrial desalination and water reclamation projects.

“We are committed to Namibia, and intend to continue investing in long-term water security developments across southern Africa,” said Nafasi Water CEO Sizie Nkambule. “Our goal is to help preserve the precious volumes and water of sub-Saharan Africa, while ensuring access to alternative sources of water for potable and industrial use.”

Earlier this year, with the commissioning of a small desalination plant (30 000 litres a day) at the Sam Nujoma campus at Henties Bay, Unam’s acting pro-vice chancellor for research, innovation and development, Frank Kavishe, said Namibia needs at least three desalination plants to address the country’s water shortage.

Being one of the driest countries in southern Africa, the country needs a different approach to finding water resources, and with the advantage of having a 1 500km of coastline, renewable energy sources such as ocean water, wind and sun should be taken advantage of.

“We can have solar-run desalination plants in the north at the mouth of [the] Kunene to supply the northern regions, and we can have another plant at Luderitz for the south. And when it comes to renewable energy, we have solar, wind and wave energy. We can combine all this, and achieve what we want,” noted Kavishe.

Founding president Sam Nujoma said at the launch of the campus plant that even if the Orano plant was running at full capacity, it would be seen as an additional water source, and would not be enough to supply the coast and central Namibia.

He added that preliminary feasibility studies suggest a 30 million cubic metre plant is required to supply Erongo and central Namibia (including Windhoek).

This would also require booster pumps to lift the desalinated water 1 700 metres above sea level to the interior.

“The time has come for us as a nation to put this idea to practice, and make this a priority and national project,” stated Nujoma.

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