Namibia, like most other Sub-Saharan countries, is prone to drought, and the fast-developing Northern region this has been a major problem. Until this spring that is, when water first flowed from the new community pump in Eenhana.

Residents were not all jumping up and down with joy though as groundwater in this remote region does not have such a sterling reputation and many locals prefer to rely on hand-dug wells that double up as watering holes for cattle.

Martin Quinger, a groundwater hydrologist, said: “It was not like those wild west movies, where they strike oil and Stetsons are thrown in the air, but once the news spread there was a huge amount of excitement that the whole area will flourish and bloom.”

Quinger is leading a project to draw drinking water from Ohangwena II – an ancient aquifer under Namibian and Angolan soil that spans an area roughly 70km by 40km on the Namibian side of the border and is 250m-350m deep.

It is estimated that the stored volume in Namibia is around 20bn cubic metres, which is equivalent to the current demand in the north of the country for around 1600 years. The German Federal Institute for Geosciences and Natural Resources (BGR) team now believe the aquifer will naturally recharge with surface water from southern Angola, provided extraction rates remain tolerably low. This means that, if properly looked after, the Ohangwena II could be a permanent drinking water reserve for northern Namibia.

The scheme in Eenhana delivers 40 cubic metres of water per hour for around 20,000 people, with a potential to increase production to up to 120m³/h, and a proposed well-field in the Omundaunguilo constituency, further to the north, would be able to draw 10 million cubic metres annually. This would serve rural communities with water so pure that it would fulfil the criteria required of European mineral water.

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