Namibia Plans to Use Sea Water to Keep Uranium Mines Running

Namibia is moving on with the development of a new desalination plant in the central coastal Erongo region to meet the needs of uranium mining and other customers for water.

Agriculture, Water and Land Reform Minister Calle Schlettwein said in an emailed statement on Thursday that a feasibility study for the plant, which will produce 70,000 cubic meters (2.5 million cubic feet) of water per day, has been completed and a site has been purchased. He stated that plans are currently being developed to extract sea water and secure the necessary power, and that the government is in talks with private investors about cooperating on the plant’s development.

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Positioned between the Namib and Kalahari deserts, Namibia has sub-Saharan Africa’s most arid climate and has unpredictable rainfall and high evaporation rates, resulting in a water deficit that’s intermittently compounded by drought.

The capital, Windhoek, and most of the other major towns are far from perennial rivers that run along the country’s northern and southern borders, and issues in distributing limited and unpredictable sources of ground water are worsened by the sparse population’s dispersion.

By 2030, Erongo will require 36,500 megaliters of water per year, of which only roughly a third will be available from existing sources. The region’s tourism and fishing businesses are centred on the coastal cities of Walvis Bay and Swakopmund, in addition to some of the world’s largest uranium mines.

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The government earlier estimated that the new desalination facility would cost N$2 billion.

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