Angola Namibia About Tutorial Glossary Documents Images Maps Google Earth go
Please provide feedback! Click for details
Home The River Basin People and the River Governance Resource Management
People and the River



send a comment



Rural Water and Sanitation  

Since independence, the Namibian government has taken major steps towards addressing imbalances between urban and rural water supply, by bringing more and more rural villages within reach of safe water for drinking and cooking.

The Directorate of Rural Water Supply (DRWS) within the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry (MAWF) is responsible of the development of rural water supply infrastructure to ensure a sustainable supply of safe water to people and livestock in rural communities (MAWRD-DRWS 2004, IWRM Plan Joint Venture Namibia 2009). According to government reports DRWS has contributed to increasing accessibility to safe water for the rural population of Namibia from 43 % in 1991 to 80 % in 2001, based on the following criteria:

  • Maximum walking distance of 2.5 km to a domestic water point;
  • Minimum of 15 litres of water per person per day; and
  • Maximum waiting time of 30 minutes at a water point.

Technologies include pipeline schemes and water points using different techniques such as hand pumps, diesel engines, windmills and solar power (see also “Regional Rural Water Supply Development Plans“ in National Development Plans Namibia) (MAWRD-DRWS 2004).

The box below describes the situation of water supply and sanitation in the urban and rural areas of the Kunene Region in 2001 with a focus on Epupa Constituency where the Namibian section of the Kunene basin mainly lies.

Basic sanitation in rural area.
Source: AHT GROUP AG 2009
( click to enlarge )

Water Supply and Sanitation in the Kunene Region with Focus on Epupa Constituency (Based on the 2001 Census)

In the Kunene Region as a whole, about 73 % of the households have access to safe water for cooking and drinking, meaning water from pipes and boreholes. However, a notable proportion of households (15 %) rely on natural sources (i.e. rivers, streams, dams and pools) and there are significant disparities between urban and rural areas. The proportion of households with safe drinking water is almost 100 % in urban areas while that in rural areas is close to 62 %. Slightly over one in five households in the rural areas get their water from natural sources. Two thirds of the households in the Kunene Region have good accessibility to the water source as the distance is 100 m or less. However, while 90 % of the urban households are with a distance of 100 m to the next water source, for rural areas the corresponding proportion is 54 %.

In the predominantly rural Namibian section of the Kunene basin, most of the water is consumed by livestock, while the biggest demand centre is Opuwo, located just outside the watershed. Settlements inside the basin (in Epupa Constituency) are not linked to any bulk water system and there are no pipeline networks (with the limited exception of Okongwati, see below). They rely rather on a variety of different surface and groundwater sources, such as boreholes, springs and wells. If the water is extracted from a water point (i.e. borehole, well), there exist various mechanical extraction systems, such as windmills, diesel engines, power heads, and hand pumps. Over one in three households in the Epupa Constituency rely on natural water sources (such as rivers and springs) so that access to safe water (mainly from boreholes) is only available to 36 % of the households. Moreover a notable proportion of households (20 %) must go further than 1 km to collect water. Currently there are several new borehole drillings under way, ensuring safe water for human consumption, livestock and commercial purposes.

Okongwati is the only settlement inside the Namibian basin part which has a limited piped water supply system serving some residential houses and official buildings such as the hospital and local schools. The challenge in the basin is to maintain the infrastructure of the isolated rural water supply and livestock drinking points which are spread over a vast area.

About 65 % of the households in Kunene Region have no toilet facility. Again there are notable differences between urban and rural areas: slightly more than three in five households in urban areas use flush toilets while the corresponding rural proportion is slightly over one out of ten. In Epupa Constituency 96 % of the households are without toilet facilities, and only 2 % have a flush toilet.

Sources: Adapted from NPC 2005, WCE-DRWS 2001 and IWRM Plan Joint Venture Namibia 2010




Explore the sub-basins of the Kunene River

Video Interviews about the integrated and transboundary management of the Kunene River basin

View a historical timeline of the Kunene basin countries, including water agreements & infrastructure

Video scenes about the limited access to water of the San in Kunene Province