Water shortage looms even larger as Hardap Dam level sinks further

Niël Terblanché

Farmers of the Hardap Irrigation Scheme are confronting a dire situation as the Hardap Dam’s water level drops to a critical low of approximately 14 percent, exacerbated by a prolonged drought in the region.

The dwindling water supply threatens not only the current crop cycle but also poses a significant risk to the socio-economic fabric of the Hardap and Mariental communities.

Dawie De Klerk, Chairperson of the Hardap Farmers Association, has voiced the growing concerns of the agricultural community, highlighting the immediate threat of crop failure and its cascading effects on local employment and the economy.

The irrigation scheme, vital for the cultivation of crucial crops, faces a precarious future with sustainable water use only guaranteed until early April under current conditions.

The situation’s severity is compounded by a government-imposed moratorium limiting the dam’s storage capacity to a maximum of 70 percent, a preventive measure against overflow and uncontrolled outflows following the 2006 flood.

De Klerk argues that lifting this moratorium could have mitigated the current crisis and that it could have provided an additional year of irrigation water

He again advocated for urgent consultation with government and water authorities to reassess this policy.

Despite the grim outlook for irrigation, reassurances have been made regarding potable water supplies.

Advanced measures, such as the use of submersible pumps, ensure that Mariental residents will continue to have access to drinking water, even if the dam’s level falls below five percent.

However, the ongoing drought poses multifaceted challenges, including potential impacts on food security and the livelihoods of both commercial and communal farmers in the region.

Paul Nghiwilepo, Chief Executive Officer of the Mariental Municipality, has indicated that cutting off water to irrigation schemes may become necessary to prioritize residential needs, emphasizing the gravity of the situation on food security within the region.

With little to no rain received in Mariental town and the surrounding areas, the community holds onto hope for rainfall in the coming month to alleviate the crisis.

The plight of communities reliant on the Hardap Dam serves as a stark reminder of the vulnerability of agricultural communities to climate variability and the urgent need for adaptive water management strategies to secure both agricultural and potable water supplies in the face of increasing drought conditions.

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