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Home The River Basin People and the River Governance Resource Management
Resource Management
Water Demand
Water Infrastructure
 Dams and Associated Infrastructure
 The Kunene River Scheme
 Infrastructure for Hydropower in Angola
 Infrastructure for Water Supply
 Water Security
 Water Storage & Flow Control
 Bulk Transfer Schemes
 Groundwater Services & Infrastructure
 Groundwater in Angola
 Groundwater in Namibia
 Climate Change Impacts on Groundwater
 Irrigation Infrastructure
 Irrigation in Angola
 Irrigation in Namibia
 Operation and Maintenance of Infrastructure
 Rehabilitation and Future Development
 Rehabilitation and Expansion of Existing Infrastructure
 Future Development of the Kunene Basin
 Transboundary Water Supply Schemes
 Wastewater Infrastructure
 Wastewater Infrastructure in Angola
 Wastewater Infrastructure in Namibia
The Value of Water
Resource Monitoring
Research & Development



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Water Infrastructure  

Water is a fundamental human need and required to support all life. A lack of clean water and poor sanitation and hygiene leads to the spread of Water and Sanitation Related Diseases, and creates hardship for humans, animals and the environment. Providing access to water also brings economic benefits and improves living standards. It is therefore vital that governments ensure access to clean water for all citizens.

Water infrastructure consists of man-made structures and facilities to abstract, store, treat (if necessary) and deliver water to users. They can also serve to collect, transport, treat and dispose of wastewater. Typical infrastructure includes: groundwater well-fields, water supply schemes, sewers and sewage treatment facilities, dams, river water abstraction works, inter-basin transfers (bulk transfers), and canals.

Water level gauging station at the Epupa Falls.
Source: Amakali 2004
( click to enlarge )

Irrigation schemes distribute water to crops whilst water supply schemes provide potable water to users. Both draw on surface water (rivers, dams, etc.) or groundwater (aquifers). These range from large schemes, characterised by complicated distribution networks, to smaller, simpler schemes. Dams are often an integral element, serving to store water. In urban areas sewage is collected and transported via a network of pipes (sewerage) and pump stations to treatment facilities, which remove contaminants from waste water before it is released.

Water infrastructure supports life and helps protect public health, but can have a significant impact on the environment. Practices that encourage the sustainable use and management of water-related infrastructure must therefore be promoted. Improved management practices, efficient water use, suitable pricing of water, and a catchment scale approach to protection can all help in achieving sustainable operations.

While there are significant benefits to the installation of water infrastructure, the cost of construction, maintenance and repairs can be high. Timely, on-going maintenance is necessary to realise these benefits in the long-term and ensure sustainability. If a system is well maintained, it can operate safely over a long time period. A new system that is not properly operated can threaten public health more than an older system that is appropriately managed. Those responsible for the management of infrastructure need to establish ongoing oversight, monitoring, evaluation, maintenance and replacement of assets as needed, to maximise the productive life of infrastructure.

Southern Africa is a water scarce region with an erratic rainfall distribution pattern, which in recent years has led to frequent droughts—local, national and regional. Managing water is therefore particularly vital to both the population and the economy. Unfortunately, as with other infrastructure assets, the effect of under-investment and substandard maintenance on water infrastructure takes many years to become apparent and therefore, during times of budgetary cuts, these critical assets often suffer the most.

Chapter Summary

This chapter covers the following concepts and materials:




Explore the sub-basins of the Kunene River

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

View information on the dams and weirs of the Kunene Basin

Examine the virtual water trade and water footprints of SADC countries

Explore how hydroelectric dams work