Photo Gallery VEOLIA - Christophe Majani d’Inguimbert

In Windhoek, there’s no water but there are ideas

Posted on 19 January 2016.

Every drop counts in Windhoek. This is also WINGOC’s motto - it manages one of the few plants in the world to produce drinking water from wastewater.

Knowing that their water resources are limited, people living in Windhoek have long accepted recycled water.

In the center of Namibia - one of the driest countries in Africa - Windhoek lives under the constant threat of a water shortage. In the Namibian capital, which is home to 250,000 people, every drop of water counts. So in 1968 the municipality built the Goreangab wastewater recycling plant. And Windhoek became the first city in the world to produce drinking water directly from municipal wastewater. For over 30 years this unique solution has provided an additional source of water for the population.

Given the strong demographic growth of the 1990s, the municipality of Windhoek needed to modernize its facilities. In 2001, it signed an operating and maintenance contract with WINGOC (Windhoek Goreangab Operating Company), a consortium made up of Veolia, Berlinwasser International and WABAG, to improve water treatment processes and increase Goreangab’s production capacity. Commissioned in 2002, the new plant now satisfies 35% of the drinking water needs of the city and its suburbs, supplying nearly 300,000 people with 21,000 m3 per day. This water, which comes from the Goreangab dam and the Gammans treatment plant, undergoes a complex treatment process. WINGOC adopted a multi-barrier approach; it is an advanced system consisting of several processing steps that eliminate all pollutants and contaminants. The different treatments, coupled with rigorous biomonitoring programs, guarantee high quality drinking water - with no health hazards.

Recycling wastewater not only increases the amount of available drinking water, but also has a double advantage for the environment: it avoids tapping into natural resources and significantly reduces the discharge of pollutants into the environment.

Knowing the country’s water resources are limited, Windhoek residents seem to have made the quote attributed to Lucas van Vuuren, a pioneer in the field of wastewater reuse, their own: "Water should be judged not on its history, but on its quality." They have long accepted the idea that some of the water they use has been recycled. Better still, they are proud of the fact! Few plants in the world produce drinking water from wastewater. There is one in Singapore and another was opened in 2014 in the United States in the state of Texas. And that's just the beginning. The Goreangab plant in Namibia is the oldest and largest in the world. It has become an international benchmark, a model of innovative and sustainable water management and an example of a successful public-private partnership. In Windhoek, there’s no water - but lots of ideas!