For residents of northern Namibia and southern Angola, survival can often be precarious. Eight hundred thousand people inhabit one of the driest regions in Africa and depend heavily on an old, crumbling canal to bring drinking water from an Angolan dam.
So there was jubilation recently when a joint Namibian-German project scouting for new water sources announced it had found a massive supply, one that has spent 10,000 years underground and could supply the area with 400 years’ worth of fresh, clean water.
Celebrations have been tempered by the revelation that the reserve relies on being recharged during the winter rainy season. So Martin Quinger, the project manager, cautions that only a sustainable amount of water should be drawn out each year. Also, drilling wells in the area should be controlled to stop any cross-contamination from a salty aquifer located immediately above the fresh one. However, the newly discovered reserve is so large that scientists believe even years of drought would not significantly affect it. And that could transform life in this often parched area.