Evaluating alternative water sources and their use for small-holder agriculture from a systemic perspective : a focus on water reuse and rainwater harvesting in Namibia

  • Water is scarce in semi-arid and arid regions. Using alternative water sources (i.e. non-conventional water sources), such as municipal reuse water and harvested rain, contributes to using existing water resources more efficiently and productively. The aim of this study is to evaluate the two alternative water sources reuse water and harvested rain for the irrigation of small-holder agriculture from a system perspective. This helps decision and policy makers to have proper information about which system and technology to adopt under local conditions. For this, the evaluation included ecologic, societal, economic, institutional and political as well as technical aspects. For the evaluation, the study area in central-northern Namibia was chosen in the frame of the research and development project CuveWaters. The main methods used include a mathematical material flow analysis, the computation and modelling of crop requirements, a multi-criteria decision analysis using the Analytical Hierarchy Process (AHP) method and a financial cost-benefit analysis. From a systemic perspective, the proposed novel systems were compared to the exciting conventional infrastructure. The results showed that both water reuse and rainwater harvesting systems for the irrigation of small-holder horticulture offer numerous technological, ecologic, economic, societal, institutional and political benefits. Rainwater harvesting based gardens have a positive benefit-cost ratio under favorable conditions. Government programs could fund the infrastructure investment costs, while the micro-entrepreneur can assume a micro-credit to finance operation and maintenance costs. Installing sanitation in informal settlements and reusing municipal water for irrigation reduces the overall water demand of households and agriculture by 39%, compared to improving sanitation facilities in informal settlements without reusing the water for agriculture. Given that water is the limiting factor for crop fertigation, the generated nutrient-rich reuse water is sufficient to annually irrigate about 10 m2 to 13 m2 per sanitation user. Compared to crop nutrient requirements, there are too many nutrients in the reuse water. Thus when using nutrient-rich reuse water, no use of fertilizers and a careful salt management is necessary. When comparing this novel system with improved sanitation, advanced wastewater treatment and nutrient-rich water reuse to the conventional and to two adapted systems, results showed that the novel CuveWaters system is the best option for the given context in a semi-arid developing country. Therefore, the results of this study suggest a further roll-out of the novel CuveWaters system. The methodology developed and the results of this study demonstrated that taking sanitation users into consideration plays a major role for the planning of an integrated water reuse infrastructure because they are the determinant factor for the amount of available nutrient-rich reuse water. In addition, it could be shown that water reuse and rainwater harvesting systems for the irrigation of small-scale gardens provide a wide range of benefits and can be key to using scarce water resources more efficiently and to contributing to the Sustainable Development Goals.

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Author:Laura WoltersdorfORCiDGND
Parent Title (German):Frankfurt Hydrology Paper ; 15
Series (Serial Number):Frankfurt Hydrology Paper (15)
Referee:Petra DöllORCiDGND, Peter CornelGND
Advisor:Petra Döll
Document Type:Doctoral Thesis
Date of Publication (online):2016/04/14
Year of first Publication:2016
Publishing Institution:Universitätsbibliothek Johann Christian Senckenberg
Granting Institution:Johann Wolfgang Goethe-Universität
Date of final exam:2016/02/01
Release Date:2016/04/14
Tag:Material Flow Analysis; Namibia; Rainwater Harvesting; Sustainability Evaluation; Water Reuse
Page Number:121
Institutes:Geowissenschaften / Geographie / Geowissenschaften
Dewey Decimal Classification:5 Naturwissenschaften und Mathematik / 55 Geowissenschaften, Geologie / 550 Geowissenschaften
Licence (German):License LogoDeutsches Urheberrecht