One of Africa's Driest Countries Finds Water
And aquifer could be enough to supply northern Namibia for centuries
By Kate Seamons, Newser Staff
Posted Jul 20, 2012 1:04 PM CDT
The Kunene river near the Epupa falls in northern Namibia at the border with Angola is showen. Namibians may have a new water source.   (Getty Images)

(Newser) – Namibia is the driest country in sub-Saharan Africa, but perhaps not for long. The BBC reports that an aquifer flowing beneath its boundary with Angola has been discovered—and the new water source could keep the country's north anything but parched for some 400 years. And one encouraging announcement brings others: Scientists say the water is 10,000 years old, which means "it was recharged at a time when environmental pollution was not yet an issue," according to a German researcher leading the project.

Another plus: The country's north, home to 40% of Namibians, currently relies on two rivers that are so crucial that farming around them has been hampered. A new water source could loosen those restrictions, allowing for irrigation and livestock watering that could greatly boost agriculture. But there is one caveat: A small salty aquifer sits atop the massive one, which means drilling will have to be performed carefully. "If people don't comply with our technical recommendations they might create a hydraulic shortcut between the two aquifers which might lead to the salty water from the upper one contaminating the deep one or vice versa," says the researcher.

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Jul 21, 2012 7:26 AM CDT
Need to do dome fracking around it first to look for gas.
Jul 20, 2012 11:53 PM CDT
Rather strange hydrology described here. Salt water is heavier than fresh water, and many aquifers have a deeper zone of salt water and a shallower zone of fresh water perched on top. There has to a very effective barrier between them if the shallow aquifer is salt water and the deeper aquifer is fresh water, which is an unusual aquifer configuration indeed. I think Kate has got something confused here. I bet the situation is that the fresh water is perched on the salt water which means if you pump the fresh water too fast the underlying salt water will plume up into the fresh water and you will suddenly be pumping salt water instead of fresh water.
Jul 20, 2012 9:13 PM CDT
Fantastic. This is one really dry country with some magnificent deserts complete with 50 story high sand dunes. It may be the only place in the world that has elephants living in the sand. I hope the water is used to support just the current population and does not attract development. The ecology is too fragile to survive any influx of people. I have great memories of this country, except for the scariest drive of my life in the Namib.