Integrated Water Resources Management in the Cuvelai-Etosha Basin (Central Northern Namibia) – CuveWaters

The joint project CuveWaters is supporting to further development of integrated water resources management in central northern Namibia (Cuvelai-Etosha Basin). The transdisciplinary research concept backs up changes in water resources management with technical measures in order to bring about an improvement in the long-term development and safeguarding of endogenous resource potentials in the research region. All project activities centre around integration. These activities focus on adapted concepts and technologies, the interaction of water with other resources, and on participation.


The Cuvelai-Etosha Basin in the most arid state of sub-Sahara Africa
The Cuvelai-Etosha Basin lies in densely settled central northern Namibia and is characterised not only by aridity but above all by the highly variable nature of its water supply. Due to the seasonal changes between flooding and drought, surface water is only available in sufficient quantities during the rainy season. Accessible ground water horizons are mostly too saline for use as drinking water. The supply of drinking water is essentially secured via a long distance pipeline system that transports water to the region from the Kunene River on the Namibian-Angolan border. However, this means being heavily dependent on Angola and the economic and political developments that prevail there. In combination, the natural prerequisites, high rates of population growth, high-density settlement and ongoing processes of urbanisation make for a difficult framework in which to provide the population with drinking water and sanitary facilities, and for water management.

Integration as a key project goal

The joint CuveWaters project aims to improve people's livelihoods through innovative technologies for water supply and waste water treatment adapted to the regional conditions. It is based on furthering the conceptual development and practical implementation of an integrated water resources management (IWRM) which is embedded in existing processes and tailored to the specific circumstances given. It is important here to optimise the allocation of water between the various sectors and to take into account existing links between water utilisation and the use of other resources such as land and energy. 

Linking of research & concept development, empirical studies and technology

A major precondition for achieving the project's goals is a transdisciplinary research approach based on the integration of science, technology and society. The results of the project are thus not only of scientific relevance but contribute directly to the solving of practical problems. 
This transdisciplinary approach is reflected in the structure of the project: its scientific modules Research & Concept Development, Empirical Studies and Technology are closely interlocked with the integrative modules geared towards social processes, namely Participation, Good Governance & Institutionalisation, and Capacity Building.
Research & Concept Development involves the conceptual and scientific groundwork for further development of the specific region, and integration of adapted technologies into resource management. The empirical work covers both secondary research and the conducting of researchers' own surveys to allow identification of the local problems and the selection of potential technology sites. The Technology module aims to open up alternative water resources, thus establishing a multi-resource mix that permits different sources, types and qualities of water to be deployed for the various purposes. Innovative technological options are tested to see if they can be adapted to the regional conditions in the study area, options such as rainwater harvesting, de-central solar-coupled desalination, artificial groundwater recharge, and sanitation with waste-water recycling as a source of energy, nutrients and humus. The options to be included in the implementation phase are selected in a participatory process which takes into account the site conditions (urban/rural). The technology is implemented in such as a way as to fit in with existing institutional and administrative processes of resource management and take into account the social, economic and ecological framework of water utilisation.

The IWRM process is institutionally secured by the development of stable legal and institutional structures drawn up in the project module Good Governance & Institutionalisation. Moreover, the CuveWaters project becomes firmly rooted within the local context through the Participation module. The development and implementation of IWRM for this specific region is to be backed up at local, regional and national levels by the participation of different stakeholder groups (users, practitioners, administration, politics, etc.). Key elements here are the integration of stakeholders' knowledge, interests and skills, and the creation of means to negotiate solutions to existing conflicts in water utilisation and resource management. With a view to accomplishing steady and consistent results for the project, support measures are being developed at local, regional and national levels within a Capacity Building context; these measures are designed to transfer knowledge to administration and other institutional players, scientists, and the population. Furthermore, there are long-term plans to initiate a national and bi-national policy dialogue, enabling the entire catchment area of the Cuvelai, shared by Namibia and Angola, to be considered as a whole. Workshop activities as an integral part of the transdisciplinary research approach support accomplishment of the project goals:

  • Kick-off Workshop, Germany – 12/2007
  • Kick-off Workshop, Namibia - 02/2007
  • 1st Milestone Workshop, Germany – 06/2007
  • Stakeholder Workshop to Select and Implement Technology, Namibia– 10/2007
  • 2nd Milestone Workshop, Germany – 02/2008
  • 3rd Milestone Workshop, Germany – 06/2008
  • Final Workshop, Namibia – 08-09/2008

Phase 1 (1.11.6–31.10.08) outlined here, in which concepts are developed and technological potentials identified and weighed up in close collaboration with the local decision-makers and stakeholders, results in implementation of the selected lines of technology in pilot form and a continuation of integration (Phase 2). In the final phase of large scale implementation (Phase 3) it is intended that implementation of the technical systems that proved of value in the pilot phase, together with measures to strengthen adapted governance structures and capacity building, will create a crucial building block for sustainable development in the model region.On the German side, the joint project is carried out by: Institute for Social-Ecological Research, Fraunhofer Institute for Interfacial Engineering and Biotechnology, and the Technische Universität Darmstadt, Chair of Water Supply and Groundwater Protection (WAR Institute). In Namibia, CuveWaters works closely with the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry, the Desert Research Foundation of Namibia, and the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit.

Beyond the model region
Phase It is not only the model region involved in CuveWaters that can benefit from the project's results. The foundation will also be laid for a diffusion of the concepts and technologies developed: from a scientific perspective, new insights will be gleaned on the basis of knowledge, data and concepts, insights that, given the global escalation of issues and conflict potentials in the context of managing water resources, are in a position to offer new problem-solving approaches. An important task of CuveWaters is therefore to guarantee that the newly acquired insights into technical development, the appraisal thereof and evaluation of the technical consequences, along with the methods involved – for instance, model-based scenarios and adapted participatory concepts– are transferable to other regions of the worlds facing comparable problems. An initial focus in this respect lies in ensuring transferability to countries in southern Africa.


  • Institute for Social-Ecological Research (ISOE)

    • PD Dr. Thomas Kluge (Project Management) Alexia Krug v. Nidda (Project Coordination)
    • Hamburger Allee 45
    • 60486 Frankfurt
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