The economic effects of a water shortage on the meat industry

16 Jan 2015

The current drought and water shortage experienced across Namibia paints a rather distressing picture for the livestock industry. Specialists, media houses and economists are all wary about our current bulk water supply.

According to NamWater, Namibia’s bulk water supplier, water reserves as they currently stand will only last until September 2016 if there is no inflow into the dams in the next rainy season. After that, water supply from boreholes, water recycling and the canal from the north will only be sufficient to satisfy about half the demand.

If the water shortages materialise in 2016, it will have a significant impact on the Namibian economy in terms of growth, job security, investment, poverty alleviation and industrialisation.

There is also no doubt that this will directly impact the livestock industry. According to Meatco’s Group Engineer Tony Holbling, Meatco currently uses 3.6m³ of water per animal, or 3.6m³ per 1 100 cans of corned beef. “This is measured at full capacity. If less water is available (current daily use is 1 400m³) than your consumption per head of cattle, the units increase because basic cleaning stays the same. The annual water consumption of Meatco Windhoek is less than 1.3% (330 000m³) of the City of Windhoek’s 25.5million m³ consumption. The rest of the heavy industry uses around 6% of Windhoek’s water.”

According to a report issued by Simonis Storm Securities (SSS), the economic impact of continued drought and the pending water shortage, will no doubt have a significant negative impact on all businesses, not only those that are dependent on water, but also other industries.


SSS says that in a water shortage scenario, supply preference will be given to households as water is required to sustain life. Public and essential services like schools, hospitals, government, police and army will be second in line, while business, industry and construction will come last. Any drought has an enormous impact on the agricultural sector. Although this sector only contributes 7.4% towards GDP, it is extremely important to the country as about 70% of the population depends on agricultural activities for their livelihood, while 29% of all employees are employed within this sector. Businesses that depend on the farming sector like Agra, Meatco, Namibia Dairies, Namib Mills and other companies are likely to suffer too.

So what can businesses and home owners do to save water?
• Install water-saving appliances.
• Use a broom rather than a hose to clean loading docks, parking lots and sidewalks.
• Check for and repair plumbing leaks in toilets and irrigation systems.
• Install a smart irrigation controller that shuts down automatic systems when it rains.
• Water outdoors in the evening when there is less evaporation.
• Use drip irrigation whenever possible.
• Replace old kitchen appliances with energy efficient models.
• Use water-efficient ice machines.
• Wash only full loads in the dishwasher.

With serious drought conditions affecting everyone, water conservation is more important than ever. As such, Government together with NamWater has urged residents of Windhoek to use at least 15% less water than what they normally use, and have put some restrictions in place. If these savings are achieved, then the current dam levels should be sufficient until early 2017.