CuveWaters – Sustainable Water Management in Namibia

The aim of CuveWaters is to support and improve Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) in the northern Namibian Cuvelai-Etosha Basin. ISOE is supervising and co-ordinating this international joint project.

Research approach

CuveWaters uses a transdisciplinary approach whereby science and technology are tied in with the everyday practical knowledge of the local people. 


In working towards Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM), a number of different technologies are being developed, adapted to regional requirements and set up as pilot installations. The intention is for these plants to open up alternative sources of water, resulting in the establishment of a multi-resource mix. This means using different sources, types and qualities of water for different purposes. For example, high quality water then serves as drinking water while water of a lesser quality is deployed for watering gardens.

The technologies featured in the CuveWaters project include: rainwater collection, solar-coupled decentralised desalination of groundwater, subterranean water storage, and an urban wastewater and sanitation concept with subsequent water reuse. 

Social strategies

The crucial feature of CuveWaters is that the local population accompanies and influences the development and realisation of the technologies. Technical implementation is discussed with the local residents and adapted accordingly. In addition, engineering innovations are always coupled to capacity development.

This means that the local people are especially trained in construction, maintenance, and operation of the facilities or in gardening, which helps reinforce their sense of self-responsibility as well as reducing unemployment and poverty.  In addition, the CuveWaters team develops concepts for good governance, supports institutional processes, and investigates the underlying socio-ecological framework. 


Almost half the Namibian population lives in the Cuvelai-Etosha basin. The area is characterised by climatic extremes: droughts and floods alternate seasonally, often lasting for months on end. Additionally, in many parts the groundwater is so saline that people cannot drink it. The situation is further exacerbated by a high rate of population growth, relatively high settlement density, and on-going urbanisation. With the right IWRM concept, the supply of water to people in the region can be safeguarded in a sustainable manner, thus making them better equipped to cope with the consequences of climate change.

Project partners in Germany

Technische Universität Darmstadt (TUD), Institut IWAR:
FG Wasserversorgung und Grundwasserschutz
FG Abwassertechnik / Industrielle Stoffkreisläufe

Industry partners

Terrawater, Kiel
Proaqua, Mainz
Solar-Institut Jülich – IBEU, Jülich
Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems (ISE), Freiburg (until 09/2013)
Bilfinger Water Technologies, Hanau

Partner country

Ministry for Agriculture, Water and Forestry (MAWF)
Desert Research Foundation of Namibia (DRFN)
Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GTZ), Büros Windhoek und Oshakati
Bundesanstalt für Geowissenschaften und Rohstoffe (BGR), Sektion Afrika
And further local and regional Institutions


Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung (BMBF)


2006/11 – 2015/12