Namibia, Botswana, and South Africa were awarded the UNESCO Peace Award for cooperation in transboundary groundwater governance and management in Paris, France.
Namibia and other African countries attended the two-day UN-Groundwater Summit, which was themed "Groundwater: Making the Invisible Visible." The gathering looked at various aspects, such as how African countries can cooperate in groundwater management and utilization.
The medal was awarded to the three neighboring countries for peacefully sharing the Stampriet Aquifer; Namibia also shares the Ohangwena Aquifer with Angola.
Minister of Agriculture, Water, and Land Reforms Carl Schlettwein, who led Namibia's delegation, received the award.
"It is awarded because the outcome of the work is not only scientific research on the aquifer but also an agreement between the three countries to cooperate and work together with the Stampriet Aquifer because it is a transboundary aquifer, so it avoids conflicts and disputes when we tap into this valuable water resource."
According to Schlettwein, Namibia is ahead of many African countries in terms of mapping, researching, and measuring groundwater.
He added that it is difficult to identify groundwater because it is not visible, unlike looking at rivers and knowing what lies beneath.
"If you sit next to a river, you see the water flow by; it's not difficult to measure, and you know what you have by seeing what you see, but groundwater is not like that; groundwater is below your feet in the ground, and you don't know what is happening or what you have, and Namibia is a very good example of that. But we found water there."
Schlettwein says groundwater is often misused and contaminated, and no results are visible until the resource becomes depleted.
Namibia has a total demand of about 700 million cubic meters of water per year, of which groundwater caters to over 50 percent.
According to Schlettwein, groundwater is one of the most crucial water resources that must be protected for future generations.
"It is an important investment, and it carries weight, but we believe that in this case, the long-term sustainability of that water resource is the number one priority; it is a transboundary water source, and we may not do anything that contaminates it and puts the aquafer at risk for our neighbors; we've agreed to that, and we want it to be available for our children."
Namibia is one of the African countries with a fully developed groundwater map and reclamation work, enabling it to reclaim sewage and clean it for other uses.
Schlettwein appealed to the public to use water in a more conservative manner.
Namibia will attend the UN Water Conference next year.