Importance of access to potable water for women in developing countries: The Case of Nigeria

This blogger attended a church service in Britain in early October 2016 where a video was shown about how the church’s Mission succeeded in improving access to potable water to the people of a rural community school in East Africa using a simple method of rain water harvesting. This simple, cheap method involves channeling rain water from roofs of school buildings into covered concrete cisterns.  Cisterns are often built to catch and store rainwater.

The video brought back childhood memories concerning the challenges we faced searching for water which are similar to the current challenges rural communities face in  some parts of Nigeria for example a rural community in Benue State.

In Osogbo (my home town) our challenges can be summarized by taking a walk down memory lane as regards what happened to women and kids fetching water for household use in the mid-fifties. At that time we did not have piped borne water and we depended on two spring sources – one yields drinkable water while the other can be referred to as non-drinkable.

The drinkable source was an unprotected (i.e. uncovered) but developed spring source. It consisted of metal drums about 30 inches in diameter and 36 inches high jammed into the bed of a small wetland (akuro in Yoruba or fadama in World Bank parlance). It is referred to as adun mu (good tasty water)! We need to remember that good quality water has no taste. This source provided drinking water to people within a radius of about 11/2 miles, an area of dense population. Fetching water at this source involved long periods of queuing, especially during the dry seasons. Tempers usually become frayed which more often than not ended in shouting matches and at times fistfights.

The king’s wives also fetch their water here.  Whenever they came to fetch water, traditionally they were not supposed to queue at the spring source. The locals and the uneducated respected this tradition which was challenged by non-indigenes and new educated elites. This happened to be one of the beginning trends in the erosion of the traditional customs of the Yorubas in my area.

The non-drinkable source was called okanla, also a spring source. Its water had an awful taste possibly because it contained large amounts of dissolved solids. It was used for laundry. Osun River water was also used for laundry but was far from the populated area of the town.

The challenges the rural community faced in Benue State is well illustrated in the words of an elderly borehole water pump operator at Eja community (Oju LGA) in 2005. He stated that pregnancy was a rarity during the dry seasons before the WaterAid  water supply intervention because of the arduous task of walking long distances, carrying 25 litres of water, over steep inclines which usually resulted in miscarriages. He further noted that because women spent most nights away from home looking for water threatened the stability of their marriages.  Furthermore, most men wanted to avoid getting into a situation that was not in the interest of their spouses’ health.

Generally, communities obtain water from two sources – surface water and ground water. Surface water sources include streams, lakes, springs, wet lands, rain and rain water harvesting. Ground water sources comprise hand-dug wells, water supply boreholes.  For the purpose of this essay we will concentrate on potable water derived from these sources. This blog will also wish to consider another grouping of sources of water: sustained and un-sustained/transient sources.

Data on access to potable water by donors, states and institutions are at times based on total number of water points constructed, customer enumeration surveys and certain analytical and statistical methods. Experiences have shown that once water points are constructed, several factors affect whether they are functional for a reasonable length of time or non-functional within a few months of their completion. Such water points are here referred to as transient or sustained.  Access to potable water data are therefore estimates instead of computed or measured. It is not possible to have accurate data on access to potable water because access data only measures the situation at a time like a snap shot.

Water Sources could be transient for the following reasons:

  • Water points constructed, e.g. by the Federal Government of Nigeria, which do not have community based institutions to manage them (such points usually fall into disrepair once any part of the physical facility fails);
  • Those constructed by contractors that did a poor job such that the water points fail as soon as they are handed over to the community. The picture below is that of a water supply borehole at Bembe in Aiyedaade Local Government area, Osun State.
FGN Rural Borehole at Bembe near Orile Owu Osun state

FGN Rural Borehole at Bembe village near Orile Owu, Osun State, Nigeria

At this community the blogger was surprised to see people drawing water from a hand-dug well right next to a motorized water supply borehole constructed by the Federal Government of Nigeria. The villagers told the blogger that the borehole was only functional for a few months. This kind of facility is considered transient or un-sustained.

Uncoordinated investment in Nigeria’s water sector which has resulted in huge numbers of water points constructed by the RBDAs, for example, which are not handed over to the states or the communities and which are thus not being used but are recorded as water points serving certain numbers of people in the access data.

Other water points fail shortly after completion because of poor monitoring and reporting as well as the attitude of communities towards government properties and over reliance of these communities on government to do everything for them. Once such points fail, repairs that may cost just pittance will be left while awaiting government assistance. Such points which may have been added to the access data will fall in the category of transient water supply source.

In order to have fairly reliable estimate the WHO and UNICEF jointly organized a Rapid Assessment of Drinking Water Quality (RADWQ) in Nigeria in 2010. It was reported that though the methodology used worked well in Nigeria, but that the methodology needed some improvement. One key improvement sought would require visit to water sampling sites after selecting them to physically locate the sites because some sites visited by the teams did not have the technology allocated to them in the initial design of the project. The above case of Bembe in Ayedaade LGA, Osun State buttresses this point.

Table 2.2 of RADWQ report is on “Household access to water supplies” for each state. The table provides information on whether the households have improved or unimproved technology access. Improved technologies access comprise piped water, borehole, tubewells, protected dug wells, tankers and vendors. Unimproved technologies access comprise ponds, streams, rainwater and unprotected dug wells. The table noted that 51.5% of households have access to water from improved technology sources and that this estimate will go down to 47.1 % if water supplied by tanker truck or animal-drawn tankers is excluded from the analysis.

Charitywater.org/whywater/ summarizes how lack of access impacts the lives of women in the third world in four major ways.  The narrative above about the impacts of the activities of that Christian Mission in East Africa, mentioned above and that of the WaterAid in Nigeria  are suitably captured in these four major ways below:

  • Health
    • Diseases from dirty water kill more people every year than all forms of violence, including war.
    • 43% of those deaths are children under five years old. Access to clean water and basic sanitation can save around 16,000 lives every week.
  • TIME
    • In Africa alone, women spend 40 billion hours a year walking for water.
    • Access to clean water gives communities more time to grow food, earn an income, and go to school — all of which fight poverty.
  • EDUCATION
    • Clean water helps keep kids in school, especially girls.
    • Less time collecting water means more time in class. Clean water and proper toilets at school means teenage girls don’t have to stay home for a week out of every month.
  • WOMEN EMPOWERMENT
    • Women are responsible for 72% of the water collected in Sub-Saharan Africa.
    • When a community gets water, women and girls get their lives back. They start businesses, improve their homes, and take charge of their own futures.
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Update on Privatization of water supply in Lagos State

This blog has expressed concerns about the dangers of carrying out privatization exercise without involving all stakeholders in the process: (https://weircentreforafrica.com/2015/02/27/privatisation-of-water-supply-in-developing-economies-lagos-state-case/). It also provided information about the views and concerns of the USA Congressional Black Caucus on the same issue (https://weircentreforafrica.com/2015/06/23/congressional-black-caucus-against-lagos-water-privatisation/). That was in 2015, when Lagos State sort of took some kind of time out on the issue. 

Apparently the State is about to reopen the issue of privatization and a civil society group has come alerted the citizens of the state by raising the necessary red flag as shown below.

DEPO ADENLE.

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Lagos Water Privatization: Group urges Ambode to halt secret concession of water infrastructure

by Ben Ezeamalu, Premium Times, April 19

The Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth (ERA/FoEN) has urged Governor Akinwunmi Ambode to halt  his ongoing concession of water infrastructure in the state.

Akinbode Oluwafemi, a deputy Director at ERA/FoEN, said the governor should declare his stance on the controversial Public Private Partnership of the water sector.

“As we have said time and again, the failure of the Lagos State government to open up on the controversial water PPP gives room for us to suspect that something is in the offing and the people are deliberately being kept in the dark,” said Mr. Oluwafemi.

“We cannot stop demanding that the rights of Lagos citizens to a free gift of nature must not be subject to the dictates of privatizers whose only interest is profit.

“Worse is the fact that the Lagos State government is toying with a failed model of PPP that the World Bank private arm – International Finance Corporation  (IFC) advised it to embark upon even with documented failures in Manila and Nagpur, in the Philippines and India respectively.”

The group also accused the Lagos State government of failing to take a clear stance on the controversy surrounding the PPP advisory contract that the World Bank was forced to cancel last year, following pressures by labour and civil society.

“At a rally organised in March 17, 2016 by the Africa Water Hygiene and Sanitation Network (AWWWASHNET) in Lagos, Permanent Secretary, Mr Biodun Bamgboye debunked the PPP plans saying the Governor had no plans to privatise water,” Mr. Oluwafemi said.

“Suprisingly, Governor Ambode was quoted as saying PPP was the way to go just two days after.

Threats of underground water pollution imminent in Nigeria?

The title of the article below which was published in the Daily Trust of August 26, 2015 and written by Alex Abutu based on what Mr. Michael Ale, AWDROP National President told Daily Trust, sounds alarmist as its scope is very limited compared to its content.
Groundwater pollution in Nigeria cannot and should not be mainly ascribed to the activities of foreign borehole drilling companies. It is due to a number of causes – poor borehole design by incompetent drilling companies, point-source and non-point-source pollution, unregulated waste disposal practices, unscientific design and siting of sanitary landfills, improper decommissioning of non-productive or failed boreholes, unsupervised drilling activities of oil prospecting companies, etc. to mention A few. fairly detailed summary is contained in the table provided by Canter(1981) which lists 3 major sources of groundwater pollution – Waste disposal sources, Nondisposal sources and Depletion. Please click below for the  table on major sources of Groundwater Pollution.

Major Sources of Groundwater Pollution
Major Sources of Groundwater Pollution
The article focuses on the following:
• “large format equipment which is inimical to our environment”;
• Drilling of large number of boreholes;
• Poor design of boreholes that allow infiltration of overburden water into the aquifer through the screening of the overburden casing without appropriate grouting;
• Foreign drillers operating without license;
• Too many boreholes and well interference.
These are sweeping statements which are difficult to substantiate, for example, that using large equipment is unfavorable, detrimental or adverse to our environment in Nigeria. Furthermore, drilling many boreholes per day, if scientifically located and properly designed and supervised should not cause any problem with respect to well interference or pollution.
Currently, the National Water Law has not been enacted. However, in Part X of the draft National Water Resources Act of 2011, reference is made to the Code of the Regulation of Domestic Boreholes which was developed by the National Water Resources Institute (NWRI) and the Ministry. This Code’s section 4 is on Legal Consideration.
Section 4.1 is on Drilling Permit which states “No well shall be constructed unless the owner is in possession of a valid permit to do so … Permit shall be given by relevant Agencies designated by the Minister of Water Resources.” This is fine but has no legal backing until the Water Resources Act is enacted.
Section 4.2 of the Code is on Water Well Driller’s License: Section 4.2a states “A water well driller’s license shall be obtained from NWRI on application. Section 4.2b states “No person shall construct a well for the abstraction or monitoring of groundwater or for research if the person does not have a driller’s license granted in accordance with the provisions of this code. The requirements of the driller’s license shall be applicable to any person, company, corporation, or other entity engaged in the business or occupation that involves construction of water wells that may penetrate water-bearing strata (including constructing water wells, geothermal systems and environmental monitoring wells.”
Section 4.2.1.1.1 gives an exemption to the stipulation of the Code as stated above. As mentioned earlier, the National Water Resources Act is yet to be enacted, the Code is part of the Act, consequently the alarm raised by the article concerning foreign companies using unlicensed drillers cannot be resolved at this point in time.
Comments by DEPO ADENLE.
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Threats of underground water pollution imminent
By Alex Abutu , Daily Trust, Aug 26 2015

FemaleDriller
A lady driller supervising a borehole drilling recently.
Nigeria is facing an imminent danger of underground water pollution if the activities of foreigners drilling companies are left unchecked, the Association of Water Well Drilling Rig Owners and Practitioners has alerted.
The association said at the rate the foreign companies, mostly from Asia, are operating, the nation may run out of clean drinking water in the nearest future. “Asians have infiltrated our environment with large format equipment which is inimical to our environment.”
Mr. Michael Ale, AWDROP National President, told Daily Trust that: “An average Asian drilling company operating in the country drills close to three boreholes in a day and we have about 50 of such drilling companies scattered around Nigeria with each having at least four rigs. With this calculation, an average of 400 boreholes are drilled daily and this is enormous.”
“Another major issue is the fact that the underground water is gradually being polluted by the design of drilling embarked by the Asians as most of their designs allow infiltration of overburden water into the underground aquifer through the screening of the overburden casing without appropriate grouting. We are not talking of the cheap materials used during their installation. This is sad,” Ale added.
Investigation by Daily Trust in Abuja and environs showed that there is an upsurge in the number of foreigners in the borehole drilling business.
In Masaka, a suburb near Abuja, numerous signposts advertising the foreign drilling companies abound with some engaging in promos to woo customers.
Ale noted that most of the foreign drillers are not licensed to drill, wondering who allowed them to operate in Nigeria. “Our trained drillers and experts are jobless. So the environmental, social and economic importance is being maligned by these foreigners.”
According to him, many Nigerians who drill boreholes have adequate knowledge of the terrain but the foreigners do not. “Borehole needs to last for a lifetime but conduct a search on many boreholes drilled now, it is glaring that they are affecting one another because of the approach of the drillers, many of whom are quacks that have infiltrated the industry.”
“Some people have argued that the Asians made borehole affordable to most Nigerians but is it affordability or sustainability that we should be talking about? Yes their borehole can be affordable for 2-3 years but will pack up with time. It may be affordable but the client gets contaminated water because of the drill design,” he added.
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Threats of underground water pollution imminent
By Alex Abutu , Daily Trust, Aug 26 2015
A lady driller supervising a borehole drilling recently.
Nigeria is facing an imminent danger of underground water pollution if the activities of foreigners drilling companies are left unchecked, the Association of Water Well Drilling Rig Owners and Practitioners has alerted.
The association said at the rate the foreign companies, mostly from Asia, are operating, the nation may run out of clean drinking water in the nearest future. “Asians have infiltrated our environment with large format equipment which is inimical to our environment.”
Mr. Michael Ale, AWDROP National President, told Daily Trust that: “An average Asian drilling company operating in the country drills close to three boreholes in a day and we have about 50 of such drilling companies scattered around Nigeria with each having at least four rigs. With this calculation, an average of 400 boreholes are drilled daily and this is enormous.”
“Another major issue is the fact that the underground water is gradually being polluted by the design of drilling embarked by the Asians as most of their designs allow infiltration of overburden water into the underground aquifer through the screening of the overburden casing without appropriate grouting. We are not talking of the cheap materials used during their installation. This is sad,” Ale added.
Investigation by Daily Trust in Abuja and environs showed that there is an upsurge in the number of foreigners in the borehole drilling business.
In Masaka, a suburb near Abuja, numerous signposts advertising the foreign drilling companies abound with some engaging in promos to woo customers.
Ale noted that most of the foreign drillers are not licensed to drill, wondering who allowed them to operate in Nigeria. “Our trained drillers and experts are jobless. So the environmental, social and economic importance is being maligned by these foreigners.”
According to him, many Nigerians who drill boreholes have adequate knowledge of the terrain but the foreigners do not. “Borehole needs to last for a lifetime but conduct a search on many boreholes drilled now, it is glaring that they are affecting one another because of the approach of the drillers, many of whom are quacks that have infiltrated the industry.”
“Some people have argued that the Asians made borehole affordable to most Nigerians but is it affordability or sustainability that we should be talking about? Yes their borehole can be affordable for 2-3 years but will pack up with time. It may be affordable but the client gets contaminated water because of the drill design,” he added.

Open Defecation in Nigeria an Overview/Teachers resort to open defecation in Katsina

Open Defecation in Nigeria an Overview

According Wikipedia, about one billion people practice open defecation in the developing world or 15% of the global population. India tops the developing countries with 47% (600 million) of its population practicing open defecation, followed by Indonesia (54 million), Pakistan (41 million), and Nigeria in the fourth position with 39 million people practicing open defecation.

Open defecation cannot but be the common practice to ease oneself in Nigeria where toilet facilities are not provided in schools – primary, secondary and even tertiary as well as in public places like markets and motor parks.

Every state in Nigeria has a Water and Sanitation Agency (WATSAN) or an institution that handles sanitation. If Kastina has an agency like this, one wonders why the situation concerning sanitation is as bad as reported below. Kastina was part of Kaduna State, thus when it was created from the latter it will surely have a sanitation agency. Kaduna State WATSAN in its move to end open defecation sensitized 28 communities in January 2014 (NAN, 22 January 2014).

The fifth phase of War Against Indiscipline (WAI) of the Buhari/Idiagbon regime of 19983 -85 is on Environmental Sanitation. One cannot forget the fact that late Tai Solarin virtually cried his voice hoarse against defecating or urinating in the open. He lamented that every inch of the roadside in Nigeria has been defecated or urinated on. In order to wage total war on open defecation it will be necessary, in addition to Community Led Total Sanitation (CLTS), to relaunch WAI by the current Buhari Administration, because urinating or defecating in the open is due to indiscipline.

By DEPO ADENLE
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Teachers resort to open defecation in Katsina

Class three pupils in Kamfanin Mailafiya Primary School, Faskari LGA, Katsina State.

The Katsina State Committee on Education set up by the government has presented its report which raised some damning revelations about the deplorable condition of primary schools across the state.
Government had constituted the committee in a move to get the true picture of what is obtainable at the basic level of education with a view to finding ways of improving the education sector.
The report presented by the chairman, Dr Badamasi Charanci, uncovered several shortcomings that urgently need to be addressed to move the sector forward.
According to the report, 2,262 primary schools across the state were used for the baseline data study in which 50 per cent of them lacked toilets as students and teachers resort to open defection.
A shortfall of furniture in the report was seen all over as about 622,390 pupils were recorded to have no chairs and desks; they sat on bare floors to take lessons. In Katsina town alone, 47,000 pupils sit on the floors and about 794 of the schools were in pitiful condition, while 1,319 needed minor repairs.
Additional 7,554 teachers are urgently needed to be employed to meet the standard of three classrooms per five teachers. Already, there are 19,833 primary school teachers out of which 4,996 are females.
There is also the need for additional 3,000 classrooms to accommodate the large number of pupils in both urban and rural areas.
A visit to one of the schools in Faskari Local Government revealed overcrowded classrooms which makes teaching and learning frustrating. Some classes that should not have more than 35 pupils had close to 80 with majority sitting on floors while as many as five pupils sit on benches meant for three pupils.
The appalling situation can be seen in virtually all the schools across the state. Some experts said nothing tangible can be achieved in the education sector giving the gloomy picture presented by the report which has made basic primary education difficult to acquire.  There was poor ergonomic design of classroom chairs in most schools.
According to the coordinator of Partnership for the Development of Education in the state Zakari Ya’u Doka, primary education had suffered enough over time, saying that there was a serious neglect of primary schools by the government.
An educationist, Dr Muhammad Kado, said the education sector must be rejuvenated to meet global requirement and the effort being made by government in that direction was laudable.
According to him “we at the private sector are fully in support of these motives, well meaning stride considering what quality education means to any form of human development.
Governor Aminu Masari said Katsina State, which led in the Northern region in terms of education, has over the years lost that status and efforts must be made to move the state forward.
He said recent students’ results released by examination bodies including WAEC, NECO and JAMB were so poor and not acceptable.
“We are not here to play politics; the sorry state of education in Katsina is beyond partisan politics if we are serious to ensure total revival of the sector,” he said.
Some of the interim measures embarked on by the government to address the problems include; engagement of the services of department of education of Ahmadu Bello University Zaria (ABU) for training of teachers, improved welfare packages like car, housing loans and special headmaster’s holiday.

The Disappearing Lake Chad and Buhari’s emergency call for action

Buhari orders review of 1920 report on Lake Chad
by Talatu Usman, Premium Times, August 4, 2015.
President Muhammadu Buhari has directed that a Lake Chad report submitted in 1920 be reviewed to salvage the lake from drying up, the permanent secretary of the Ministry of Environment, Fatimah Mede, said Tuesday.
Lake Chad is largest lake in the Chad Basin, and is located mainly in the far west of Chad which shares a border with north-eastern Nigeria.
It is economically important, providing water to over 68 million people living in four countries surrounding it, namely, Chad, Cameroon, Niger, and Nigeria.
Ms. Mede told journalists that the president gave the directive following his concern that Lake Chad has receded from 33,000 square kilometres about two decades ago to just 300 square kilometres.
The president, Ms. Mede said, complained that the receding lake is adversely affecting the livelihood of those whose economic activities are directly linked to it.
“So he has directed that we should go and look at the report that was submitted in 1920 about how to prevent Lake Chad from drying up, so that the communities around, even border communities, including the countries benefitting from activities of fishermen and livelihood based on Lake Chad, are not affected.

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Comments by DEPO ADENLE

Apparently the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Environment is not aware of the wealth of information that is available at the Ministry of Water Resources on the Lake Chad with respect to the Compacts and Agreements on the Chad Basin. (Nigeria is a member of the Lake Chad Basin Commission and has access to the library of this Commission).
If she had discussed with the Water Ministry she would have informed the President that what would be relevant at this time is not just the 1920 report but all literature and proposals on restoring the Lake.
During the time President Obasanjo, the proposal to transfer water from the Ubangui River in the Central African Republic to Lake Chad as a way of saving the Lake was prepared and reviewed by water experts in the Chad Transboundary Basin.
This blogger wrote an article – A Lake Today, a Puddle Tomorrow?: The Case of the Disappearing Chad – in a book edited by L. Jansky, M. Nakayama and J.I. Uito published by the United Nations University in Japan 2002. The article contains a review of what had been done as of that time as well as proposals for action.
Apart from the Ministry of Water Resources, the Lake Chad Basin Commission is a good repository of knowledge on how to salvage Lake Chad. What is needed now is action on the proposals that have been reviewed by water resources professionals in Nigeria and other riparian countries.

by DEPO ADENLE.

 

Water shortage and water wars in SW USA: Lessons for Komadugu-Yobe Basin

Reading the story in the article below of the imminent Austin, Texas water war one could make a projection of similar development in the Komadugu-Yobe Drainage Basin in Northeast Nigeria. This article gives an insight into the kind of conflict that develops when any part of the globe suddenly discovers that it has become a water stressed or deficient area as a result of cyclic drought or climate change.

The drought in the Southwest USA has resulted in, for example, water conflicts in California and Texas. In California, the State has put together some water conservation regulations and there have even been reported cases of water theft. It has also led to a situation in Austin, Texas where urban communities and developers have become somehow creative in the interpretation of existing water laws. What has led to this creativity is the large scale decrease in available surface water which means not enough to pump for use in the cities. The developers and the cities discovered a gap in the Water Law which gives them a chance to go after groundwater. They thus enlisted the services of a drilling company to drain part of the water of the Trinity Aquifer.

What lessons can Nigeria’s NE (Hadejia-Komadugu-Yobe Basin) (HKYB) learn from this?

At the HKYB annual floods have for many years in the past supported the diverse socio-economic activities of the area. “To millions of West Africans the river brings comfort when flowing in abundance, misery in times of drought” (Gerster, G. (1975). This applies to HKYB also. This Basin has experienced droughts – since the first sharp phase in the years 1972-73, there have been consistent shortages of rainfall in the dry areas of tropical Africa, including HKYB. A notable worsening in the drought occurred in 1983-84, and shortages have remained the general rule up to at least the recent past. These have greatly affected the major rivers. Furthermore, with the development and construction of the Tiga and Challawa Gorge Dams in Kano State, an upstream state, flow has also been reduced and occurrence of floods and groundwater recharge of the wetlands has been considerably reduced.

The construction of these dams was undertaken because of the need to meet the increasing water demand resulting from rapid urbanization and high population growth rate. However, it is believed that what accounts for the reduced river flow is not only due to the increased diversion from these dams but also poor dam operation procedures.

The Komadugu-Yobe-Basin (KYB) Trust Fund was established as a partnership between the riparian states and the Federal Government to ensure that flows can reach the downstream users and that the aquifers in the downstream areas are recharged. Some of the steps the Trust Fund plans to take include developing dam operations procedures for the Tiga and Challawa Gorge Dams. This is aimed at maximizing the benefits of the river system for both human and nature, by controlling the unwanted dry season floods.

Finally, the National Water Law is yet to be enacted and whatever loopholes it contains, concerning the management of the waters of the KYB in an integrated manner, need to be investigated and addressed. Furthermore, there seems to be little or no attention paid to the management of groundwater, not the near surface aquifer, in the agreements reached in the Basin. The question that needs to be asked is how much impacts are the FADAMA tube wells, used for irrigation, having on the downstream flow of the river system?

Though the northeast Nigeria water situation has not reached the level of that in the southwest USA, it is necessary to borrow a leaf from what is happening there.

by DEPO ADENLE

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The Southwestern Water Wars
How Drought Is Producing Tensions in Texas
By RICHARD PARKERMARCH 13, 2015
WIMBERLEY, Tex. — “WE don’t want you here,” warned the county commissioner, pointing an accusatory finger at the drilling company executives as 600 local residents rose to their feet. “We want you to leave Hays County.”
Normally, my small town is a placid place nestled in the Texas Hill Country, far from controversy, a peaceful hour’s drive west of Austin. Pop. 2,582, Wimberley was founded as a mill town on a creek. Today it’s part artist colony, part cowboy town known for its natural beauty and its cool, clear springs and rivers that wind through soaring cypress trees.
But these are not normal times. The suburbs of Austin close in every year. Recently, the suburb of Buda and developers enlisted a company from faraway Houston to drain part of the Trinity Aquifer, the source of the Hill Country’s water. An old-fashioned, Western-style water war has erupted.
Across Texas and the Southwest, the scene is repeated in the face of a triple threat: booming population, looming drought and the worsening effects of climate change.
And it is a story that has played out before. It was in the Southwest that complex human cultures in the United States first arose. Around A.D. 800, the people called the “Ancient Ones” — the Mimbres, Mogollon, Chaco and other Native American cultures — flourished in what was then a green, if not lush, region. They channeled water into fields and built cities on the mesas and into the cliffs, fashioning societies, rituals and art.
Then around 1200 they all disappeared. Or so the legend goes. In reality, these cultures were slowly and painfully extinguished. The rivers dried. The fields died. The cities were unsustainable as drought stretched from years to decades, becoming what scientists today call a megadrought. Parts of these cultures were absorbed by the Pueblo and Navajo people; parts were simply stamped out.
By the time the Spanish arrived in the 16th century, so had, finally, the rain. The American, German and Polish settlers who came to Texas in the 19th century found a rich landscape, flush with water. “I must say as to what I have seen of Texas,” wrote Davy Crockett, “it is the garden spot of the world.” And so it remained, punctuated by only two long droughts.
One, at the dawn of the 20th century, wreaked ecological havoc on the overgrazed Hill Country. The second stretched from the late 1940s to the late 1950s and is still known as the drought of record. When it released its grip, a new era of feverish dam and canal building ensued in Texas, just as it already had in much of the Southwest. A dearth of rainfall, after all, is a fact in the cycle of life here. Rains come when the equatorial current of El Niño appears, and they stay stubbornly away when its twin, La Niña, reverses the course. Those grand dams and canals seemed likely to suffice.
But again, these are not normal times. Arizonans are in their 10th year of drought, despite an uptick in rainfall during last year’s monsoon season because of a single storm on a single day. And while it has been a cool, damp winter here, the clear waters of the Blanco River still look low. Officially, more than half of Texas’ 269,000 square miles are plagued by drought. Conservatively, this would make for the fifth consecutive year of drought in Texas. Meanwhile, today, the average American uses 100 gallons of water a day.
So the race to engineer a new solution is underway, and Wimberley finds itself squarely in the path. The drilling here would rely on a few landowners, whose land is beyond any water conservation district. Exploiting this gap in the patchwork of Texas water laws, the Houston company would pump five million gallons a day out of the Trinity Aquifer to the Austin suburbs of Buda and Kyle.

Access to water through an ATM-style dispenser in Kenya: Is it possible in Nigeria?

One of the problems of Small Town and Rural Water Supply is how to collect effectively and efficiently revenue from communities for the services provided.

Sustainable rural and small town water supply depends to a large extent on the ability of Water Consumers Association, in the case of Small Town, and WASHCOM in case of rural water supply, to collect revenue for services rendered.

In the early part of 2005 this blogger was involved in a scoping study of community water supply management organized by WaterAid in Benue State. It was discovered that the facilities that were managed by WASHCOMS that collected revenues efficiently were running well compared with those that were the reverse was the case. Similar results have been observed in the European Union Water Supply and Sanitation Sector Reform Programme (WSSSRP) in Nigeria.

The success recorded in Kenya slum of Mathare using ATMs should be given a trial in Nigeria.

Comment: DEPO ADENLE.
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Kenya slum Mathare gets cheap water through ATMs

BBC Report, 22 June 2015
From the section Africa

Residents of the Mathare slum area of Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, are now able to access water through an ATM-style dispenser. People living in slums traditionally rely on vendors, who are expensive, or polluted sources to get drinking water. But the new system, where people use a smart card, is designed to provide cheaper and cleaner water.

The water company is opening four of these dispensers in Nairobi and there are hopes the scheme will be expanded. A version of the scheme has been used in rural areas in Kenya, but it is thought this is the first time that it will be used in an urban area.

Residents swipe the smart cards, topped up at a kiosk or through a mobile phone, at the dispenser and water starts flowing from the tap.

The Nairobi City Water and Sewerage company says it is charging half a Kenya shilling (half a US cent) for 20 litres of water. This is much cheaper than the rates being charged by the water vendors, reports the BBC’s Abdullahi Abdi in Nairobi.

The dispensers have been set up through a partnership between the local government and the Danish water engineering company Grundfos.

The company says that this public-private partnership model could be developed in other countries.

Meanwhile in another part of Nairobi residents are complaining about a water shortage.

The BBC’s Ahmed Adan in the suburb of Eastleigh says that vendors are selling water at 50 Kenya shillings for 20 litres – 100 times the price at the new water dispensing machines.

Having clean drinking water is one of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals and it is thought that worldwide more than 700 million people still do not have access to it.