In spite of the “water no get enemy” mantra that is plastered across the blue and white pipelines of Lagos, Nigeria is in danger of falling short of targets it set more than a decade ago to provide clean water and sanitation to the majority of citizens. However, increased government funding for water management and calls to encourage private investment in treatment plants and distribution systems could help put targets back within reach.
Water safety and security is a major issue in Nigeria: the World Health Organisation (WHO) and UNICEF rank the country third, after China and India, on the table of nations with inadequate water supply and sanitation coverage. This lack of clean water directly impacts the health of the nation and Nigeria’s ability to further develop its economy and meet its Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) as agreed with the UN. In the jointly produced Progress on Drinking Water and Sanitation report for 2012, Nigeria was found to have fallen behind in its efforts to meet its 2015 goals, in part due to poor coordination between service providers, a failure to complete projects and a lack of maintenance.
According to a report prepared by the non-governmental organisation and media network, Water Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH), 58% of Nigerians have access to clean drinking water, and just under one-third of the 170m population have access to proper sanitation. The slow rate at which new services are being provided and existing ones improved means Nigeria is likely to miss the MDGs regarding water resources it agreed with the UN in 2000. The government had made a commitment to ensure 74% of the population had clean water on hand by 2015, and that 69% had adequate sanitation.
“At the current rate of progress, the water target will be achieved in 2033 – 18 years after the proposed 2015,” said Dennis Deteer, the chairman of WASH’s Plateau chapter, when the report was released in mid-January.
The government is aware of the gap in service supply and is stepping up spending on water projects. Under the 2013 federal budget, approved by the parliament in late December, N47.8bn ($300m) was allocated to capital expenditure for developing water resources, up from the N38.2bn ($240m) allocated by the 2012 budget.
Added to the federal allocations is the funding that each of the state administrations commits to water projects, with many of these being localised developments, such as providing water bores to communities, expanding and improving pipeline networks, and upgrading purification systems. In mid-January, for example, officials in Nasarawa State in central Nigeria announced that $18.7m would be invested to improve water supplies and quality, extending distribution networks into areas of rapid population growth such as Auta Balefi, Karu and Mararaba in the Karu district.
It is not just new projects that are in urgent need of funding; many of Nigeria’s existing water resource facilities require work to maintain operations and to restore them to full capacity. One such case is the Kangimi water reservoir in Kaduna State, which has lost more than a quarter of its capacity due to rising sediment levels, according to a survey by the National Water Resources Institute (NWRI). Unless remedial work is taken at the dam, within 15 years it may not be able to meet the water needs of the city, said NWRI researcher Dr Waheed Alayande.
“At that time, it was designed to supply 48m gallons (182m litre) every day to Kaduna; but after our study, we found out that it had lost 28% of that capacity and by 2028, the reservoir may be struggling to meet the demand on it,” he said in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria on January 10.
With many of Nigeria’s 200 large-scale dams in areas subject to flooding and heavy sediment runoff, dredging and clearing work will become essential as these reservoirs become older.
These projects at both the federal and state level offer the opportunity for companies specialised in developing water resources and construction firms to fill their order books.
While the federal administration is increasing funding to improve water quality and availability, the Nigeria Society of Engineers has recommended the government also seek greater input from the private sector, specifically in build, operate and own/transfer models for treatment plants, as well as transmission and distribution networks. While these may be financially viable, and thus appealing to local and international investors, it is unlikely that such models would work in rural Nigeria, meaning that the state and federal governments will have to continue shouldering the cost of water resources development and supply.
Even with private sector cooperation, Nigeria will need to channel extensive funds into its water resources programme if it is to meet its MDGs, though the increased investments at the regional and national levels should help bring these goals closer.