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Why Nigeria lacks safe, clean water – report

Firm introduces device to enhance water access

Though there is enough groundwater in Nigeria and other African countries for them to survive five to 50 years of drought, low investment in services to get the water out of the ground is the reason safe and clean water remains a luxury in those countries, a new report has said.

The report conducted by WaterAid and British Geological Survey (BGS) as part of activities marking World Water Day (WWD) 2022, adds that untapped or poorly managed resources means millions of people don’t have enough safe, clean water to meet their daily needs.

Besides Nigeria, other African countries caught in this web include Ethiopia and Madagascar where only around half the population have clean water close to home. Mali and Niger are also in the group.

This lack has left the individual countries and the continent as a whole in a sanitation and hygiene-related situation which, according to environmental health experts, is dire.

In Nigeria, WaterAid estimates that only 9 percent of the country’s 200 million population has access to basic water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) services, adding that 60 million people, representing 30 percent of the population, lack access to clean water.

The organisation, which is working to make clean water, decent toilets and good hygiene normal for everyone, everywhere within a generation, says that 112 million Nigerians, about 56 percent of the population, lack decent toilets.

Read also: Inside Nigeria’s commercial hub where potable water is luxury

“46 million people, 23 percent of the population, practise open defecation; 167 million people, 84 percent of the population, lack basic hand-washing facilities; only 3 percent of schools have access to basic water, sanitation, and hygiene services while only 4 percent of healthcare facilities have access to basic water, sanitation, and hygiene services,” Evelyn Mere, WaterAid Nigeria Country Director, said.

Solving these problems involves working around ground water resource which, according to Alan MacDonald, BGS Groundwater Resilience Lead, is nature’s water reservoir and a key resource to help the world adapt to climate change. “It’s widely available, controlled by natural variation in geology, but is out of sight beneath our feet,” he said.

MacDonald added that, “to unlock the great potential of groundwater, we need the right investment in expertise to map groundwater, drill sustainable wells and find ways to maintain and manage water resources and services.”

Mere affirms, stressing that Nigeria can only realize the potential of groundwater if it overcomes the complex global problems around accessing it. “Groundwater is an invisible resource, so tapping it, particularly in places where it is harder to get to, relies on knowledge about the geology beneath our feet,” she said.

According to her, the quantity and quality of the groundwater also varies and, in some areas, we simply don’t know how much there is or its suitability.

She cited Enugu State in Nigeria where, she said, it is difficult to find suitable locations to drill boreholes in some parts of the state because the underground rocks are made mainly of clay which doesn’t hold much water. “This means you need to search for areas where the rock does hold water, like sandstone. But such exploration is expensive,” she noted.

Mere noted further that pockets of shallow groundwater in Enugu could also be contaminated and only available for part of the year. By contrast, she said, it is much easier to find suitable locations to drill boreholes in Jigawa State, Nigeria, as the rocks underground store large quantities of water.