Valuing water in world affairs is reaching a tipping point. Over the next two decades and beyond, the global push for food and energy security and for sustaining urbanization will place new and increasing demands on the water resources. At the same time, climate change could potentially worsen the situation by increasing water stress as well as the number of extreme weather events. All of this is happening in a context where the important agenda of access to water and sanitation services—despite impressive gains over the past several decades—remains unfinished, requiring an urgent push if we are to fulfill the promise of universal access.
In Nigeria, both ground and surface water play vital roles in the socio economic development of urban and rural areas. In a recent report by the British Geological Survey, it was estimated that the groundwater potential of aquifers in Africa are 100 times the amount found on the surface. Out of the current population of Nigeria of about 200 million, more than half depend directly on this natural resource for their daily water needs. With the rapid population growth of about 2.5% per annum, the demand for water has progressively increased over the last three decades. The provision of safe drinking water has deteriorated, for example, access in urban areas fell from 79 percent to 75 per in the past fourteen years. This is largely due to poor management and corruption, inadequate technical capabilities and human capacities, insufficient investment and funding. Others are lack of stakeholder participation in the management of groundwater resources and the fragmented nature of institutions responsible for water management in Nigeria.
Rapid population growth and uncontrolled urbanisation across Nigeria further aggravate the increasing magnitude and distribution of the above ground human activities that potentially affect the quality and quantity of the underlying groundwater resources. Uncontrolled urbanisation, dense population concentrations and ever increasing human activities all severely affect groundwater quality. This is especially the case in most African countries including Nigeria, where the urban expansion is not normally guided by regulations.
These problems pose a significant threat to water quality in the various shallow unconfined aquifer systems of most cities and towns across Nigeria. In most cases water systems, particularly groundwater in many places across Nigeria are likely impacted by the ever increasing proliferation of on-site sanitation systems; especially pit latrines. In most of the state capitals (except some parts of Abuja and Lagos) in Nigeria, human, residential and commercial wastes are indiscriminately disposed of. As a consequence, they pose unacceptable health risks to the local population, most especially on the urban poor who largely depend on groundwater for their consumption and other domestic purposes.
Taking the above evidences into consideration; a transitional change to a better managed water resource is critical in achieving the target of SDG 6 by 2030. This transitional change in Nigeria requires the engagement and empowerment of all the relevant stakeholders across all the tiers of government (local, state and federal) in addressing groundwater management issues. Henceforth from this year’s World Water Day (WWD 2021), we must adopt and experiment this process of change (radical) at both societal and institutional levels respectively. In Nigeria, there is the need for implementing sustainable policies in water governance that will ensure co-evolution of institutional arrangements and streamlining of responsibilities, advances in research & technological development in our tertiary institutions of learning, socio-cultural adaptation and experimentation starting from this year (2021).
Solutions to the intractable issue of groundwater contamination in Nigeria requires an integrated strategy and are urgently required. Therefore all the 36 states, 774 local councils, and the federal government needs to (i) properly educated their citizens on water management, contamination and protection issues (ii) all the three tiers of governments must provide adequate legislation and empower their citizens (iii) ensure proper waste management, institutional integration and streamlining of responsibilities across government agencies and departments (iv) ensure transparent national and regional cooperation, and integration (v) ensure further partnership and cooperation with external development partners (vi) strong and transparent commitment by the various tiers of government.
Wishing you all a Happy World Water Day!!!