Boniface C E Egboka
Nigeria has four large main surface water basins, providing opportunities for irrigated agriculture as well as fisheries. The two largest basins with their tributaries and distributaries are the Niger River Basin and Lake Chad Basin, covering about 83% of the country. Rivers and lakes make up approximately 16% of Nigeria’s total surface area.
Two surface water systems, the Chad and Niger-Benue complexes dominate the country’s Hydrology/Hydrogeology. Nigeria has extensive fadama areas or flood plains found along the country’s rivers, especially the Niger, Benue, Sokoto, Rima, Hadeija/Jammare, Yobe in the north; and Anambra, Imo, Ebonyi, Cross River, Idemili, Benin, Ogun, Osun etc. rivers in the southern parts. The fadama areas provide rich grazing and agricultural lands and are internationally important areas for all season farming and biodiversity.
Nigeria has annual internal renewable water resources of 221 cubic kilometres. Sixty-nine percent of water is used for agriculture, 21% for domestic uses and 10% for industries. Potable water supplies are scarce and irregular; in many areas water service is intermittent, sanitation facilities unavailable and water quality is substandard nationwide, suggesting that more than half the population is unable to access sufficient clean water on a regular basis. Nigeria’s water resources have been degraded by floods, soil/gully erosion, siltation, salinization, saltwater incursion, pollution and contamination from industrial and agricultural sources, human and animal wastes. Nigeria’s rapid population growth has not been accompanied by an increase in the delivery of water supply, sewerage and sanitation services.
The gap between those areas that have reasonably safe access to water supply and sanitation and those without is growing wider in geometrical progression. Urban areas experience greater coverage whereas peri-urban/ semi-urban and rural areas experience regular stagnation or decline in services. Environmental pollution and contamination are major sources of destruction of scarce potable water supplies. While pollution may occur as high loads of physical, chemical and biological pollutants, contamination tendencies may occur as smaller loads/concentrations but equally deleterious to the hydrological/hydrogeological ecosystem.
The sources of pollutants/contaminants may be natural or anthropogenic or man-made; may be a point source or be widespread in nature; they may be domestic, industrial, commercial, agricultural, of the oil/gas industrial sources, acid/alkaline rainfall etc.
A lot of damages are done to water supplies schemes and infrastructure in Nigeria through these polluting/ contaminating sources/agents. At the World Bank funded Greater Onitsha Water Scheme, flood disasters and massive gully erosion destroyed and buried entire reservoir, pumping station and disrupted water supplies at Onitsha metropolis. Human and industrial wastes are recklessly-dumped into surface waters at urban centres of Kano, Kaduna, Ibadan, Lagos, Aba, Onitsha etc. rendering them useless.
The oil and gas industries in the Niger Delta have rendered parts of the environment permanently damaged for a long time. Massive oil spills, deposition of loads of contaminated groundwater from oil wells, gas blowouts with bonfires and oil floatation on surface waters as well as continued gas flaring precipitate acid rains in the Niger Delta environment killing flora and fauna. It is a criminal act against humanity over the wanton destruction of the Niger Delta environment without serious condemnation of the perpetrators of these dastardly acts; or hearing any serious words of condemnation from relevant government officials who ought to have done so.
The Niger Delta has made an ignoble history as the most polluted environment from petroleum/ natural gas sources in the world and something ameliorating is yet to be done about it. The UNDP report on the costly need to clean-up the massive environmental pollution, contamination and degradation of the environment of the Niger Delta through oil and gas anthropogenic outlets from oil companies is yet to receive any serious positive attention; yet this menace has received worldwide condemnation from the global community.
Many rivers and surface waters in Kano and Kaduna cities are equally heavily damaged by industrial pollution from leather/ tanning industry. The unfortunate implications of polluted and contaminated water supplies are the destruction of water quality and impairment of public health. Water-borne diseases are rampant. Diarrhoea has commonly attacked children and adults in parts of the country; bilharzia has had its toll in many communities while guineaworm scourge has been causing debilitating malaise in some states.
Unfortunately, people do not seem to realize that volumes of potable water occur more in the groundwater zone or thick aquifers below the ground surface. Deepseated groundwater horizons have more matured and potable water than their comparative surface water sources; they are less amenable to pollution and are protected by boundary sedimentary covers under confinement guarding against ingress of anthropogenic pollutants/contaminants.
Age-long old thick water-bearing units called aquifers may contain large volumes of potable water and may have more volumes of water than surface sources. Although exploration, exploitation and management of groundwater resources may be complex and costly but reliability and longevity of such groundwater sources can be handled and harnessed properly by water technicians, technologists and experts in Hydrogeology where they are involved.
But unfortunately, experts in hydrogeology or groundwater resources are hardly involved in its management. It is an all-comers affair in borehole citing and drilling saga where water witches/wizards in hocus-pocus approach, using water diviner’s rod perpetuate havoc of destruction of groundwater resources in the country. Boreholes/bore-wells are drilled anywhere and anyhow without requisite scientific exploration and siting.
Boreholes that may interfere with one another during pumping are sited close to one another at no reasonable distance. Boreholes and their component parts are wrongly-assembled and poorly-installed with poor quality materials. Pumping test analysis or assessments/evaluation of well performance and yields are hardly carried out. These avoidable anomalies account for short lives of boreholes and their regular failures nationwide.
There are hardly any total water quality appraisals or monitoring on regional aquifers and well performance countrywide. Over 70% failure rate of boreholes in Nigeria have been recorded; many boreholes hardly last for over ten years of water life. Strategies and plans for effective water supply and management from surface and subsurface water sources must consider and recognize policy, economic, financial and regulatory framework that take cognisance of the need for intersectional/intersectoral approach to water resources management.
There are many serious mismanagement tendencies in water resources, namely, surface water sources may be abused or polluted/contaminated and rendered useless; many streams and rivers, particularly in the north, have been recklessly dammed thereby increasing excessive waterloss from the hydrologic environment through severe surface water evaporation and evapotranspiration from agricultural fields and irrigation channels; there are too many dams in northern Nigeria resulting in the loss of surface water volumes and their ecosystems; building of more dams must be curtailed;there are poor monitoring and maintenance programmes resulting in poor performance of surface reservoirs or failures of boreholes; there are hardly carried out Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) studies before establishment of major water schemes, development of estates and industrial projects in order to forestall the negative impacts of such projects when put in place; there are poor observance or enforcement of Water Laws in management of water resources; established water supplies schemes/projects are hardly well-planned to match or take care of the growing and burgeoning human population that would need such a water structure or system over the ensuing years; international/ boundary waters are not given maximum attention they deserve. Lake Chad may, soon, dry out completely due to over use while the River Niger has been excessively dammed at many places within and outside Nigeria resulting in its massive waterloss and originating of islands within its valley; the dredging of the River Niger is yet to be successfully completed.
There is a great need for proper education of personnel in our tertiary institutions for the training of hydrologists, civil engineers, hydrogeologists, water quality experts, technologists, technicians etc. for the planning and management of the various aspects/components of water resources. The curricula for their training and acquisition of professional expertise in the fields of water resources should be broad-based in nature and be all-encompassing so that while one may be specialising in one aspect of the water sector, the person must have an overall idea on issues bordering on total water structure and management; he/she should be versatile in understanding and appreciating all component parts of water resources.
He must be water-management friendly and be a team player in all aspects of water management. The present manner where water professionals exhibit an unnecessary peacock pride and work in isolation from one another is harmful and unacceptable. Nigeria faces major challenges in reaching its water and sanitation Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The unavailability of accurate data makes it impossible to accurately determine if the country is on-target or offtarget in meeting the MDGs. Though more resources are being allocated to water, these are still inadequate and there is no budget on hygiene and sanitation.
The resources that are made available are often not fully-disbursed. Projects are frequently handled through the top-down approach without participation of the grassroot populace needed for sustainability. Some politicians fail to agree on the tariff structures needed to underpin the financial autonomy of urban utilities; they selfishly intervene in the allocation of rural projects creating inequity in access to service and improper citing that may result in the possible failure of such projects.
There is great need by the federal and state governments to increase access to safe, adequate and sustainable water supplies and sanitation services in the country and provide assistance on the reformation of the water sector; there is a need for greater participation of non-governmental organizations and community-based organizations in water supply, sanitation and management programmes as government has limited capacity to undertake behavioral change interventions required in achieving the required levels in water and sanitation.
Government, the private sector and development partners, however, should provide funds to facilitate this process. The development partners should provide technical assistance for the establishment of the necessary policy instruments and the development of behaviour change interventions; Nigerians are in dire need of adequate potable water for domestic uses and enough water for industrial concerns.
The President Buhari government should take note and act as appropriate and accordingly. (Concluded)
•Prof Boniface C E Egboka, former VC of UNIZIK, Awka, Anambra State; E-mail: email@example.com