Tapping into the problem: water shortages in Nigeria

Do people living in Nigerian villages have clean drinking water?  Do they have enough water to meet their daily hygiene requirements?  The University of Edinburgh, UK, together with the Federal Polytechnic in Bauchi, Nigeria, looked at the supply of water to people living in rural communities in Taraba State, in eastern Nigeria. Since independence, Nigeria has spent a lot of money on developing water supplies.  However there are still many health problems in rural areas due to polluted drinking water and a shortage of water for daily hygiene.

Rural areas face specific problems not encountered in the towns.  It is simply too expensive to provide a house-to-house water supply because homes are so widely scattered.  Many rural people have low incomes and find it difficult to fund or maintain a water supply. They also lack the skills needed to maintain the water source. Water schemes therefore need to be simple to operate, and cheap to construct and maintain.  Villagers need spare parts, tools and materials if these schemes are to be successful in the long term.

The community wells, which may be polluted, are the main source of water; in the wet season 35% of rural inhabitants depend on the well for water and in the dry season the figure rises to 69%.  Families have other sources of water which may also be contaminated:  rainwater; water from ponds and pits they have dug themselves, and water from streams which flow in the rainy season. Many members of the community would willingly become involved in a water project to make sure that their families have a continuous supply of safe water.  Almost half of the households offered their labour and more than a quarter offered to help fund the project.

The study found that:

In order to address the problems identified the report recommends:

‘Water-availability assessment and corresponding public health implications for a rural area in Nigeria’, Journal of the Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management 16(4): 296-299, by V.C. Uzomah and M. Scholz, 2002
'Performance predictions of mature experimental constructed wetlands which treat urban water receiving high loads of lead and copper', Water Research 37(6): 1270-1277, by M. Scholz, 2002
'Mature experimental constructed wetlands treating urban water receiving high metal loads', Biotechnology Progress 18(6): 1257-1264, by M. Scholz, P. Hohn and R. Minall, 2002

Funded by: University of Edinburgh; Federal Polytechnic, Bauchi, Nigeria

id21 Research Highlight: 4 November 2003

Further Information:
Miklas Scholz
Institute for Infrastructure and Environment
School of Engineering and Electronics
University of Edinburgh
Crew Building
The King's Buildings
Edinburgh EH9 3JN

Tel: +44 (0) 131 650 6780
Fax: +44 (0) 131 650 6781
Contact the contributor: m.scholz@ed.ac.uk

University of Edinburgh, Scotland

Other related links:
'South Africa’s ‘World in one country’ experience'

'Water and sanitation goals: is progress in the pipeline?'

'Much to be done: can water supply and sanitation targets be met?'

'Access for all: the delivery of water and sanitation in urban Bangladesh'

See id21's collection of links relevant to environmental health.

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