The United Nation’s (UN) World Water Day is held annually on 22nd of March and the aim is to underline the importance of water as well as advocate for the sustainable management of water resources. The theme for the 2019 World Water Day was “Leave no one behind”. The theme adapts the central promise of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development such that as sustainable development progresses, everyone must benefit. Sustainable Development Goal 6 aims to ensure availability and sustainable management of water for all by 2030. By definition, this means leaving no one behind. But today, billions of people are still living without safe water – their households, schools, workplaces, farms and factories struggling to survive and thrive. According to UN Secretary-General, António Guterres, in his 2019 World Water Day message, he stated that our bodies, our cities and our industries, our agriculture and our ecosystems all depend on water. He further mentioned that water is a human right hence nobody should be denied access.
In commemoration of the World Water Day, NOIPolls presents findings from its past poll on access to clean water which was conducted in partnership with WaterAid in 2018. The poll gauged the perception of Nigerians regarding their access to water; accessibility of clean water to Nigerians, the quality and treatment of drinking water and the types of challenges faced in accessing clean water. Findings from the poll revealed that borehole is the primary source of water for a larger proportion of Nigerians both for domestic use (50 percent) and drinking (37 percent). According to the WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme (JMP), this source of water supply is mainly classified as an improved source of water supply. While it falls under the purview of government at all levels through the Ministry of Water resources to provide water, the reverse is the case as Nigerians provide their own water through the construction of boreholes. This alternative source of water appears to constitute a looming danger for Nigerians as most of these boreholes are exposed to underground pathogens and pollutants especially E-coli which cause diarrhoeal diseases, which are also contributing factors to malnutrition and child mortality.
More findings from the opinion poll also revealed that 66 percent of Nigerians do not treat their water in any form before drinking regardless of the source, mainly because they believe the water is good enough to drink (16 percent). On the other hand, 34 percent who treat their water before drinking it mostly adopt boiling (49 percent) the water as a method of purification. On access to clean water, 37 percent of Nigerians lamented over the challenges they face in accessing clean water in their households and the negative impacts this has on their spending and health. According to the World Bank, accessing clean water is a major factor in reducing child mortality. In Nigeria alone, around 60, 000 children under the age of five die each year from diseases caused by the nation’s poor levels of access to water, sanitation and hygiene. Therefore, it is imperative that the three tiers of government, stakeholders and international support agencies synergize their plans and strategies to ensure that all Nigerians have access to clean potable water in their homes by reviving all water boards across all states in the country and resuscitating dormant water plants.
The chart below showed that respondents were asked of their primary source of water supply and 50 percent of those interviewed disclosed that their main source of water supply for household use is borehole and residents from the South-South accounted for the largest proportion of Nigerians who asserted to this. Other primary sources of water mentioned include; protected dug well, piped water and tanker-trucks/ water vendors amongst other sources.
Although the water we drink might appear clean, it most likely contains some harmful microorganism. Findings from this report revealed that majority (66 percent) of Nigerians do not treat the water they drink. This cuts across both genders, age-groups and a further analysis by geo-political zones showed that the North-East zone had the highest (73 percent) proportion of Nigerians who do not treat their water prior to drinking. On the other hand, 34 percent of respondents claimed that they treat their water to make it suitable for drinking. The South-West zone had the largest (48 percent) percentage of respondents who stated this.
On current sources of drinking water, the poll revealed that 37 percent of Nigerian households get their drinking water from boreholes and this assertion was mostly from residents in the North-East zone. This implies that almost 4 in 10 Nigerian households have their source of drinking water as boreholes. More analysis revealed that 34 percent of Nigerians keep-up with their daily drinking water needs from bottled or sachet water sources. In addition, 10 percent revealed that they get their drinking water from piped water amongst other sources.
On challenges in accessing clean water, analysis revealed that 37 percent of Nigerian households had challenges accessing clean water and this was mostly prevalent in the northern region; North-West and North-Central to be specific. On the contrary, 63 percent of Nigerians do not see access to clean water as a challenge to their households
On the impact of lack of access to clean water, 31 percent, which formed the majority, mentioned an increase in their spending as the main impact of this lack, as they are forced to buy water daily with their rather scarce resources. Additionally, 30 percent of the respondents stated that it has affected their health and it can be inferred that this category of respondents are more likely to face unsafe water related ailments such as typhoid fever, diarrhoea, cholera etc. due to the consumption of unsafe water. Also, the poll revealed that 18 percent of the respondents stated that they have to travel far distances to source for water amongst other related impacts of lack of access to clean water.
In conclusion, as Nigerians joined the world in observing the World Water Day, the poll has shown that access to safe and clean water for both domestic use and for drinking is still a challenge to most Nigerian households as borehole is widely used as the primary source of water supply despite some of its long-term effects. Health experts have affirmed that unsafe water has a lot of health implications and 30 percent of those who have challenges in accessing clean water have decried the impact of unsafe water on their health. Poor water supply is a major means for transmission of typhoid fever, cholera, diarrhea, dysentery, hepatitis A, and other water-borne diseases. Therefore, in order to meet the 6th Goal of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) which is to ‘Ensure Access to Water and Sanitation for all’, government at all levels needs to urgently provide funds for the provision of improved quality of water and water sources to the citizenry.
Finally, though the provision of water supply is capital intensive, it is still a basic necessity for the well-being of Nigerians. Therefore, Public-Private-Partnership programs should be encouraged to attract investors in order to ensure adequate production, distribution and sale of potable water to all. Above all, the Federal Government should fully implement the provisions of the approved 2000 Nigeria’s National Water Supply and Sanitation Policy.