Wells That Run Dry
By Olaoluwa Joseph
At the Redeemed Family House in Abattoir, Jos South area of Plateau State, where young people on their compulsory one-year of National Youth Service Corps live, nobody plays with water. A visit to the house will confirm this. You will see many yellow jerry cans displayed at every corner.
“Water is drying up at the well in the family house,” said Prosper Arhawho, a resident.
The water situation is quite dire he explained. Initially, the drought period began with water slowly drying up in the well that is just five minutes from them. The Landlord went on to seal the well to save whatever water was left, leaving them to trek an extra fifteen minutes to Abattoir Complex, a public space, in search for water.
There is an alternative source of water, another well, in an uncompleted building near their resident. But Prosper laments about the condition of the water.
“That water don go down well, well and the water dey dirty,” Prosper said.
Water has become such an asset that everyone living in the family house protects his or her share jealously.
That Sunday afternoon, we walked and inspected all the wells located around the Family House. Most of them were drying up.
“Water is the only problem,” Prosper murmured as we entered the Family House. Light has been constant for a long time but water, he stressed, was the main problem.
The Search for water
Ibukunoluwa Lana, another resident, outlines their early morning routine of hustling for water.
“In the mornings, everyone [collectively embarks on the journey]. You can’t use anybody’s water anyhow,” she said.
Even during an emergency, you have to ask your flatmates or neighbors before using their water, she explained. But says she does not mind staying on in the city despite the threatening scarcity of water.
“The worst is that I would go to the complex to fetch water,” she said pointing towards the Abattoir complex.
Meanwhile, while passing by the Well that served as their primary source of water for the past six months, Ibukun described it as unstable and dirty, just like Prosper earlier described it.
“The problem with this one is that when you fetch it, due to debris in it [you will have to wait for it to] settle down,” she explained. But even more challenging is the fact that many people from the neighborhood fetch water from the well constantly. Hence the reason why the water level is always low and dirty.
“People [wake up] as early as 3 am or 4 am to fetch water,” she said.
If given enough time to settle down, the water will be clean enough for all.
“There was a day I came back from school. I was on duty then and I came to fetch water to wash plates. It was very clean and it was in the afternoon.”
But Ibukun refuses to accept that the issue of water scarcity was only prevalence in the central or northern part of Nigeria.
“This also happens in the West. The first hostel I stayed in school, this same thing happened. We had two wells, the first one dried up until we moved to a new location that had four wells where several people came to fetch water from. Even in Lagos, in my uncle’s compound, people come (from far) to fetch water.”
Kayode, a Mass communication Student from Taraba undergoing his Industrial attachment (IT) in Jos has fared without access to water in his community for three weeks.
“For the past three weeks there has been no water,” He said. “This morning I was not able to have my bath, I just came like that. This is the reason why my colleagues failed to show up at the office,” Kayode said, looking despondent and unkempt. “And we are all living together,” he added.
Aside the water scarcity was the issue of youth poverty. Buying water was taking a huge toll on their finances as college undergraduates.
“We don’t have any enough money with us. We have to wait till the end of the month before our parents send anything to us,” Kayode said.
While talking to our correspondent, Kayode spotted a man hawking gallons of water in a large wheelbarrow. “All these ones,” he said, pointing to the water hawkers, “We don’t even see them in our area.”
In all of these discomfort occasioned by water scarcity and the disappearance of water in wells, there is no silver lining in sight. Several respondents all over the city have confirmed that more wells will dry up this January.
A state of emergency on WASH
Last year, the Nigeria President declared a state of emergency in the water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) sector. This was during the inauguration of the National Action Plan for Revitalisation of Water Supply, Sanitation and Hygiene in Abuja, the capital city of Nigeria.
The deteriorating situation is reflected in recent statistics that show that access to piped water services, which was at 32 percent in 1990 declined to seven percent in 2015 while access to improved sanitation also decreased from 38 percent in 1990 to 29 percent in 2015. Lack of access to clean water means poor sanitation, which in turn increases the chances of the spread of preventable diseases.
Different efforts are being made to improve the performance and supply of the water sector address. One of which is the implementation of the Partnership for Expanded Water Supply, Sanitation and Hygiene (PEWASH).
According to the World Health Organization, by 2025 half of the world’s population will be living in water-stressed areas. Re-use of wastewater, to recover water, nutrients, or energy, is becoming an important strategy. Increasingly countries are using wastewater for irrigation – in developing countries, this represents 7% of irrigated land. While this practice if done inappropriately poses health risks, safe management of wastewater can yield multiple benefits, including increased food production. Options for water sources used for drinking water and irrigation will continue to evolve, with an increasing reliance on groundwater and alternative sources, including wastewater. Climate change will lead to greater fluctuations in harvested rainwater. Management of all water resources will need to be improved to ensure provision and quality.
In a bid to gather more local perspective on efforts being made to address the water scarcity in the city, our correspondent paid a visit to the Plateau State Water Board but was met with stiff opposition. An attempt to speak with the Head of the Water Board who was pointed out to him was met with threats.
All attempt to reach other allied bodies like Plateau State Water Supply and Sanitation Agency (PRUWASSA) and the Plateau State Ministry of Water Resources and Energy proved abortive.
None of the agencies would calm the rising fear of water drying up in more homes.