Incorporating Productive Uses into Water Systems In Urban Nigeria
Joachim Ibeziako Ezeji, 2006 PostGraduate Student,
Water, Engineering and Development Centre, Loughborough University, UK.
The purpose of this memo is to inform the National Council for Agriculture and Water Resources about a research carried out in November 2007 at the Water, Engineering Development Centre (WEDC); Loughborough University, UK on how productive uses of water could be incorporated into water systems in urban Nigeria.
The objectives of the study include;
i) To understand how households are benefiting from productive uses of water;
ii) To evaluate how productive uses of water is contributing to system sustainability or otherwise.
1) In Nigeria, water supplies to households by the water utilities have traditionally been confined within what is known as domestic water needs. The quantity of water supplied is meant to cover basic needs such as drinking, cooking and personal sanitation needs etc. However this has not been a true reflection of the use of this limited amount of water supplied.
2) This however is not peculiar to Nigeria as many recent studies in many parts of the world have shown that millions of households’ especially low-income households also use their limited quantity of water supplies for many other sundry activities particularly economic.
3) These economic activities also called productive uses of water includes those activities that may not really thrive or even take off unless the required quantity of water is available. Such activities often not only generate income for all those involved but also assist households to save expenditure as well as enriching the family menu or nutrition.
4) A social survey of households and institutions in Owerri city was therefore carried out in order to obtain the people’s views, and observe their daily economic activities as it relates to the way and manner they use their drinking water supplies for economic and productive enterprises.
5) Particular attention was focused on the water supplied by the Imo State Water Corporation (ISWC) and the Alternative Water Suppliers. Research tools used in doing this study included Questionnaires, Focus group discussions and Observations. Secondary information was scooped from local newspapers, personal discussions and review of institutional documents.
6) This paper therefore discusses the situation in Owerri, a sprawling Nigerian city where productive uses of water is already real, particularly in activities such as home gardening, bricks making, horticulture, car washing, restaurants and ice block making etc.
7) In view of the persisting problem in water supplies in Nigeria where urban coverage is still below 60% with about 75% of the urban population being poor it become imperative to x-ray how those involved in productive uses of water are coping and the sustainability of the urban water supply infrastructure.
8) An informed understanding of these issues is here considered a veritable enabler or tool vital in the fight against poverty. To achieve this, the paper therefore examines how productive uses of water could without problems be incorporated into urban water systems in Nigeria.
Summary of Findings:
1) The Imo State Water Corporation (ISWC) has the mandate to supply water to the urban and semi-urban areas of Imo State especially Owerri. The Imo State Water Corporation in Owerri is well aware that some residents are currently using the limited water supplies for sundry activities like home gardening, commercial flower gardening, watering of lawns and commercial washing of cars as well as for brick/block making.
2) The utility has no official policy on this though some staffs claim that the corporation frowns at it. It is viewed as a waste of water treated with expensive and imported chemicals.
3) The ISWC in an attempt to check this especially the associated huge water wastages made serious effort to introduce meters in 2001. Meters were therefore serially mounted to effectively monitor and test run these huge productive users. The utility was sad to report that these meters were out rightly vandalized shortly after installation by the commercial productive users, particularly Car washers.
4) A mid-way panacea for the corporation at the moment is the billing of water user groups especially those involved in home gardening, commercial flower gardening, watering of lawns and commercial washing of cars as well as for brick/block making a relatively higher tariff that is determined by the size of enterprise or plot of operation.
5) However major extant technical constraints of the Owerri urban water scheme included;
a) Excessive leakages in the distribution systems due to
- Burst pipes due to weak and averaged pipes subjected to high pressure along the pipeline.
- Damage on the distribution network (branched pipe network) through uncoordinated and unauthorized activities along the pipeline.
- Improperly connected joints along the systems by unauthorized and unsupervised persons.
- Faulty valves and worn out taps from public stand posts and domestic users.
b) Unstable power supply which is often caused by erratic power supply from the public power utility (The Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN)).Others include; lack of fuel and lubricants (diesel) to power generating sets when PHCN fails; faulty generator batteries or starters and faulty pumps.
6) Complementing the service gaps inherent in the shortfalls of the utility are a coterie of alternative water service providers. These are mostly private individuals who provide basic water services to consumers on a long term basis and are paid for their services by their water customers directly.
7) They included Water Kiosk/Commercial and Private Boreholes, Cart Water Vendors and Truck Water Vendors etc. and together with the ISWC, these two groups supply the bulk of the water being used by productive water users.
8) From the study, regular access to household water supply (especially to all those fully involved in productive uses of water) suggested an input on poverty. The study revealed that those with a regular supply source (e.g. those storing large volume of water in tanks for all season supplies, those owing boreholes or regular supply from vendors) had 20-50% more income than those who solely rely on the public supplies by ISWC. This extra income is most evident in 40% of the car washers, horticulturists and those with gardens. The reason is generally because these groups have all season water supply and even reflect the extra cost on bills paid by consumers of their services. Those of them who are too weak to go this extra mile earn less.
9) Amongst the 6 productive water user groups identified in the study, the Willingness to Pay (WTP) for ISWC water is higher among the Restaurant and Ice Block groups. This was assessed based on their overwhelming subscription to the introduction of meters. Currently these two groups use 250 and 50-100 l/p/d of water respectively which they source 50 and 75% respectively from water carte vendors. They operate basically within their households. Both activities are dominated by women and represent the highest number of productive users surveyed. There activities are more water efficient than the other groups.
10) Already, Horticulture, Car Wash, Bricks/Block Making and Home Garden group have been on the searchlight of ISWC because of the poor reputation of wasting so much water. Despite the fact that they currently use higher quantities of water per day, they are often hesitant to pay anything near commensurate charges.
11) They are notorious for many cases of illegal connection and disruption of water flows. They strongly oppose the introduction of meters because of the latent fear that it will not only expose their high level of water wastage but impose higher bills on them. They are rather contented with the existing status quo which tends to favor them because they currently underpay.
12) Another incriminating observation during the study is the discovery that all those involved commercially in Horticulture, Car Wash, Bricks/Block making and Home garden were using special mini-surface suction-pumps connected to the public mains. They use these pumps to boost the water supply pressure therefore extracting more water at a high rate than is normal.
13) The result is that they currently constrain supplies to nearby/surrounding houses that use water simply for domestic purposes as well as those involved in the less water demanding productive user groups such as Restaurants and Ice Blocks etc.
14) It was also discovered that high volume productive users in order to safeguard periods of intermittent flows have large storage tanks. These tanks range in size from 1000litres and above. The implication is that whenever the supplies from ISWC is on, these productive users will immediately embark on filling up these large receptacles and often this takes hours to get filled. This enthrones inequity is supply around that neighborhood.
15) Car washers and Brick/block makers are currently not usefully tapping rain water. Both activities really require little or no need for high quality water such as the treated water supplied by the utility. They are rather supposed to be at the vanguard of rain water or recycled water use, but that was not observed to be so. They rather remained major users of the utility supplied ‘clean’ water.
16) However, most of these productive water users live or operate on rented plots; this together with huge capital costs hinders the option of any sustainable rainfall harvesting. Earlier findings such as those of Skinner (undated) shows that rainwater costs about five times as much as metered water supplies in Sri Lanka, and that it takes 20-25 years to recover the capital cost of such investment in Namibia. The apparent inertia and apathy in utilizing rainwater as an option in Owerri by these groups could therefore be appreciated from this standpoint.
17) Productive water use in the city was observed to be a self help enterprise by the average poor with little or no government input. In a nutshell it could be described as an age-long pro-poor stratagem by the poor themselves. The active involvement of both men and women of various age groupings underscores the relevance of water as a pro-poor commodity quite beyond its health benefits. Women were also in dominance in these activities at a ratio of 3:1.
Prayers to Council:
1) An appraisal of the National Water Supply and Sanitation Policy (NWSSP) Document formulated in 2000 will be germane. It had set the following targets:
• 60 % coverage by 2003
• 80% by 2007
• 100% coverage by 2011
Sadly, the targets for 2003 and 2007 were not achieved. This has necessitated therefore a need to take into account supply lapses and blend them into recent policy reviews and reformulate targets in line with Millennium Development Goals. The demonstrated willingness to develop Water Supply and Sanitation Policy by the government should be stepped up as a road map.
2) Some ongoing policy initiatives including;
• Review of the National Water Supply and Sanitation Policy
• Finalization of the Water Sanitation Policy (currently draft form)
should be formulated to accommodate productive uses. In this midst, also remains the need to develop a comprehensive legal and policy framework that covers not only water supply and sanitation but water resources in a more general sense. The Federal Ministry of Water Resources (FMWR) should also give this the most careful attention as a poverty alleviation tool vis small scale productive water use activities.
3) The implications of governance particularly drafting of policy framework and financing to poverty alleviation strategies are strong. To therefore adopt and support water uses particularly productive water uses at any level there is the need to understand how water users co-exist. The setting of national targets that is hinged on infrastructure with limited consideration on effective service or amount of water available to the people is defective. Using funds therefore to execute capital infrastructure and using such infrastructure as a true reflection of coverage is delusion. Government therefore have to come to terms with the fact that there is need to put adequate mechanisms in place to take care of the bloom in the urban population particularly the small-scale informal sector.
4) Water Utilities, Urban planners and Municipal officials should acknowledge that the urban small scale water users are here to stay, that they contribute to the city economy in many ways and that reducing urban poverty is not possible without supporting the working poor in the informal urban economy. They should promote inclusive urban planning, including participatory planning processes, to address the key constraints and needs of different categories of small scale water users.
5) National governments and municipal authorities in many developing countries often emphasize the negative aspects of informality to justify the implementation of restrictive policies for the informal economy. These negative aspects for productive water users may include acts such as illegal connections, flow disruptions through excessive abstraction, under-payment, tax evasion, and flooding in urban areas. However, given that the informal economy is the main source of employment and income for a sizable proportion of the urban poor, these restrictive policies seriously undermine efforts to combat poverty and unemployment. There is therefore need to bring these water users to the discussion table in order to make them regulate themselves first through the adoption of healthy ethics.
6) A good deal of the debate over government policies for the urban water sector is leaned on whether it should be privatized or reformed. However, it is increasingly recognized that policy analysis should move beyond this conventional debate and focus on an appropriate regulatory and managerial framework designed to (i) promote the gradual integration of small scale users e.g. productive water users into the urban water system, (ii) improve utility operational efficiency and (iii) strengthen its income i.e. on both sides, the utility and reducing effects of tariff on the urban poor.
7) Campaigns could be aimed at making water saving a ‘second nature’ in every home. Saving the rain campaign could aim to engender a greater personal sense of responsibility for water saving measurers amongst productive water users through an intensive public awareness campaign. It could start by embarking on a state or national survey to gauge public attitudes to water saving and rainwater harvesting.
8) With careful design, water harvesting could be easily integrated into, for example, the existing urban water systems to boost productive uses and other enterprises. The key to an effective harvesting system is the capture of surface water runoff from an area. Often, an area has been designed or modified during a storm to avoid water logging.