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Every year on March 22, World Water Day is celebrated to highlight the value of water and the need to preserve it. Water is essential for a healthy body. This is why the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) designated this day in 1993 to draw attention to the water-related challenges we face.
The United Nations has chosen the theme: “Groundwater: Making the Invisible Visible” for the 2022 World Water Day celebrations. Each day a specific theme is decided focusing on topics relevant to drinking water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH), which is in line with the targets of Sustainable Development Goal 6: water and sanitation for all by 2030.
Groundwater is water found underground in aquifers, which are geological formations of rock, sand and gravel that contain significant amounts of water. It feeds springs, rivers, lakes and wetlands and seeps into the oceans. Groundwater is recharged primarily from rainfall and snowfall which infiltrates the ground and can be extracted at the surface by pumps and wells. Life would not be possible without it as it provides much of the water we use for drinking, sanitation, food production and industrial processes.
The quantity and quality of water available for human consumption today has been affected by damaged ecosystems. Today, approximately 2.1 billion people live without drinking water at home; this impacts their health, education and overall livelihoods. Water safety and quality are fundamental to human development and well-being. Access to drinking water is one of the most effective instruments for promoting health and reducing poverty.
As we celebrate this very important day, we need to recognize the vital role water plays in our lives and reflect on its importance. Water carries nutrients and oxygen to cells and lubricates joints. It reduces the load on the kidneys and liver by removing waste products, dissolving minerals and nutrients to make them accessible to the body.
More than 1.42 billion people, including 450 million children, live in areas with high or extremely high water vulnerability. This means that 1 in 5 children in the world does not have enough water to meet their daily needs. The figures in Nigeria are particularly worrying, with over 26.5 million or 29% of Nigerian children experiencing high or extremely high vulnerability to water.
About 116 million people in Nigeria lack basic sanitation facilities as 37.8 million practice open defecation across the country, while 55 million are without safe drinking water, 110 million have no basic sanitation facilities and an estimated 60,000 children under five in Nigeria die of diseases caused by the country’s low levels of access to water, sanitation and hygiene.
Nigeria is at a critical juncture in the struggle to achieve clean water, decent sanitation and good hygiene for people in the country and around the world. If everyone, everywhere can access clean water, decent toilets and good hygiene, then we could end the scourge of extreme poverty and create a more sustainable future.
There is a need for action by the federal government and relevant stakeholders to conserve groundwater resources. This has also been corroborated by the Institution of Water Engineers, which has called for an end to the indiscriminate drilling of boreholes. This is in line with the theme that draws attention to groundwater protection and its recognition in the development of sustainable development policies.
Although water supply and supply is capital-intensive, it is a basic necessity for the well-being of citizens. Government at all levels can venture into water supply through public-private partnership to ensure adequate production and distribution. Accordingly, the Rivers State Government, through the Port Harcourt Water Corporation (PHWC), is implementing the Urban Water Sector Reform and Water Supply and Wastewater Project. Port Harcourt Sanitation Project, as well as the Third National Urban Water Sector Reform Project.
The project aims to provide improved water and sanitation services to the entire population of the local government areas of Port Harcourt and Obio/Akpor. Beneficiaries of the project will include over 1.5 million residents of the Port Harcourt metropolitan area. The project is co-financed by the state government, the African Development Bank (AfDB) and the World Bank. Water projects are underway in Trans-Amadi, Abuloma, Woji and Elelenwo. Opobo/Nkoro, Akuku Toru, among other rural communities also have their share of the state government water supply system.
To further reposition water services across the state, the Rivers State Department of Water Resources and Rural Development has taken action to crack down on table water producers, whose products do not do not meet the four categories of water established in the State. The ministry, in its categorization, has four classes of water classified as A, B, C and D, class A being potable, while B, C, especially D are not potable. We believe there should be an aggressive public awareness campaign on what water is recommended to drink.
The Rivers State government’s decision to weed out quacks in the water production industry is highly commendable. This will ensure quality water production. We strongly advocate for the full implementation of the Water Sector Reform Act No. 7 of 2012 to minimize unwanted activities in the water industry. The statutory 30-meter gap between a borehole and a suction should be enforced to stem water pollution from the borehole in the state.
The water situation in Nigeria is a ticking time bomb and there is an urgent need to critically address many issues affecting this resource. As long as the drilling is done indiscriminately, the water cannot be considered a source and the government must save this situation. Poor planning of water supply systems by state governments is one of the main reasons for the inadequate supply of potable water across the country. However, the action of the Rivers State government in certifying boreholes and drinking water production is a model well worthy of emulation.

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