Addressing Nigeria's Water Treatment Challenges and Impact on Communities - Susinsight
Adetoro Adetayo Adetoro is a Sustainability Professional who graduated with a Distinction in Sustainable Chemical Engineering (MSc) from the University of Bath. She partners with startups and organizations to conduct sustainability studies and advise on best practices.

Addressing Nigeria’s Water Treatment Challenges and Impact on Communities

3 min read

Nigeria’s significant challenges in water treatment, its lack of access to safe drinking water, and initiatives that have been implemented to improve water management.

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Nigeria is currently facing significant challenges in the aspect of water treatment, with millions of individuals unable to access safe and clean drinking water. The country’s population growth rate is one of the highest in the world at 2.6% annually, resulting in an ever-increasing demand for water and sanitation services.

The Dire Consequences of Unsafe Water Sources

Unfortunately, Nigeria’s existing water infrastructure is struggling to keep up with this rapid population growth, leaving a large portion of the population without access to safe drinking water or proper sanitation facilities. The Joint Monitoring Programme (JMP) report published in 2019 found that 60 million people in Nigeria lack access to safe drinking water and 122 million lack access to basic sanitation facilities. Currently, over 40% of Nigerians obtain their drinking water from groundwater sources, with around 30% using hand-dug wells and 10% using boreholes. Unfortunately, an additional 35% depend on surface water sources, putting them at risk of exposure to flooding and solid waste disposal.

Why Wastewater Treatment is Vital for Sustainability

The transportation of waste, particularly biological waste, contaminates both surface and groundwater sources and exposes individuals to waterborne diseases such as cholera, typhoid fever, and dysentery. Nigeria’s limited capacity for water treatment, distribution, and management, as well as insufficient water treatment facilities, poor sanitation practices, and a lack of environmental regulation enforcement, have contributed to this situation.

The Hurdles of Water Treatment in Nigeria

According to a recent PUNCH investigation report, a sewage plant in a Lagos housing estate failed to meet national and global standards for its operation, putting residents at risk of health issues such as infertility and cancer. The plant’s wastewater disinfection process model was meant to prevent such issues, but the malfunctioning of the machines responsible for carrying out the treatment has left the community to battle with the challenges associated with consuming contaminated groundwater. Unfortunately, this scenario is typical of what occurs in some remote communities and urban areas throughout the country.

Proper treatment of wastewater is critical to minimize its harmful impact. It enables the reuse of water for various purposes, such as irrigation, livestock, and industrial activities, leading to reduced wastage and enhanced safety for humans. There are globally recognized standards for the treatment of wastewater systems. Nevertheless, in countries with abundant oil resources such as Nigeria, adherence to these regulations is inadequate. Furthermore, research has indicated that the majority of treatment facilities are engineered to eliminate only certain particular substances, customized to suit the treatment objectives of each specific production location within the area, which is concerning as exposure to other types of substances can have negative impacts on human health.

Promising Solutions to Nigeria’s Water Management Crisis

Various initiatives have been implemented by the Nigerian government to improve access to water supply and sanitation services in both urban and rural areas. One such initiative is the National Water Supply and Sanitation Policy (NWSSP), which seeks to enhance the management and development of Nigeria’s water resources through the establishment of the National Water Resources Institute (NWRI) and the National Council on Water Resources (NCWR). Additionally, the government has proposed the National Water Resources Bill to regulate the country’s water resources and ensure their sustainable management.

To encourage private-sector participation, the government has leveraged Public-Private Partnerships to promote private-sector investment in the construction and management of water supply and treatment facilities. Several programs have also been introduced in collaboration with international organizations and private companies to increase access to safe water, improve water treatment processes, and enhance water distribution systems. Water Health International (WHI) is an example of a private company that operates water treatment facilities in Nigeria, providing affordable and accessible clean water to communities.

The Roadblocks to Sustainable Water Management in Nigeria

Despite these efforts, rural areas still face significant challenges in accessing clean water due to issues such as mismanagement of funds, inadequate infrastructure, and lack of skilled manpower. 

The Nigerian government encounters significant obstacles in ensuring the efficient operation of water treatment facilities, such as poor financial management, inadequate infrastructure, and a shortage of skilled labor. These factors have resulted in numerous water treatment plants operating below capacity or not functioning at all, exacerbating the poor water quality in several regions of the country.

The Urgent Need for Sustainable Water Management in Nigeria

As Nigeria aims to realize its potential and attain sustainable economic growth, investing in water management becomes critical. Gaining access to clean water, sanitation services, and effective water resource management is vital for developing a forward-looking approach that will benefit the country’s economy, public health, and environment. Hence every effort should be made to ensure that every Nigerian has access to safe and clean drinking water. By prioritizing improved water resource management and effective water treatment processes, Nigeria can make significant strides toward achieving its developmental goals and improving the lives of its citizens.

Adetoro Adetayo Adetoro is a Sustainability Professional who graduated with a Distinction in Sustainable Chemical Engineering (MSc) from the University of Bath. She partners with startups and organizations to conduct sustainability studies and advise on best practices.

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