Written by the Editorial board of The Guardian Newspaper
The outrage over the report that 18 million residents of Lagos lack potable water is justified and should beam a searchlight on the poor living condition of people in the Lagos metropolis. To this challenge, a solution should not only be found, but urgently too.
The challenge of water supply in the city or state derives, of course, greatly from the terrain. In days gone by, Lagos was defined as only the island with its affluent adjunct, Ikoyi. Seeking a source of fresh water for treatment to meet the residents’ need, the colonialists discovered a perennial pond in Iju Valley which was then in the Western Region, built the waterworks there and ferried the water with mains passing through Agege, Oshodi, and Mushin directly to Lagos Island and Ikoyi. From this main Line, supplies were tapped into Ikeja Government Reservation Area, Yaba and Ebute Metta.
But Lagos has since grown beyond the nucleic island and those adjoining areas of Ikoyi, VI, Ebute Metta, Yaba and later Surulere.
For this reason, in the 1980s and 90s, the state government decided to establish mini-waterworks. The first was the Scanwater Facility near Teslim Balogun Stadium grounds in Surulere. It was the first in the state’s plan to decentralise water production facilities. This was followed by an ambitious expansion (supported by the Word Bank) that resulted in the construction of Adiyan Waterworks. Both facilities are actually located in Ogun State and this has generated a geo-political debate which, hopefully, should be resolved with the Lagos/Ogun Megacity idea.
Adiyan has the largest production facility with a capacity to yield 70 million gallons per day while the Iju Water-Works comes second with 45mgd. In the pipeline are the 3.0mgd facilities in Surulere, Isolo, Amuwo and Epe, 2.4mgd in Somolu, Apapa, Oto-Awori, Badagry, Victoria Island, Ikoyi and Ishasi, and 12 locations for 1mgd statewide. With the mini facility for 0.3 in Alausa, the new facilities will add a total of 40.5 mgd, to achieve the total capacity of 155.5 mgd in the entire state. This certainly is a worthy exercise, if fully implemented.
The population of Lagos State by some estimates is about 21 million while it is instructive that the State Water Corporation claims boldly that it serves 12 million water to consumers. Be that as it may, what is the estimated daily requirement for potable water in the state? Are the two facilities in Iju and Adiyan producing at full capacity and what is the gap between demand and supply?
Going by the available data, there is a huge gap in supply and demand. Many houses in low income areas have wells. In middle-class and highbrow areas, every house or apartment complex has a borehole. In the Lekki axis, as in other areas of the state, every mini-estate has its water supply and distribution facility or system. As water is closely linked to sanitation and general well-being, the state government must ensure there is a comprehensive water treatment system appropriate for the metropolis. And the long-term implications for the ecosystem must be thoroughly weighed.
Many of the new-age planned estates have succeeded in facilitating water supply and appropriate revenue collection through metering. And this template should be adopted by the state.
The World Bank-financed Adiyan expansion necessitated inviting manufacturers from other countries. Then, it was realised that metering was possible only in industrial estates and the planned communities: Ikoyi, Victoria Island, Apapa, Ebute-Metta, Yaba, Ilupeju and Ikeja GRA. These areas were then selected for the pilot scheme. As the greater Lagos metropolis lacked the grid street network for piping and metering, other measures must, therefore, be adopted for revenue collection.
It is understandable that faced with these challenges, Lagos State is seeking private sector investment for its water projects. This has generated mixed reactions from the public. Many cynics, including labour unions and non-governmental organisations, cite the privatisation of electricity distribution that has not resulted in improved services. And they have a point.
The State Water Corporation confidently lists the state’s projected revenue (based on large population of consumers) from water supply as a potential major attraction for private sector investors. And this is true. Based on Nigeria’s experience as a nation, however, there must be a stable political environment and transparency of the privatisation process for private participation in tackling the challenges of water supply in Lagos to yield good results.