Water is crucial for human existence. An adequate supply of clean water is one of the most basic human needs. 663 million people in the world live without clean water that’s nearly 1 in 9 people worldwide, yet two-thirds of the surface of our globe is covered with water.
Water plays an important role in the world economy. Approximately 70 per cent of the freshwater used by humans goes to agriculture. Fishing in salt and fresh water bodies is a major source of food for many parts of the world.
In Nigeria, as of 2015, 67 per cent of the total population had access to “at least basic water supply”. This was 82 per cent of the urban population and 54 per cent of the rural population. In 2015, around 60 million people lacked access to “at least basic” water. As for sanitation, only 33 per cent of the total population had access to “at least basic” sanitation. This was 39 per cent of the urban population and 27 per cent of the rural population. Approximately 122 million people still lacked access to “at least basic” sanitation. In urban areas, access to standpipes substituted to a large extent to piped water access.
The responsibility of water supply in Nigeria is shared between three levels of government – federal, state and local. The federal government is in charge of water resources management; state governments have the primary responsibility for urban water supply, and local governments together with communities are responsible for rural water supply.
Many households in Nigeria mainly depend on external sources for their drinking water as most homes do not have potable water within their premises. This has put the quality of water Nigerians drink into question, reflected in the incessant outbreak of cholera in the country.
The 2017 Multiple Indicator Cluster survey stated that 68 per cent of Nigerians buys or source water from locations outside their homes. Most of the water they drink is from sachet, bottle water, taps, wells and boreholes, depending on the location.
According to the survey, women constitute the highest per cent (40 per cent) of persons who go out looking for water. This situation is far worse in the North-eastern part of the country as 83 per cent of homes have no drinking water on their premises. This is followed by the South-south with 71 per cent and the North-central with 70 per cent with drinking water burden. The burden is also heavier on the rural areas with 74 per cent, compared to 59 per cent in the urban areas. In most cases, those who go looking for water spend about 30 minutes away from their homes.
Access to safe water can save most of the under-five children who die from preventable diseases, as most of the diseases are caused by poor access to water. About 88 per cent of diarrhoea cases in Nigeria come from states that do not meet the WASH standard.
According to the World Health Organisation, water safety and quality are fundamental to human development and well-being. This is because health risk may arise from the consumption of water contaminated with infectious agents, toxic chemicals, and radiological hazards. Also, improving access to safe drinking water can result in tangible improvements to health.
Providing access to safe water is one of the most effective instruments in promoting health and reducing poverty.
According to the international health agency, the quality of drinking water is a powerful environmental determinant of health.
Drinking-water quality management has been a key foundation for the prevention and control of waterborne diseases. Water is essential for life, but it can and does transmit disease in countries in all continents – from the poorest to the wealthiest.
The most predominant waterborne disease, diarrhoea, has an estimated annual incidence of 4.6 billion episodes and causes 2.2 million deaths every year.
There are several variants of the faecal-oral pathway of water-borne disease transmission. These include contamination of drinking-water catchments (e.g. by human or animal faeces), water within the distribution system (e.g. through leaky pipes or obsolete infrastructure) or of stored household water as a result of unhygienic handling.
Achieving Sustainable Development Goal 6 by 2030 requires extraordinary efforts. Based on World Bank estimates, Nigeria will be required to triple its budget or at least allocate 1.7 per cent of the current Gross Domestic Product to WASH. The ambition is highest for rural sanitation where the gap for improved services is 64.1 per cent. Funding for the sub-sector is weak, and significant household contribution is needed to eliminate open defecation despite low family incomes.
SDG Goal 6 aims at ensuring availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all.