by Solomon Osadolo
Depending on where you live in this country of ours and/or how old you are at the moment, there’s a pretty good chance you’ve never had the opportunity of having drank tap water.
Yes, there used to be a time when “tap water” wasn’t a subtle euphemism for the water you got at your kitchen sink via the water pump engine in your apartment. And it didn’t come in plastic bottles either. Tap water, back when I was little, came via a long labyrinth of pipes buried in the ground linking to the water reservoirs operated by the government’s Urban Water Board.
Boreholes were a very rare source of water fifteen years ago. Water flowed in our homes; our showers worked. Of course there was the occasional incident of burst pipes that had to be tied or replaced. And just like it was/is with PHCN, when the workers at the Water Board went on strike, scarcity ensued and all roads led to the rivers. Those who weren’t close to any water body sought for the nearest compound with a water borehole facility. Life wasn’t always grand in this country, I tell you. Oh wait…
As the years rolled by, finding water dripping down the street became a rarity. Then the streets became permanently dry. It’s not that all the burst pipes had finally been fixed; water just wasn’t coming through them anymore. The taps stopped flowing. More water boreholes sprang up in various homes and instead of paying the water rate to the government, people started to pay other people for access to water. A new industry – the potable water industry kicked off soon afterwards and never looked back since.
You’d think there couldn’t possibly still be such a thing as an Urban Water Board around these days. Much to my dismay, while driving across town recently, I stumbled across a building whose sign post bore the four words: State Urban Water Board.
Questions automatically cropped up in my head. Did people still leave their homes in the mornings and go to work a job at the water board? How does the government justify floating a ministry of water works and still pay salaries when tap water has since become an issue of folklore?
Is it a settled matter that we can’t have tap water back in our homes? It doesn’t seem to be a big issue – at least it doesn’t get the level of discourse that power attracts, even at election campaigns. Are we resigned to the fact that, as the general population grows richer (if they ever do), people are going to have to sink their own boreholes to get water?
Truly, there are a few places that still get water from the water board. For most of these areas, the water is anything but potable. Smelling, unclean water often comes up through the pipes, rendering the water almost completely unusable. This is as a result of the pollution of the water bodies from which the water is gotten – very likely a direct product of the rapid rise in population and urbanization. The water board is handicapped by old equipments (for purification, pumping, etc), understaffing or a dearth of properly trained employees and, among a myriad other problems, low prioritizing by the government.
The federal government needs to rethink its stand on the issue of people having water flowing in their houses again. The Federal Ministry of Water Resources and the various state arms across the country need a revamping. The potable water industry is booming and people are gradually paying more for water. The cost of bottled water is a bit ridiculous. And there have been instances where we’ve had reasons to question the quality of some of these brands of water on sale.
The increasing number of boreholes may pose an environmental risk yet. Poking all that many holes in an area may yet compromise the safety of the area from the effect of environmental/climatic hazards like faults and/or earth quakes with time. Whatever rationalizations we muster up for why things are the way they are, they just won’t hold water in the face of the plunge we’re headed for if things don’t change soon enough.
It’ll take a responsible government to give people water in their homes again. Only such a government can make the painstaking effort required to revamp the water industry, staff the Water Boards with well trained civil engineers, purchase standard purification and storage equipments all in a bid to provide potable water. And should the day ever come when tap water flows in our homes again, we shouldn’t have to be afraid to drink it. Any government that can get that right would have done right by us all. It’ll have passed a responsibility test.