…But residents lament: We can’t get it anywhere
By Cosmas Omegoh
Everywhere you look in Lagos, what do you see? Water, water and more water all over the state. From the restive waters of the Atlantic to the waters of the Lagos Lagoon and the many rivers and streams all over the state, Lagos is indeed the State of Aquatic Splendour.
At the moment, many residents of Lagos State don’t seem to have access to potable water. Some don’t know even know how it feels to see water running through the pipes, let alone enjoying it. In fact, many are they that have never seen any pipes in their homes.
Even in areas where some people are lucky to have public water, there is this huge doubt about quality and purity of such water. Perhaps such doubters can’t be faulted in the light of persistent claims that in most parts of the metropolis, water at some point between the pumping stations and people’s home get contaminated. And it shows either in the colour of the water or the sediments that later settle right at the base of the water container after a while.
At a recent forum on water, an Ajegunle resident, Mr. Lucky Togbajumi, told officials of the state water corporation: “It is unfortunate that over the past months, LWC has been supplying us bad water. We can neither drink nor bathe with such water. For weeks, we didn’t have water at all. But if we have potable water, we wouldn’t be patronising sachet and bottled water producers.
“Government needs to note that most of the sicknesses we suffer in Lagos today are water-borne. So they need to improve on water supply to the people.”
Indeed, improving on the available water facilities is one of the biggest challenges the Lagos State government has at the moment. This is better appreciated against the backdrop that in most neighbourhoods, the public water facilities no longer have water running in them. The pipes are ruptured, rusted and rotten. Some of them, for long, have been blocked by sand and sediments. Only their carcasses are left out there in the drainage channels as a grim reminder of the once glorious past. That was when clean water used to run through them straight into people’s homes. Then people used to drink water directly from the tap. But that is probably a tale that older ones now tell to regale their young ones, most of whom might never know the ‘luxury’ of fetching water running freely from public water facilities either in their homes or anywhere around them.
But since last year, some parts of Lagos State had been seeing some big, long, high-density, water pipes being laid on their streets. The development has raised fresh hope that government would solve the seemingly intractable water problem most households have been facing over the past years.
A resident of Ijeshatedo, Baba Akeem, who lives on Tapa Street, recalled that the water pipes that would probably be replaced soon were laid in the area in the 80s by Sakamori, a water engineering firm. He said: “Then, only a few houses and people of Ijesha were given water. A vast majority of us didn’t and still don’t have water now. That is why every compound in this area has a well from where they draw their water.”
Indeed, in some very rural areas of the state, people fetch water from nearby streams. During the rainy season, water from such sources is dimmed largely unsafe.
Even right in the heart of the city, people have wells from which they draw water for domestic use, especially when their taps run dry. Some wealthier people drill their own boreholes. Some of the borehole owners now sell their water for cash. And now many city dwellers largely depend on such facilities for their water supply.
Water vendors who sell such water in 50-litre kegs attract huge patronage. They have very many customers who solely depend on them. And for years, they have been most people’s only source of water. They compliment it with sachet water also called ‘pure water.’
But at a recent water forum in Lagos, Mr. Ahmed Kabir Abdulahi, the Executive Secretary, Lagos State Water Regulatory Commission (LWRC), announced to the consternation of his audience that drilling and ownership of water boreholes in the state henceforth would be regulated and their owners taxed, citing poor construction and possible pollution of the facilities as reasons.
“We will now take steps to ensure that if you have a borehole, you must have a permit for it.
“But take note that we are not stopping you from operating your boreholes. Rather, we are saying here that boreholes are not the right option because they have serious issues of poor construction. If it is not well drilled, sewage water might pollute it. And the result is typhoid fever today, diarrhoea tomorrow.
“Some people pass faeces into the boreholes; some discharge chemicals into such boreholes. We intend to bring such individuals to book because we will not allow them to abuse the underground water.
“In effect, henceforth, Lagosians will be paying for water extraction fees. And so, if pipe-borne water is available in your area, do not short-change yourselves because very soon, borehole water would be more expensive that water supplied by LWC.”
However, there are pockets of communities in the Lagos metropolis that still enjoy public water supply. Such areas and home are adjudged lucky. But the real headache of the people is the quality and safety of such water. For one, most of the huge pipes through the water runs are aged, having been laid in ages past. Often they burst under intense pressure, spilling several millions of gallons of water into the streets and drainage channels. Such occurrence is never a happenstance. It is commonplace all over the city. Sometimes, the burst pipes remain unattended to for days and even weeks unending. It takes good-spirited citizens calling on officials of Lagos State Water Corporation before they will effect repairs on the damaged pipes. Afterwards, they leave huge craters on the roads as a sad reminder of the problem that once occurred.
But before any rescue effort comes, just as water from the ruptured pipes are being spilled into the streets, sand, silt and sewage water all find their way into the pipes, causing the water to change colour. Services pipes conveying water into people’s homes are not spared. It is either they are ruptured today or disconnected from their joints tomorrow, prodigiously allowing gory water fit for the pigs to sip through and from there flows straight into people’s homes, posing enormous health challenges to unsuspecting users.
A Surulere resident, Mr. Balogun told Daily Sun: “Sometimes, when you see the quality of water being supplied to us, you wouldn’t know what to do with it. The water might be clean quite all right, but you need to keep it for hours to see what happens next. That is the point when you see a whole lot of sediments right at the bottom of the bowl. And that goes to show how much the water available to us gets contaminated.”
Daily Sun was told that in some instances, the public water is coloured, depending on the degree of contamination that occurred. When this happens, it sends frightening signals that the water is not fit for some specific uses.
Mr. Kayode Abolanle, a biochemist, said for water to pass the integrity test, it must possess some time-hallowed attributes. Such water, he said, must be colourless, odourless, tasteless and free from harmful properties. He stressed that in some instances, when some bad water is used in bathing, it could cause irritation.
In an encounter, the Managing Director, Lagos State Water Corporation, Mr. Adekunle Muminu Badmus, an engineer, admitted that in some areas of the state, the quality of water used to have some sediments in it. This, he said, used to gain access through burst pipes, insisting that the LWC under his watch used to treat its water under internationally acceptable best practices and therefore sued for patience and understanding of the people.
“There is no doubt that LWC produces and distributes the best quality water throughout the whole of Lagos State. Any bad water the residents access anywhere in the state certainly does not emanate from any of our pumping stations. The point is that most of the pipes we are using now were laid a long time ago; so they are old. Each time they burst, foreign properties get into our water.
“For this reason, right now, we are laying some high-density pipes across the state to ensure that we continue to serve the people quality water. We want the people to be patient with us,” he pleaded.
Dr Komolafe, a medical practitioner who didn’t want to be properly identified for fear that the state authorities might clamp down on his facilities, said much of the gastro intestinal challenges treated in the hospital are water linked.
“Very often people come down with typhoid fever, diarrhea and allied ailments all because of the kind of water they drink. This can be avoided if only people can have good water to drink.”
He advised people to treat their water with chlorine to ensure that it is safe for drinking, adding that in the alternative they should boil their water up to 100 degree Celsius for up to 45 minutes before drinking. He said that was necessary because some organisms survive severe harsh temperature for tens of minutes.
In the same vein, Mr. Damian Izuka, a fellow of Nigeria Pharmaceutical Society (NPS) advised Lagos residents to always boil and filter their water before drinking. He faulted the use of chlorine by every person on account of lack of knowledge of the quantity to be used at a time. He said once water was heated to boiling point, the microbial load it contained would have been reduced significantly. He further noted that: “Water at all times, contains some basic elements, whereas some of these elements are on the alkaline side, others are on the acidic side. Those on the alkaline side are healthier.
“There is hardly any water that does not contain some microorganisms. But if the level is above the tolerable threshold, one has a real crisis at hand. But if the load is below the threshold level, one can run away with it.”
He revealed that micro organisms that are really injurious to human health are everywhere. “They can be introduced into our water through the mismanagement of human faeces, sewage water, and contamination in the atmosphere as well as every other property that ought not to have any relationship with water, including water storage and distribution facilities.”
He too warned against overdependence on borehole water. “Without sounding like an agent of the water corporation, it is good to remind Lagos residents that we live in a swampy terrain where water is available the moment one digs a foot down the earth. It therefore needs to be determined whether any water sourced from the boreholes is good for consumption.”