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Kano, Nigeria, Struggles to Meet Demand for Water


The northern Nigerian town of Kano has been experiencing water shortages for many years. The two major water treatment plants there supply less than the need of 400 million liters per day. Over a year ago, Kano town authorities thought they’d found an answer to their water shortage: the opening of a new, ultra-modern water treatment plant at a cost of US $58 million at the town of Tamburawa. It’s scheduled to produce 150 million liters of water to supplement the old pump in Challawa, which provides 180 million liters per day.

Though the plants are fully functional, residents in Kano are still grappling with the problem of water scarcity.

Mallam Mohammed Sani is a businessman. He lives in a densely populated area called Gama quarters, “Actually we don’t have water supply at all. I know there is a water project initiated by the government [of Governor Ibrahim Shekarau] since his inception, but yet that result we have not seen it in Gama, we have not been getting water…nothing [at all].”

He says people living in Gama do have access to wells, from which they take water with a rope and bucket and with hand pumps. Diesel ones are expensive to maintain and used less often.

Sani says another way of getting water is through vendors popularly called “mai-ruwa.” He says they sell water in 25 liter jerry cans which they buy from bore-hole owners or get from broken water pipes.

Sani says they have no option but to buy the water, even though it’s expensive, “We buy one jerry can of water at the rate of N20:00 [approximately 10 US cents] and sometimes you will spend two, three, four hours looking for a truck pusher just to buy water.”He says selling water has become a lucrative business; many people now construct carts carrying up to 20 jerry cans and lease them to make money.

Bala Nasiru is a civil servant. He stays at Gyadi Gyadi New Court Road in Tarauni, a local government area of Kano state. He says in his area, the water supply is low so he usually supplements tap water with “Mai-ruwa.” From time to time I do buy water. One jerry can is about N20:00. If I buy 10, it will be N200:00 [approximately $1:00 US].

He says buying water is not economical for him as a civil servant with a large family.So, he’s making plans to dig a well in his compound because drilling a bore hole is expensive.

Engineer Yahaya Bala Karaye is the managing director of the Kano State Water Board.He says in 2003, the state government was only supplying about one-fourth of the needed 400 million liters per day. Today, he says this administration is producing up to 350 and will soon surpass that. He did not say what the demand is today.

He says the government has upgraded and rehabilitated smaller water treatment plants in the towns of Joda, Wudil and Watari. The construction of the new water treatment at Tamburawa town is expected to improve the water supply. But Karaye says the smaller plants and the two major plants at Challawa and Tamburawa still are not getting enough electricity to operate at full capacity.All the plants have electric pumps that depend on the Nigeria Power Company, which on its own is not reliable. But he says the state government has provided back up generators to run the pumps at the water plants.

Karaye says the growth in business and population is increasing the demand for water in Kano. He says the government’s goal is to go beyond meeting the 400 million liter demand from 2000. “We are proud to say that in the nearest future we will be able to cover all these places [where there is no water]then we look forward to having more treatment plants for future demands.”He says in 2007 and 2008 the state government disbursed N130 million; and N250 respectively to replace pipes and lay pipes to extend water to areas that have not been covered by the water projects.


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