Water injustice: do you save water or waste it?
Yes, there is water everywhere (the oceans, seas, lakes, and rivers), but the paradox is that water still remains one of the scarcest commodities in the world today.
In the Business Day edition of February 13, 2018, I wrote on “the imperative of water accounting in Nigeria.”I emphasized that “water is much more important than crude oil over which we vent our spleen daily in Nigeria” and also that “there is no agitation yet over the control of water because it is ‘available’ everywhere, though not in the quantity and quality desired.” I further argued that the time had become auspicious to advance an agenda to mitigate the water crises we face in Nigeria and all relevant stakeholders should enlist in the crusade. It is interesting that the agitation for control of water has begun much earlier than I had expected with the seemingly unwelcomed Water Resources Bill which some stakeholders have described as ‘dangerous’ for Nigeria. We have a portfolio of legislation in Nigeria. The question is: are they effective? It is out of place for issues of water to be relegated to the backwater of public conversation and only to come up with the idea of water resources bill.
Water is so important to the survival of man, animals, and plants that there can be no life without it. I grew up to find water flowing in taps in my village but the last vestige of those glorious days was in 1975. It is only in the homes of the rich that water flows today. The rich continue to extract and exploit water resources and consciously and unconsciously waste millions of litres of it every year around the world. This is nothing but a case of ‘water injustice.’ The need to save water cannot be overemphasized and this should be underscored in the message below titled “Save our planet” addressed by a hotel in Tanzania to its guests.
Dear Guest, every day millions of gallons of water are used to wash towels that have only been used once. You make the choice: A towel on the rack means ‘I will use again.’ ‘A towel on the floor means ‘Please replace.’ Thank you for helping us conserve the Earth’s resources.
The message does not require any interpretation to be understood. It is not about difficulty, if any, in washing towels, neither does it relate to any inability to acquire sufficient washing machines in hotels to wash towels. This message underscores one thing: the need to judiciously use water because the earth is drying up. One would think there is water everywhere. Yes, there is water everywhere (the oceans, seas, lakes, and rivers), but the paradox is that water still remains one of the scarcest commodities in the world today. In Nigeria, for instance, it is not just that the quantity of water is low, the quality is lamentably worrisome. I believe that everyone with any sense of manhood should care about the water situation in Nigeria, not just for the present generation but for generations yet unborn whose ‘water future’ we seem to be taking on overdraft.
The UN realizes the importance of water hence it occupies a place in its SDGs No 6: “Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all by 2030.”This means there shall be universal and equitable access to safe and affordable drinking water for all, access to adequate and equitable sanitation and hygiene for all and end of open defecation, improve water quality by reducing pollution, eliminating dumping and minimizing the release of hazardous chemicals and materials. Does the water resources bill have the capacity to address all of this? I think it should be more of substantially increasing water-use efficiency across all sectors and ensure sustainable withdrawals and supply of freshwater to address water scarcity and substantially reduce the number of people suffering from water scarcity (Goal No 6.4).
The good news is that some organizations and individuals are conscious of the dangers posed by lack of usable water and are taking measures to mitigate any unproductive use of it. I believe the war against water could be better won at all levels by mass education of the use of water. For instance, are many households aware that they need to install low-flow pumping fixtures in their homes? Do we have water efficient irrigations systems and are leaks fixed promptly? Do we know that the use of water has to be accounted for (using water accounting framework) especially at the macro level and that recycling water at the industrial level is not an option but a priority? Let’s be conscious of the indicators that show whether we are wasting water or not.
There are a number of vices in Nigeria against which legislation should be sought and I do not believe water resource is one of them. With or without legislation, water crises will continue as long as wrong water management approaches and decisions remain the pastime, not just of the government but of all and sundry. Every year, billions of Naira is budgeted and spent on water and water-related matters. Is anyone able to tell anybody how many litres of water are extracted and used? The answer is No and shall remain No until it becomes easier to access water than it is to access AK 47 rifles.
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