lt is often said that "there is water everywhere, yet none to drink". It somewhat sounds like trumpet of exaggeration, nonetheless captures in vivid form the frustration of most people in developing countries particularly in Sub?Saharan Africa.
The acute shortage of potable water for consumption and industrial use has therefore prompted most responsible government to initiate concrete steps towards the provision of potable water at reasonable cost. Existing water supply facilities have been operating far below design capacities while the yawning gap has necessitated a total overhaul of the weak systems and processes to achieve optimal usage.
Also, additional facilities and improvementof piped networks have become inevitable if we are to reach the goal of waterforall. This situation is made worse with funding inadequacies, since water is widely buterroneously perceived as a social good, thus leaving the funding to government alone. However, present realities have informed on the fact that government cannot fund our water needs alone, as all other sectors needing equal attention are competing for available resources.
ln league with poor funding is poor maintenance of water facilities leading to infrastructural decay and unreliable services. Unarguably, this situation has assumed a national spread prompting the increased visibility of cart carrying water vendors, in our urban centres with sources of water and quality questionable and services offered at high prices. The Urban Water Sector exists without any form of regulation where standards are not enforced and tariff arbitrarily set at levels that cannot sustain continued water provision to meet the needs of our urban dwellers.
This condition has hampered the ability of the various State Water Agencies from meeting the challenges inherent in the Sector while they are burdened by limitations such as age of the water supply systems. erratic power supply, high cost of water treatment chemicals, lack of readily available spare parts. insuiticient transmission pipeline and storage system among others.
The National Urban Water Sector Reform Programme was initiated to specihcally address these inherent water crises in the urban centres, giving the tremendous population growth occasioned by rural-urban drift for people seeking better living conditions, jobs, education, other means of livelihood and their attendant infrastructure demands. The Programme, with the support of all stakeholders. promises to make this situation a thing of the past.
Mindful of the modest water supply situation in our urban centres. the National Urban Water Sector Reform Programme provides a holistic approach towards achieving its objectives of increasing access to piped water networks in urban areas while making urban water utilities more reliable and Financially viable.
The reform programme having done a critical review of our past experiences have designed measures for a better future that will see more households connected to piped system. lt places emphasis on sustainable water provision with a view to improving the commercial and technical performance of existing water utilities through multi-level partnerships involving the private sector and the communities.
With an eye on quality and recommended standards. appropriate regulation will be encouraged in the sector through legislation of state water regulatory authorities. The programme has commenced with the lst National Urban Water Sector Reform Project focusing on Kaduna, Enugu and Ogun states. The second phase of the project involving Lagos and Cross River States has alsojoined in line with the stepwise approach to ensure coverage of all urban centres by the intervention.
This bold move is in agreement with fulnlling our Millennium Development Goals commitment of reducing by half the percentage of the population without access to potable water by the year2015. The broad spectrum of the reform will see to the strengthening of the national water supply and sanitation policy ushering in a new environment of improved and sustainable water supply while setting national guidelines for regulating water supply.
This pro-masses initiative will institute the low income household sen/ice strategy aimed at increasing access to potable waterfor indigent urban dwellers. To make way for appropriate planning, monitoring and evaluation of coverage and accessibility a baseline data that capture existing national water supply and sanitation facilities have been undertaken with a view to establishing a national database. While the reform implementation will see to the expansion and rehabilitation of water supply systems, capacity building for effective operation will be embarked upon in addition to the deployment of appropriate communication tools to ensure that all stakeholders are carried along.
The new urban water sector climate will be ushered in through a revised National Water Supply and Sanitation Policy (NWSSP). This policy will address the observed inadequacies in the existing policy in terms of target setting, service levels, sanitation issues, institutional responsibilities, monitoring, evaluation and regulation. Intemational best practices that have seen the management of urban water sectors of developed and developing countries achieving enviable and sustainable heights are anchored on the perception of water as an economic good which has to be appropriately priced and paid for in a manner that can sustain future productions.
They encourage private sector participation while adopting demand driven approach in provision of water facilities with the ever presence of independent regulation and equally providing for full cost recovery on investments. These practise will be promoted inthe policy. The principles guiding the formulation ofthe revised National Water Supply and Sanitation? Policy include among others; the sharing of responsibilities at all levels of govemment to cover such issues as funding, project implementation, monitoring and evaluation and adequate regulation.
Principally, water is perceived here as an economic good but should also command equitable access and fair pricing. The senrice providers should have autonomy while management of the water facilities would be promoted to be at lowest appropriate level with the states setting their standards and targets.
The reform will operationallze a sound regulatory framework designed to create independent regulators for the water sector which will be effective for giving values to stakeholders. The previous situation where no regulator existed left serious regulatory issues at the mercy of the Public Operators.
Roles of the different organs of government involved in water provision activities will therefore be clearly separated for regulation to purely focus on outputs like the level of services, quality of service, pricing and efhciency.
State Governments will be expected to enact new or amend existing legislations to create water regulatory authorities which will be established and empowered. Activities of the State Regulatory bodies will be guided by National Water Regulatory body. The essence of this is to engender independence and transparency of the state regulatory authorities while facilitating cooperative competition which will be healthy for growth in the sector.
Through appropriate regulations, water users will benefit through improved value for water expenses and level of senxice received. Water service providers will have autonomy of operation and attract hnancing for further development while State Governments will witness improvement in their infrastructural base coupled with other economic gains. Also, there will be improved investors conhdence in the sector which will translate into national economic gains in water and other sectors.
Public Private Partnership (PPP) in public water supply will be encouraged in the states as one of the strategies for achieving sustainability. States will be encouraged to go into partnerships with the private sectorthrough lease agreements or management contracts. This strategy is aimed at rebuilding technical and commercial capacity of the existing water facilities and ensuring that adequate operational and maintenance arrangements are putin place.
lt is anticipated that government's efforts will be complimented by private sector involvement in public water supply, since government alone cannot handle all the water and sanitation needs in the face of competing demands from other equally important sectors of the economy.
One of the core components of the urban water sector reform programme is the water supply systems rehabilitation and expansion. The process would involve extensive physical works that may have social and environmental implications such as degradation and involuntary resettlement. ln response to the above, an Environmental and Social Management Framework (ESMF) and Resettlement Policy Framework have been developed.
The frameworks proffer the technical, social and institutional measures to be taken during implementation and operation of the projects investments to eliminate adverse environmental and social impacts, offset them or reduce them to acceptable levels. Environmental lmpactAssessment (ElA) of all physical works investments is made compulsory to take into account the natural environment (air, land and water conditions); human health and safely, social aspects such as involuntary resettlement, indigenous people and cultural property. As much as possible, the reform desires a stress free change to better public water supply conditions.
When there is resultant loss of assets or denial of access to assets, relocation or loss of shelter, loss of income sources or means of livelihood like economic crops, whether or not the affected person must physically move to another location, adequate resettlement and compensation plan have been laid down to reduce to the barest minimum the effects of such relocations.
Through constant consultation with the affected people and stakeholders in the water sector, the project promises to deliver effective and adequate cushioning measures. Tackling these environmental and social concerns shall be operationalised by a combined efforts of the participating State Environmental Protection Agencies, the Federal Ministry of Environment and Federal Ministry of Agriculture & Water Resources.
The pro-masses approach of the National Urban Sector Reform Project deeply considers and prioritizes the improvement of water supply services tothe urban poor dwellers. They face the prevailing plight of walking long distances to fetch water resulting in loss of time and energy that could be channelled to other productive engagements.
Their exposure to the manipulation of water vendors, poor quality water resulting in endemic water borne diseases. poor sanitation due to limited access to quality water will be addressed through the Low Income Household Strategy embedded in the reform programme. Aclear understanding of the profile of low income families, where they live their sources of water and appropriate water needs will be undertaken through expert study. The strategy will put in place various measures and recommend design standards for improved water source and reliability for the urban poor.
This pro-poor initiative intends to meet their per-capita water consumption through appropriate technology. Recommended service standards focuses on maximum walking distance to source of water supply, putting a distance of 250 meters and a tumaround time for fetching water not exceeding an average of 30 minutes. It also suggests a maximum number of about 100 people per stand pipe while efforts would be geared towards reducing this figure.
Minimum network residual pressure and service storage aimed at improving the access to potable water for the urban poor is also recommended for adoption. The reform will encourage the creation of a social unit for the urban low income household dwellers in the state water agencies while Water quality must conform with the National Standard for drinking waterquality.
The National Urban Water Sector Reform Programme has proposed an instrument for driving the water supply sector tagged Water Investment Mobilization and Application Guidelines (WIMAG).
Responsibilities for coordinating implementation of these guidelines rest on the Federal Government through the Federal Ministry of Agriculture & Water Resources while the State Govemment will implement the guidelines at the state level. Among the goals of WlMAG is the provision of guidelines on best practice investment in water supply, incorporating clear and enforceable standards of performance, conduct operation and management at the state level.
The guideline also provides a new structure for financing that is demand responsive as demonstrated by State Govemment and Water Service Providers (WSPs) willingness to implement sectoral and operational reforms respectively. The States and WSPs will be expected to progressively meet performance targets in the sector. WIMAG provides for reporting and monitoring to ensure consistent measuring of utility performances nationwide. It supports over a longer term, the establishment and capacity building of a system of independent state regulators while it provides a mechanism by which funding for capital project in the water supply sector can be made available and applied.
OPERATIONALISING WIMAG via Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) It is envisaged that states will commit to implementing the WIMAG and the related sector refomts by signing up to the WIMAG Memorandum of Understanding (WIMAGIMOU). WIMAG/MOU is a voluntary agreements between the Federal and State Local Governments under which the Federal Government makes a conditional commitment to make available funding on a co?funding basis to projects in the states where agreed conditions are met. ln return, the state government commits to ensuring that water supply delivery improves by implementing sectorreforms. WIMAG sets out attainable reform requirements which include the adoption of a new legal framework for the regulation of the water sector.
The legislature (State House of Assemblies) will play a key role here to usher in the enthronement of better water supply services in their venous States through their supportfor reform legislation. ln summary, the objectives of WlIVlAG are to increase water service coverage, service level improvement, reduction of unit cost of providing water while improving water quality and enthroning price equity. The financial performance of existing waterfacilities will be positively affected to make room for cost recovery and improved efficiency of capital investments.
The overwhelming benetits of the reform touch on all aspects of our livelihood. With greater access to good quality water by our people irrespective of their positions in the economic divide, there will be improved sanitation and personal hygiene leading to reduction in disease spread.
One of the inherent benehts is improved standard of living while employment will be generated through private sector participation and greater participation of the communities. Access to water will be more equitable while water pricing will be fairto all. With the nnancial viability of urban water utilities, there will bejob security in addition to capacity building for public servants involved in water and sanitation service delivery.
Service providers will enjoy more autonomy to adequately and promptly respond to water supply exigencies in their operational area while other sectors of the economy will enjoy the multiplier effects of improved water senrices. The enormous benefits of the reform project can only be a reality if all stakeholders own the programme, encourage it and sustain it.