1. Water, next to air, is the most important need of man. In spite of the considerable investment of Governments in Nigeria over the years in this essential human requirement, a large population still does not have access to water in adequate quantity and quality. It is estimated that only 48% of the inhabitants of the urban and semi-urban areas of Nigeria and 39% of rural areas have access to potable water supply. In spite of these low figures the average delivery to the urban population is only 32 litres per capita per day (lpcd) and that for rural areas is 10 lpcd. The quality in most cases is suspect. Various reasons responsible for this situation include amongst others, poor planning, inadequate funding, insufficient relevant manpower, haphazard implementation, and above all the lack of a national policy for water supply.

Historical Perspective

2. Public Water Supply started in Nigeria early this century in a few towns under the management of the lowest administrative level. Amongst the early beneficiaries of these facilities were Lagos, Calabar, Kano, Ibadan, Abeokuta, Ijebu Ode and Enugu. The schemes were maintained with revenue from water rate collection with virtually no operational subvention from government. With the creation of Regional Governments in the early 1950s the water supply undertakings continued to maintain the schemes but the financial and technical responsibilities for developing new water schemes were taken over by the Regional Governments who also assigned ‘supervisory high level manpower (Water Engineers and Superintendents) to the water supply undertakings. For the period of the assignment, all the allowances and part of the salaries of these officers were paid from revenue generated from their water rate, while these officers still retained their employment and seniority in the Regional Service.

3. However, with growing demand and increasing cost, it became necessary for the Regional Governments to secure loans. The Regions were requested to set up independent bodies i.e. Water Corporations/Boards to develop, operate and manage the water supply undertakings. Hence, the first Water Corporation was formed in 1966 by the then Western Region with all the public water supply undertakings in the region, including their staff, assets and liabilities taken over by the Water Corporation. The staff of the Water Division of the Ministry of Works were also transferred to the new corporation.

4. Today, all the thirty-six (36) States of the Federation and the Federal Capital Territory have Water Boards/Corporations or Public Utilities Boards managing their public water supply undertakings. Their efforts are supplemented in many cases by Local Governments who supply water to small villages in their areas of jurisdiction.

5. The Federal Government, in 1976, got involved in water supply when the Federal Ministry of Water Resources and the eleven (11) River Basin Development Authorities (RBDAs) were created to manage the water resources of the country and to provide bulk water, primarily for irrigation and water supply. The Federal Ministry also undertakes basic Hydrological Data Collection and Storage for National Planning purposes. Other agencies involved in public water supply, as aid and loan programmes, are the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), United Nation Development Programme (UNDP), and a number of other bilateral, multilateral and External Support Agencies.

Water Resources Geography

6. Nigeria is divided into six main Hydrological basins. Geographically, in the far south are low-lying swamp forests, followed in a northerly direction by generally flat dense rain forests, hilly shrub lands in the middle belt, relatively flat savannah grasslands, and semi-arid areas in the far north. The central part of the country is marked by crystalline rock outcroppings and gently rolling hills.