Water Supply in Lagos and Nigeria – the importance of manual drilling

Nigeria has become increasingly dependent on groundwater over the last 20 years. Groundwater (from hand dug wells, boreholes/tubewells and springs) is the main source of drinking water for over 100 million people in the country. But how many people know about this, and what it means for the practices, policies and politics of Africa’s most populous country?

For our short photo/video documentary, visit: http://vimeo.com/107047730. The full report can be downloaded from http://www.rural-water-supply.net/en/resources/details/618.
Groundwater use in Nigeria has increased year after year: boreholes supplied drinking water to 10% of the population in 1999. By 2011 it was 32%. These boreholes are drilled by machines or manually. Most boreholes that are drilled on the sediments in the south or north east of the country are constructed using manual drilling techniques.
The Rural Water Supply Network (RWSN) is known for its work on water supply in rural areas. Thanks to the collaboration with UNICEF, I was able to undertake a short study of manual drilling in Lagos and neighbouring states in June this year. Have you ever visited Lagos? Lagos State is one the world’s most rapidly growing urban agglomerations. Its current population is estimated at 21 million. It is Nigeria’s smallest in terms of size but largest in terms of population. An extremely vibrant and energetic place where urban is interspersed with rural in a very dynamic situation.
Less than 10% of Lagosians access piped water, while the remainder largely fend for themselves. So what do they use? Well, people buy water from vendors, purchase bottled or sachet water, or draw water from their own hand-dug wells or boreholes. One of the less well known factors in Lagos’ success as an economic hub is that it sits on sediments. These are filled with relatively shallow groundwater (at a depth of 10 to 70 meters) which can be tapped affordably.
In recent years, most new groundwater supplies in Lagos are being constructed using manual drilling techniques. We estimate that there are about 200 drilling enterprises operating in Lagos, employing about 1,000 people. For Nigeria as a whole, there are even more.
Here are some quotes from the study:

  •  There is no other fast technology that can give water like manual drilling. It will keep on happening as long as people are building their houses.” Manual Driller, Lagos
  • “[Manual Drilling] is the order of the day. Before you start building a house you must have money to put a borehole there” General Manager, Rural Water and Sanitation State Agency (RUWASSA),
    Oyo State
  • “There is no need to go out [of Nigeria]. There is money to be made in this country…I would be proud for my son to enter this [manual drilling] business, Manual Driller, Oyo State

The manual drilling industry is attracting new recruits with its relatively low entry barrier (about US$2,000 for a set of drilling tools). Manual drilling is thus providing much-needed employment, most of which is within the informal economy. The manually drilled boreholes themselves are affordable, usually at a cost of less than US$2,500 per well. And they can be constructed in small spaces, and in parts of the city where conventional drilling equipment could never reach.
Manual drilling fills a need, but is not regulated. Variable construction quality poses health risks for the population, who, along with political leaders are largely in the dark about key construction standards. There are also longer terms risks of groundwater contamination. With no records of the number of wells drilled and abstraction rates, coupled with a lack of groundwater monitoring, there is no guarantee that groundwater levels will not start to fall in the future.
As the market for manual drilled boreholes and industry expands in many parts of Nigeria, those who can afford it, and are living on suitable formations will benefit from having a water source at their own home. Others will be less fortunate. In order to harness the benefits of manual drilling, we recommend the following:

  1. Recognise that manual drilling provides affordable water close to the home – but not for everyone
  2. Educate citizens and political leaders about groundwater
  3. Recognise and support the initiatives of the manual drillers to organise themselves
  4. Train manual drillers and supervisors to become professionals
  5. Popularise and strengthen regulations at state-level and issue permits for manual drillers and licences for manually drilled boreholes
  6. Find ways to ensure adherence of borehole construction standards – including supervision
  7. Test water quality
  8. Assess and monitor water resources

For our short photo/video documentary, visit: http://vimeo.com/107047730.

The full report can be downloaded from http://www.rural-water-supply.net/en/resources/details/618.

Manually Drilled Wells: Providing water in Nigeria’s Megacity of Lagos and beyond

Manual drilling crew in action (photo: K. Danert, 2014)

by Dr Kerstin Danert, Skat Foundation

In Lagos, a city of over 17 million people, water demands are mainly being met from tapping the groundwater that lies beneath the city. Boreholes provide water directly at people’s homes or business premises. Borehole construction is being paid for by householders and businesses themselves. Water vendors, selling water in jerry cans or trucks are also prolific. Given the limited reach of the piped infrastructure, much of the water vended is likely to also originate from below ground. In fact, exploitation of the large, relatively shallow aquifers that lie below Lagos is one of the main reasons that the city can continue to grow at all.

Continue reading “Manually Drilled Wells: Providing water in Nigeria’s Megacity of Lagos and beyond”

New RWSN publication on EMAS Technologies in Bolivia

EMAS has been promoting low cost technologies for rural water supplies in Bolivia for over 30 years – with considerable success. EMAS technologies comprise manually drilled wells, a locally fabricated pump and rainwater harvesting technologies. EMAS are combining low-cost water supply solutions with a relatively high level of service at the household. Today RWSN publishes an independent assessment of the EMAS technologies. The authors, from the University of South Florida, undertook surveys, semi-structured interviews, sanitary inspections and functionality tests in 86 households.

Please visit http://www.rural-water-supply.net/fr/ressources/details/518 to download the publication.

EMAS is the Spanish acronym of the Mobile Water & Sanitation School in Bolivia.  An organisation established, and run by Wolfgang Buchner for over 30 years.  EMAS technologies are counted as contributing to the MDGs and SENSABA; the Bolivian national government agency responsible for rural water supply is a proponent of household water supply technologies in rural areas. Bolivia has a history of developing low-cost water supply technologies, particularly manual driller and handpumps. In fact, an estimated 20,000 manual drillers well systems are being used throughout the country.

The flexi-pump is a simple design comprising PVC, glass play marbles and rubber, thus allowing it to me fabricated by local technicians. The fact that the pump can collect water from significant depths to a tank above the ground is a key selling point.  It is meant one to 6 families. The pump is reported to cost US$ 30 to 45 (excluding the drilling). As you start to ask questions about its longevity, the research found that only one of the pumps of the 79 surveyed was non-operational. It was noted that after 11 years of operation, some pumps were working less than optimally. Repairs can and are undertaken locally.  Some people prefer the Baptist pump due to its higher flow rates.

Manual drilling comprises a combination of techniques, and can be undertaken by trained technicians. Relatively small diameters are drilled, and a polyester sleeve/sock is used to prevent fine materials from entering the pump. The researchers observed that the techniques were widely used by small business, with Reyes as an example of a small rural town where most of the population has a manually drilled borehole in their yard. Here, the drillers charge US$ 140 for drilling and completing a 15m well, including the EMAS or a similar pump. Although EMAS promotes the installation of an apron, many wells observed did not have this installed. Of the 75 wells surveyed, 73 were reliable, providing water for 12 months of the year

EMAS rainwater harvesting systems comprise below-ground or above ground storage tanks. Various sizes up to 7,000 litres are promoted. The below ground tanks use a cement sand mortar mix, whereas the above ground tanks are ferro-cement. Uptake to date has been rather limited, although the technology is now catching on in Cachilaya after several years of promotion.

In terms of finance, 63% of the systems surveyed were paid for fully by the households; 5% sing loans and 28% with partial subsidies from an implementing agency or local government. There are places, such as Somopai where poor families apparently cannot afford the wells. However, this is a topic which could be explored and researched further; to understand the reasons and options for such families.  There are examples of labour exchange rather than cash payment for well construction.

EMAS has trained technicians from all over Bolivia in these technologies, and runs regular training courses, which can also be attended by people from overseas. EMAS has moved beyond Bolivia’s borders to other Central and Latin American countries, Africa and Asia. EMAS support typically consists of supporting in-country groups and organisations with training. However, technician training needs to be accompanied by promotion of the news technologies in order to bring about their adoption.

“Added value” is at the core of the EMAS concept.  This means that water users can have a much higher level of service than they would with a community supply.  Water is piped into taps in the house, and people can even have a shower and solar-heated water. How is this possible, you may ask? Well, the EMAS manual pump is able to lift water from below ground and up into an overhead tank, from which it can be distributed throughout the homestead. As people become accustomed to a high level of service, they are more likely to fix it when something breaks. The analogy with electricity supply is a good one – when you only use it for light you may just revert to a lantern when it stops working. However if the electricity is used also for a fridge, television and computer, which you are used to, you are more likely to value it and do something if the power fails. Not all households surveyed had chosen the added value option, but they have access to volumes of water within their homestead.

If you want to learn more about EMAS, please contact Wolfgang Buchner on: emasinternational@yahoo.es or visit http://www.emas-international.de/index.php?id=32&L=3

To learn more about the research, you can contact: Mike MacCarthy on mmaccarthy@mail.usf.edu

Should you wish to share your comments about the EMAS approach with other RWSN members, you can do so through the appropriate RWSN online discussion forum, e.g.:

Wishing you a productive and enjoyable weekend!