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

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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”

Self-Supply at Scale: Lessons from rural Bangladesh

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Shops like this one satisfy local demand for new pumps and replacement parts. Pumps, like ipods, come in a range of colors! (photo: J. Annis, 2013)

by Jonathan Annis is a sanitation and innovation specialist with the USAID-funded WASHplus project (www.washplus.org). His views do not represent those of USAID or the U.S. Government.

I recently traveled to southeastern Bangladesh to support WASHplus’s local implementing partner WaterAid as it begins a multi-year project in the coastal belt. The coastal belt is a marshy delta formed by Himalayan sediments transported thousands of miles by an extensive river network that settle as they reach the Bay of Bengal. Surface water is ubiquitous, and flooding—from tidal flows, excessive rainfall, or cyclones—is an annual event. I had never been in an environment so waterlogged.   Continue reading “Self-Supply at Scale: Lessons from rural Bangladesh”

Realities of water well drilling in Africa: e-discussion highlights so far

RWSN is currently hosting a 3 week discussion on ‘Cost Effective Boreholes’ as part of our Sustainable Groundwater Development Theme.  Here are some highlights so far:

It is very interesting to read the inputs so far from Kenya, Zambia, Sudan, Nigeria, Ethiopia and Uganda.

From the discussions so far, it seems that the Kenya and Ethiopia have established regulatory frameworks for water well drilling (thanks Chrispine and Tesfaye). In the Kenyan case, government regulation, which is limited by capacity constraints is augmented by the monitoring of activities by the drillers association. It will be interesting to hear more on this from Chrispine and others in Kenya. In contrast Zambia (thanks Daniel) lacks any regulation with respect to groundwater resources. There is thus no registration of boreholes in the country whatsoever and even drilling records must not be collected. Although a water resources management act was passed in Zambia 2011 it still awaits launch and implementation. Perhaps there are also others with ideas for Zambia. In Sudan, we hear from Harm Bouta about a very fragmented drilling sector with no strict regulations in place, but that there are other initiatives taking place in Sudan from which we could learn more.
Continue reading “Realities of water well drilling in Africa: e-discussion highlights so far”

Boreholes and trees – why drilling supervision matters

by Professor Richard Carter, Chair of RWSN [1]

About 1 billion people in rural areas rely on boreholes (mostly fitted with handpumps) for their water supply. Another 300 million in small towns and cities get their domestic water from boreholes.[2]

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(c) RWSN/Skat

What is a borehole?

Someone [3] once defined a tree as “a big plant with a stick up the middle”. Using this analogy, a borehole is “a long thin hole in the ground which produces water”. But of course just as trees are a bit more complicated than the definition would suggest, and just as trees come in all shapes and sizes, so too boreholes are more than ‘long thin holes …’. No two boreholes are quite the same.

If I wish to plant a tree and get fruit or timber from it sometime in the future, then I need to choose the right species, plant it in the right place, and nurture it until it becomes established. So too if I want to construct a borehole which will deliver clean water over both the short-term and the long-term, I need to choose its location with care, design it properly and ensure that it is drilled and finished straight and true.

Continue reading “Boreholes and trees – why drilling supervision matters”