Population growth, climate change, and health crisis caused by the Covid-19 pandemic in Africa, voices about their impact on the already unstable drinking water supply are increasing.
On the occasion of World Water Week, Afrik 21 outlined the main challenges of obtaining drinking water on the African continent. Population growth has exacerbated the challenges related to drinking water supply. On the occasion of World Water Day, Afrik 21 deciphered the water management challenges of a continent. Today, the continent has 1.3 billion people, accounting for 17% of the world’s population, making it the second-most populous continent in the world after Asia. According to United Nations projections, Africa’s population is expected to nearly double by 2050. By 2100, the total population of Africa may be close to 4.5 billion, accounting for 40% of the total human population. Today, a quarter of Africans do not have access to safe drinking water. If no action is taken, this situation may worsen in the coming years.
Measures have been taken to improve the water supply on the African continent.
In Nigeria, the most populous country in Africa (with a population of over 206 million by 2020), the central government launched the “Sustainable Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Project” in 2016. The water supply part of the project will establish a drinking water supply (AEP) system in a semi-urban area of Nigeria. These will be operated by solar off-grid devices. In addition, a manual pump will be built. The project will start in 2019 and is expected to be completed by 2025.
West African countries also provide funds for the restoration of drinking water plants.
In 2019, Bauchi State in Nigeria initiated the restoration of the Guby Dam with a capacity of 38.4 million cubic meters and the Guby Water Treatment Plant that it operates. The upgraded drinking water plant will provide residents with 90,000 cubic meters of water per day. The Bauchi local government also plans to build a 7,000 m3 reservoir in Warinji Hills.
A large drinking water plant is also being constructed in Bita, 40 kilometers southeast of Luanda, Angola.
The facility has a daily processing capacity of 260,000 cubic meters, making it one of the largest drinking water plants on the African continent. Empresa Publica de Aguas de Luanda (Spain), which provides public drinking water services in the capital, awarded the contract to Suez in June 2020. According to the French group, this main plant in Bitta will meet the needs of Luanda’s rapid drinking water population, which is growing to 7.5 million, while supporting its economic development. Suez will also build a water intake on the Kwanza River, which flows to the area near the capital Luanda, and then into the Atlantic Ocean, as well as a pipeline to transport raw water to the factory. The team has 39 months to complete the contract. After the Bita drinking water plant is put into operation, it will provide operational support for a period of 9 months.
In addition to mining groundwater and rivers, desalination also helps to improve the supply of drinking water in Africa. Desalination is the process of converting salt water or salt water into fresh water. Although various projects have made it possible to ensure access to drinking water for part of the African population, thereby reducing the unequal distribution of this resource, the situation may change rapidly due to climate change. The Walvis Bay Town Council is also considering recycling waste water into drinking water to meet the growing needs of this port city (population over 52,000). Currently, the city relies on two main sources to supply water to its population. The system allows the treated water to be injected directly into the drinking water network.
In Windhoek, the capital of Namibia, there is already a method to reuse water as drinking water, and this method has not yet been generally accepted in this port city. Through this system, the treated water is directly injected into the drinking water network.
Currently, Namibia is the only country in Africa that makes drinking water drinkable.
Other countries may soon follow suit. In other parts of the African continent, reuse is mainly used for irrigation to preserve groundwater and surface water for drinking water production. Another way to improve access to drinking water in Africa is through rainwater harvesting. In theory, according to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the rainfall on the African continent alone is equivalent to the demand of 9 billion people, or half and a half of the current world population. At present, in Africa, this rainwater is only used for irrigation.
In Tadla, a region in central Morocco, the Regional Office for Agricultural Development (ORMVA) has recently started to establish a rainwater retention basin. The resource will be used to irrigate 20,000 hectares of farmland in Tadla. Although Covid-19 has accelerated the construction of tap water projects in Africa, especially in sub-Saharan regions, the challenges remain great.