Water For Consumption, Before Water For Energy – Lanre Olagunju

While tweeting with the harshtag #WorldWaterDay for the World Water Day campaign, a follower responded jocularly by asking if each day of the year was dedicated to celebrating one thing or the other. The world water day in my view is essentially not a day to celebrate per se as much as it is a day set aside to increase the awareness about safe water, and more importantly, engage discussions that’d increase access to safe water globally. You might be reading this and you’re asking how discussions will ever increase access to safe water. Let me quickly say that a challenge we refuse to talk about, we seldom stand a chance to find a lasting solution to such.

First of all, not everyone in Africa readily wants to agree with the reality that lack of access to safe water is still actually a huge challenge that claim more lives than many of the deadly diseases known to man. This might actually be as a result of what a writer recently referred to as ‘privilege delusion’, which in this case, centres on the fact that few individuals who live in urban areas with water running in several taps in nooks and crannies of their apartments. To such, the revealing reality that every year, unsafe water in conjunction with lack of basic sanitation kills at least 1.6 million children under the age of five is mere statistics. To better simply that figure, I may have to remind you that 1.6 million people is 8 times the figure of the entire people who lost their lives in the Asian tsunami of 2004. So simply put, lack of access to water is annually responsible for 8 tsunamis of 2004 gravity, and come to think of it, this figure excludes adult who lose their lives daily as a result, too.

To many who live in poor communities where access to water is a huge challenge, the best day of their lives might just be that day when an NGO remembers their plights or when a politician seeking election or re-election decides to score a few political points by sinking  boreholes that barely last more than six months.

The focus for this year’s #WorldWaterDay campaign was centered on water and energy, and the link between them. Initially, I was wondering how abrupt this angle is to many African nations, especially countries in sub Sahara Africa where the prevalence of water accessibility remains a huge challenge. Many don’t have constant power supply so why lay emphasis on the link between water and energy amongst other issues. I presently stay in a part of Lagos where individuals have been generating their own electricity consistently for the past five months, so that places a question on which comes first, water or energy; just like the analogy of the chicken and the egg.

As I pondered further on the focus of this year’s campaign, I realised that we live in an era where without electricity, access to water becomes almost impossible. For our daily water consumption to be fed, energy is needed to lift or transport water from ground water. I also discovered that we pay more for water indirectly either through our electricity bill or bills generated by fueling our high power generating set, especially when you consider that the popular “I better pass my neighbour gen” can’t power a pumping machine. Report has it that about eight per cent of energy produced world over is used to either pump and transmit water or treat water and also waste water.

On the other hand, you’ll also agree that to generate electric power, large volume of water is needed, considering that in Nigeria, we generate hydro-electric power via our major dams. Many e
nergy forms primarily require huge volume of water in their operation; a good example is nuclear and thermal form of energy . One form of energy that critically doesn’t require water in any of its operations is the wind energy. This implies that in countries like Nigeria where power is a major problem, solving the issue of water accessibility will be more demanding. Any progress or increase in electric power generation will translate into success for water accessibility.

However, the link between water and energy helps us to also realise that when we conserve power, we increase the chance for water accessibility either directly or indirectly. So don’t live that bulb on when it’s not in use. It will do no harm to switch off gadgets and appliances when they are not in use.


Lanre Olagunju is an hydrologist turned freelance journalist.  An alumnus of the American College of Journalism, Lanre advocates on several international platforms for the prosperity and absolute well-being of the African continent. He is @Lanre_Olagunju on Twitter.

Lanre exposes the relevance of energy in ensuring availability of safe water in Africa