If you ask an average Owerri resident if the state capital has potable water, the answer will be a resounding, ‘yes’! But what the person means is that every household has its own borehole, as it does its own power generator – big or small. This is regrettably where we are in Nigeria and Owerri in particular.
As in many other things, Government has left the people to fend for themselves. Imolites have taken over the responsibility of providing potable water for themselves and their families, by digging boreholes, any and everywhere in their homes or compounds, just to get water to drink, cook, clean and wash.
Water is a necessity and should be one of the first priorities of any Government but not here. So congratulations to our people for rising above the ineptitude of Government in providing water for themselves.
Earlier in the Rochas Okorocha administration, Government commenced a project to change and relay old and worn out pipes which experts said impeded water supply. But suddenly, the same Government started to uproot the pipes in what turned out to be an unplanned road expansion and urban renewal that created chaos on the roads and grounded the entire public water supply system in the city. There is hardly any functioning public tap in Owerri. It is needless to ask whether the old water treatment plants are working. It is now borehole, borehole everywhere with people drinking whatever they could dig up.
Certainly, there is no more water problem in Owerri, because nearly every household has a borehole. They no longer depend on Government for pump water; neither does anyone go to the public pump/tap to fetch water. But experts say this is bad news. They say the many boreholes we have are a disaster in the making.
Former general manger of Imo State Water Development Agency Engr. Emeka Ugoanyanwu, also the state chairman of the Nigerian Society of Engineers, has warned that Imo risks landslides due to indiscriminate digging of boreholes. According to him, there are over 2000 boreholes in Owerri and with the way they are being sunk, the land surface may be threatened. Additionally, he said the water is acidic and unfit for human consumption. Groundwater is not only decreasing, it is polluted and constitutes a health challenge!
The state of Nworie and Otamiri, two notable streams in the city is also worrying. Experts say they are seriously contaminated and drainages have become refuse dumps. They say Government is developing urban areas without providing for public water supply – the result is a future epidemic!
Prof Ngozi Okereke of the department of Agriculture and Bio-Resources Engineering at FUTO is also concerned that our ground water is contaminated and fresh water decreasing, while the population of the city is rising. He said Owerri must go back to nature and balance the ecosystem or face the consequences.
The most sensible thing now is that Government should restore the public water system to ease the problem. The danger is obvious and a stitch in time saves nine.