Abuja, March 22, 2022: As we mark World Water Day in this age of climate change, how we deal with our water will determine whether we would survive such extreme climatic conditions.
This 2022, the focus is groundwater, an invisible resource with an impact visible everywhere. Groundwater is water found underground in aquifers, which are geological formations of rocks, sands and gravels that hold substantial quantities of water. Groundwater feeds springs, rivers, lakes and wetlands and seeps into oceans.
It is recharged mainly from rain and snowfall infiltrating the ground, just as it can be extracted to the surface by pumps and wells.
Climate and Sustainable Development Network (CSDevNet) believes that climate change impacts are about heat — increased and scorching temperatures — and variable and extreme rain. Both have a direct correlation with the water cycle. Therefore, climate change mitigation has to be about water and its management.
The rising heat we currently experience across Nigeria has severe implications for water security as it implies greater evaporation from water bodies. We need to work not just on storing water in millions of structures but also plan for reducing losses due to evaporation.
It’s not that evaporation losses did not happen in the past, but the evaporation rate will now increase with the soaring temperatures.
One way out of this is to work on underground water storage or wells. Irrigation planners and bureaucracies in Nigeria have depended mainly on canals and other surface water systems – they should not discount the management of groundwater systems.
Increased heat can also lead to a drying up of moisture in soils. It will make the land dusty and will increase the need for irrigation. In a country like Nigeria, where the bulk of the food is still grown in rain-fed regions — irrigated by rain — it will intensify land degradation and dust bowl formations.
This means water management must go hand in hand with vegetation planning to improve the ability of soils to hold water, even in times of intense and prolonged heat.
Thirdly, and obviously, heat will drive up water use — from drinking and irrigation to fighting fires in forests or buildings. We have already seen devastating forest fires rage in many parts of the world. This will only increase as temperatures go up. The demand for water will increase with climate change, making it even more imperative that we do not waste — either water or wastewater.
Climate change is already showing up in terms of the increasing number of extreme rain events. This means that Nigeria can expect rain to come like a flood, making the cycle of floods followed by droughts even more intense. The number of rainy days will go further down, but extreme rainy days will increase.
This has a massive impact on our water management plans. Nigeria must begin to think more about flood management to embank rivers and optimise the floodwaters to store them in underground and over ground aquifers—wells and ponds. The bottom line is that we must plan deliberately to capture every drop, not just of rain but of floodwater, in this age of climate change.
CSDevNet believes that Nigeria needed to be obsessive about water and its management yesterday because water is the basis of health and wealth. But now, the country needs to be more than obsessive—we need to be determined and deliberate.
On this World Water Day in the age of climate change, all stakeholders, including state and non-state actors in Nigeria, must realise that the water agenda is the actual make or break of our future!