Population growth greatly affecting access to safe water
Publish Date: Mar 22, 2013
Population growth greatly affecting access to safe water
Access to safe water is still a big challenge in the rural areas of Uganda: children in Kisoro collecting water from a well
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By Gilbert Kidimu

Eight months ago, Uganda’s population was estimated at 34.1 million people. Out of this, 5.01 million live in urban areas while 29.9 million, which is 85.3%, reside in rural areas. Which means more than three quarters of Ugandans live in rural areas.

According to Water Aid Uganda, 9.3 million people in Uganda do not have access to safe water. Around 26,000 children die every year from diarrhoea which is caused by unsafe water and poor sanitation in Uganda.

Without access to water, many farmers in Uganda struggle to grow crops or earn a living. The lack of clean water and safe sanitation traps multitudes of people in poverty as most of our sources of income highly depends on water.

Access to water

Ephraim Kamuntu, the Minister for Water and Environment, says as of June 2012, access to safe water within 1km in the rural areas was 64% which is a slight decline from 65% which was reported in 2011, mainly as a result of overhead expenditures from the rural water grant.

“However for the urban areas, access to water increased from 66%, within 0.2km to 69%. Access to handwashing has increased from 24% to 27% in rural areas, while in urban areas it has increased to 85%,” reveals Kamuntu.

In the water and environment sector performance report prepared by the Ministry of Water and Environment, in the financial year 2011/12, an additional population of 542,026 people got clean water through the construction of 2,548 water points.

Also an estimated 55,470 people were served with new water supplies as a result of investments by the centre in rainwater harvesting and the drilling of boreholes, thus close to 600,000 people were served by new water supplies.

The main options used for water supply in rural areas include: Spring protection, shallow wells, deep boreholes, piped water schemes both pumped and gravity-fed, valley tanks and rainwater tanks.

Boreholes are the most widespread while valley tanks are the least implemented. However, low cost water supply technology options have to a great extent been exhausted and climate change have resulted into lowering of yields from traditional water sources, which requires new water supply installations such as deep borehole drilling and piped water systems based on surface water sources.

A total of 43 districts undertook borehole rehabilitation. Construction of piped water systems in Muduma, Kamengo and Katende in Mpigi district was a project designed to construct piped water supply schemes to serve an estimated 14,500 people within and surrounding the trading centres.

So far 86% of the construction works for three water systems have been completed. Tororo gravity flow scheme phase 1 was completed in February 2012, serving an estimated domestic population of 20,000 people and nondomestic population of 10,000 in three sub-counties of the district.

Also feasibility study and detailed engineering designs of piped water supply systems in parts of Bukwo, Kumi, Ntungamo, and Rakai districts were finalised.

Once completed, these schemes will serve an estimated domestic population of 44,000 people. About 84 boreholes were drilled serving over 25,000 people.

UNICEF, through the 2010- 2014 Country program, has supported the Government in rural water supply. It supported the construction and rehabilitation of water facilities, serving an estimated population of 72,600 people.

Way forward

“Compliance to the waste water discharge permit conditions is about 22%, which reflects a serious need to strengthen monitoring and enforcement of water resources regulation to reverse the pollution of our water resources,” advises Kamuntu adding that:

“We need to expedite the process of demarcation and gazettement of our wetlands and forests to increase compliance by all our environment laws and regulations in order to stop further encroachment on these resources.

They are invaluable for our economic and social development and are also crucial to mitigate the effects of climate change.” The funding available for rural water supply provision does not match with the annual population growth.

Thus the current water access has dropped down to 64% from 65% of June 2011. It is, therefore, important that new investments in rural water provision are scaled up to accelerate access to water.

Equity is an area of concern regarding water supply provision in rural areas, especially the water-stressed areas. Large piped water supply systems based on the bulk water supply concept should be developed to serve the rural settings where the traditional water supply technological options are not appropriate.

These piped water systems should be based on reliable surface water sources or groundwater well fields. Although access to water supplies has increased significantly, it is becoming apparent that Uganda may not achieve the national target on safe water access of 77% by 2015.

One way to address this formidable challenge is to encourage investment by the users themselves. Self-supply is a concept that complements conventional rural water supply funded by Government, enabling self help improvement of supplies by households with little or no government support.

Every year, hundreds of rural householders participate in traditionally hand dug wells, scoop holes and rainwater harvesting technologies, to provide convenient water supplies which they manage and maintain themselves.

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