Journal of Water Resource and Protection, 2012, 4, 497-506 Published Online July 2012 (
Water Service Provision in Owerri City, Nigeria
Emmanuella C. Onyenechere1, Sabina C. Osuji2
1Department of Geography & Environmental Management, Imo State University, Owerri, Nigeria
2Department of Urban & Regional Planning, Imo State University, Owerri, Nigeria
Received March 1, 2012; revised April 2, 2012; accepted May 4, 2012
The study investigates water service provision in Owerri—a Nigerian city. For the study both primary and secondary
data were obtained and analysed. Secondary data were obtained from Imo State Water Corporation (ISWC) and the
Works Department of Owerri Municipal Council. While, primary data were obtained from all the 17 wards that consti-
tute Owerri city, i.e. the municipal area. Key informants were identified and interviewed using a structured interview
schedule. The study found that though most residents of Owerri city rely heavily on commercial borehole owners and
water tanker drivers/water peddlers for their daily supplies, the government throu gh its SWA is in control, and there is
an absence of a popularly acceptable regulatory framework/water policy. It recommends that Water decree 101 from
1993 (water legislation) be reviewed to address growing challenges. In order to enhance regular water supply at less
cost, the study recommends that government should collaborate with the private sector and other community based or-
ganizations in a tripartite partnership. A new regulatory framework that will carry out gov ernment ownership and con-
trol of water resources and participatory aspects of water management should be produced by ISWC.
Keywords: Boreholes; Regulation; State Water Agency; Water Peddlers; Water Policy
1. Introduction
Human beings often settle close to water sources b ecause
they need water; and human settlements are sustainable
only if they have access to potable water. Water re-
sources are essential to human development processes
and to achieve the Millennium Development Goals that
seek, inter alia, to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger,
achieve universal literacy, and ensure environmental sus-
tainability [1]. There can be no state of positive health
and well-being without safe water. For many urban areas
the quality of water is becoming a majo r concern.
This helps to explain the increasing demand for pota-
ble water in urban areas.
Water must not only be adequate in quantity, it must
also be adequate in quality. The basic physiological re-
quirement for drinking water has been established at
about 2 litres per person per day. However, a daily sup-
ply of 140 - 160 litres per capita is considered adequate
to meet all domestic needs [2]. W ater is not only vital fo r
all forms of life; also it plays a great role in socio-eco-
nomic development: domestic use, agricultural use, in-
dustrial use, power generation and recreational use.
However, many urban dwellers do not have access to
drinking water. UN/WWAP [3] opined that lack of ac-
cess to water decreases available time and resources for
productive activities and reduces population welfare in
developing countries. While MacDonald [4] and WHO
[5] affirmed that more than one billion people lack access
to safe drinking water, most of whom are sub-Saharan
Africans. Generally the provision of drinking water is d i-
fficult in African cities because they are characterized by
high rates of population growth. Cities are complex sys-
tems requiring special methods of prediction and man-
agement. The task of the city manager is made more
complex by the fact that most of the rapidly growing
cities are either located in water stress or water scarce
regions, with diminishing per capita water availability or
are confronted by issues of control and governance which
affect improvement of water supply.
In spite of the considerable investment of governments
in Nigeria over the years, a large population still does no t
have access to water in adequate quantity and quality. It
was previously estimated that only 48% of the inhabi-
tants of the urban and semi-urban areas of Nigeria and
39% of rural areas had access to potable water supply [6].
In the face of increased demand for water, the average
delivery to the urban population stands at only 32 litres
per capita per day (lpcd) while that of rural areas stands
at 10 lpcd. Unfortunately the widening gap between the
demand and supply of water is of crisis proportions in
Nigerian cities like Owerri (the capital of Imo State).
The plan for water privatization in Nigeria is still be-
ing articulated. The Federal Government promotes the
policy [7]. Despite all the effort of the federal govern-
opyright © 2012 SciRes. JWARP
ment, the water supply coverage in the country appears
to be decreasing and deteriorating. Current statistics
show that for the urban and semi-urban population only
about 42% of the population has access to safe water
supplies and adequate sanitation. The supplies are being
handled by State water agencies (SWAs) that were set up
as independent bodies to develop, operate and manage
urban wate r s upply undertakings.
Most of Nigeria’s SWAs are grappling with multiple
problems owing to various reasons; many water works
are now supplying less water than they were designed fo r.
SWAs have generally failed to provide water services to
urban dwellers particularly the urban poor. Since the
1980s water provision through public utilities was fi-
nanced through government budgets, relying mainly on
donor support and taxe s. Since they were not run on pro-
fit, tariffs were minimal for piped connections. This ac-
counts for SWA overdependence on subventions from
state government. Without increased investment in water
and sanitation, city waste and po llution levels will multi-
Prior to this period, successive governments in Nigeria
and external support agencies have expended millions of
naira on the construction of water supply facilities to the
extent that some places have up to three facilities exe-
cuted by different agencies. In spite of this huge invest-
ment, the majority of the people do not have access to
safe drinking water and basic sanitation either because
most of the installed facilities are not functioning at all or
are functioning intermittently. Irregular and inadequate
water supply, excessive and inefficient b illing, low water
quality and poor consumer service are typical co mplaints.
The SWAs do not recover their operating expenses from
revenues generated by them; this is because many cus-
tomers default in paying bills.
With the failure of the state government to provide
adequate water supply, people searched for alternative
sources of supply. The local government, water vendors
and other local entrepreneurs came into the scene and the
evidence became the buying and selling of water in the
open market across Nigeria. The urban poor became se-
rious victims of the trade. In a study of water vending
and willingness to pay for water in developing nations
(Nigeria inclusive) by Whittington, et al. [8], it was dis-
covered that payments made for vended water were more
than 20 times the payments made for water from the util-
Budds and McGrahanan [9] and Bakker [10] opine
that water enterprise is a natural monopoly. Though pro-
ponents of the water trade disagree, they believe that
water should be treated as a commodity. In their opinion
private sector participation in water provision encourages
competition which in turn helps in achieving efficiency.
However, Budds and McGranahan [9] and Bakker [10]
and [11] have all engaged with broader debates over the
role of the private sector in water provision, the role of
the urban communities in the prov ision of water services
and the governance of water. They have drawn the limi-
tations facing private companies and governments under
privatization arrangements to th e fore, by acknowledging
the shortcomings of both privatization and conventional
approaches to water provision. The concept of “govern-
ance failure” was even introduced by Bakker [11], judg-
ing by the fact that the privatization of the water sector is
not an absolute remedy to the world’s urban water crisis.
The solution to the water crisis is closely linked to
how cities are governed and managed. There is need for
urban residents to have a larger stake in the planning,
development, management and protection of water re-
sources for their benefit. This calls for an urgent para-
digm shift in urban water governance. Improved gover-
nance would also lead to democratization of water usage
with acceptable regulations, a view shared by many in-
ternational actors and governments e.g. the World Bank.
One of the lessons learnt during the water supply and
sanitation decade is that government alone at all tiers
cannot provide water adequately in a sustainable way.
The policies are national and the scene is local, water
governance institution s, regulations and rules often apply
to people in their own setting and may be limited to a
particular ethnic or language group or associated with
certain political regimes and may even be used only for
certain kinds of water resources. This call to mind the
fact that private sector partnerships can be flawed owing
to lack of policy direction as observed by K’Akumu and
Appida [12].
In the present study con ducted in 2011/2012, th e situa-
tion of Owerri city in mind, the research questions are;
what is the pattern of water supply provision? Who are
the various water service providers? Which of them is in
control of municipal water provision in the city? These
questions are apt as different players/actors are continu-
ously emerging and staying on in the urban water provi-
sioning arena. It is hoped that its findings will help in
policy formulation.
2. Objectives
The objectives of this study are as follows:
to examine the pattern of water supply provision in
Owerri city;
to identify those served and those excluded by the
public water distribution system of Owerri city; and
to identify those actually in control of Owerri city’s
water service provision and management.
3. Methodology
The methods of data collection included key informant
Copyright © 2012 SciRes. JWARP
Copyright © 2012 SciRes. JWARP
interviews, ordinary interviews, field observations and
desk research. Primary data were obtained from all the
17 wards that constitute Owerri city, i.e. the municipal
area. A list of the wards within the city was obtained
from Imo State Independent Electoral Commission. From
the list, key informants were identified and interviewed
using a structured interview schedule. Key informant
interviews are a way to get “insider information” about
an issue, problem, need, or the assets of a community.
This is because key informants are knowledgeable about
the community/wards, its history and the citizens/resi-
dents. They are known to provide detailed information
and opinion based on their knowledge of a particular
Smaller but focused samples were needed than large
samples; this explains why data was not collected from
samples of water consumers. It was rather from the ward
heads/elders (they served as key informants) that infor-
mation on water provision and distribution were col-
lected. The key informants were 17 ward heads/elders,
seven officials of the State Water Corporation and Ow-
erri Municipal Council, ten water tanker drivers, 25
commercial borehole operators, three principal State
Government officials, three consultants, and six univer-
sity researchers. Secondary data were obtained from Imo
State Water Corporation (ISWC) and the Works Depart-
ment of Owerri Municipal Council.
Some of the primary and secondary data were gathered
in non-numeric form, namely; interview transcript, field
notes, and audio recordings. Since the numeric data col-
lected from the field were not enough to warrant detailed
statistical analysis, qualitatively analysis was opted for
instead. This research also employed qualitative analysis
for the fact that it is limited to only the social analysis of
urban water supply, and thus made available results in
that context.
4. Results and Discussion
The results of the interviews are summarized in Table 1.
There are six kinds of water supply provision system
found at Owerri city, namely; ISWC, community based
provision, self provision, water kiosks, water peddlers,
and municipal council supp lies.
Owerri city in Imo state with 125,337 inhabitants, is
witnessing a rapid rate of urbanization. With a population
growth rate of 3.2%, the number of residents keeps
swelling. The city has few properly planned layouts and
some parts of the city are poorly planned. All these fac-
tors have hindered the provision of adequate services to
Owerri city dwellers. One of such affected services is
water. Currently water provision in Owerri city is poor. It
was observed that though majority of the residences are
connected to the public water supply in the city, water
flow is extremely irregular and people are also forced to
resort to alternative sources. The finding is in agreement
with the findings of Banerjee et al. [13], who found that
piped water reaches most urban Africans more than other
Table 1. Current water supply pr ovision at Ower r i city.
Wards *ISWC Comm. based:
commercial Comm. based:
non-commercial Self provisionWater kiosks Water peddlers Municipal council
Aladinma I 1 1 1 0 0 0 0
Aladinma II 1 1 1 0 0 0 0
Ikenegbu I 1 1 1 0 1 0 1
Ikenegbu II 1 1 1 0 0 0 1
Ikenegbu III 1 1 1 0 0 0 0
Ikenegbu IV 1 1 1 0 0 0 1
Ekeukwu 1 0 1 0 0 0 1
Azuzi I 1 0 1 0 1 1 0
Azuzi II 1 1 1 0 0 0 1
Azuzi III 1 1 1 0 1 0 1
Azuzi IV 1 1 1 0 0 0 1
Azuzi V 1 1 1 0 0 0 1
Azuzi VI 1 1 1 0 0 1 1
Azuzi VII 1 1 1 0 0 0 1
G.R.A 1 0 1 1 0 1 1
New Owerri I 1 1 1 0 1 0 1
New Owerri II 1 1 1 0 0 1 1
Data Source : Author’s fieldwork (2011). N ote: *Imo State Water Corporation (ISWC); 1: available; 0: not available.
forms of supply but not as large a share as it had in the
early 1990s. The Imo State Water Corporation (ISWC) is
the government-approved agency responsible for man-
aging the State’s water networks and extending services
where necessary in urban centres of the state in an af-
fordable and equitable manner. From its inception no
ward was excluded, ISWC served all the wards in Owerri
city (see Table 1).
The ISWC was established in 1995 via Edict No. 35,
an era when it had a monopoly because the market was
not opened up to competition. Its coverage by April 2011
was only 20% of Owerri city inhabitants down from 70%
in 2000. Those inh abitants living at a lower elevation are
enjoying the services of the public water corporation
more than other inhabitants of the city. Those who live at
Aladinma I are the ones worse off. This area has a high
elevation which hinders water supply to it. Presently,
because of the low capacity of pumps and the fact that
the pipelines are not pressurized enough the inhabitants
living there cannot be properly served by ISWC. For
some others, the reticulation facilities are out-dated and
the taps do not run for months or ev en years. The gr eatest
bottleneck of ISW C in service provision is infrastructural
decay due to lack of funds.
With respect to produ ction, most of th e raw water used
by ISWC comes from Otamiri River on which the water
treatment plant at Otamiri head-works is based. In terms
of unaccounted for water mostly through leakages, the
level has increased from year to year. It was formerly
35%, but now it is 50%. Acco rding to th e key informants
the quality of water at Owerri city is fairly good, ire-
spective of whether it is rainy season or dry season. The
only threat to its quality is contamination through pipe-
lines. Since supply is intermittent when pressure in the
pipes drops the contaminants easily seep in through
cracks in the pipes.
The discharge of River Otamiri is sufficient and there
are hardly any complaints of shortages of raw water even
during the dry season. At the point of installation, the
water facility was meant to generate 66,000 m3/d but it is
currently supplying 12,000 m3/d. Many of those served
by the ISWC complain to the authorities of inadequacy in
quantity. They do not consider the service good enough.
The prevalent situation led to a proliferation of various
other urban water supply providers in Owerri city, in-
crease in water borne diseases and the construction of
several substandard commercial and private boreholes in
the city.
One distinctive feature of ISWC water service is its
low tariff, which is lower in comparison with water
bought from commercial boreholes or bottled water. The
tariff charged is based on flat rate, according to the cate-
gory of the buildings or tenements. The lowest tariff is
N300 (about US $2) a month for a room connected to the
network. For a rooming apartment with water system
facilities it is N550 per month; for a three-bedroom flat it
is N1500 (See Table 2). Previously as at 2008, it was
N50 per room and N350 for a flat of three bedrooms,
showing an astronomic increase in tariffs.
Occasionally some water tanker drivers looking for
brisk business sell to residents of the peri-urban areas
water obtained illegally fro m the piped supplies meant to
serve neighbourhoods within Owerri city. The manage-
ment of ISWC considers such activities illegal. As part of
efforts to check such practice, ISWC has warned house-
holds not to sell their water to neighbours or abet water
tanker drivers that may want to do same, or they would
be disconnected.
Some households hav e to buy water all the time due to
ISWC’s inability to produce enough. Even when a sub-
Table 2. Tariffs for water provided by ISWC in 2010.
Monthly Tariff
Category N US$
Five (5) Room Boys Quarters 1500 10.00
One (1) Room 300 2.00
Rooming Apartment (water system facilities) 550 3.67
One (1) Bedro om Flat 650 4.33
One (1) Bedroom Flat with Boys Quarters 900 6.00
Two (2) Bedroom Flat 1200 8.00
Three (3) Bedroom Flat 1500 10.00
Four (4) Bedroom Flat 2500 16.67
Four (4) Bedroom with Boys quarters 3000 20.00
Single Bungalow with One to Four Rooms 3500 23.33
Single Bungalow with Above Four Rooms 4000 26.67
Data Source: Imo State Water Corporation (2011). Note: US $ s tands for United States o f America’s dollar; Exchange Rate: N150.00 to US $1.
Copyright © 2012 SciRes. JWARP
stantial quantity is produced, satisfactory distribution is
not always achieved. Sometimes distribution pipes burst
from excessive water pressure or old age, and large
quantities of treated water are wasted, leading to the ex-
clusion of some wards which were hitherto connected to
the ISWC’s network. A case in point is Aladinma I
which is excluded.
Under the community-based water provision there are
two kinds, the commercial water providers and the non-
commercial water providers. The former see the un-
pleasant water supply situation in the city as a business
opportunity to provide water supply services in their
neighbourhood. They use boreholes as the sources and
sell water through PVC piped outlets and PVC overhead
tank. It is mostly those in middle and low density areas
that patronize commercial borehole owners. The problem
for those patronizing commercial borehole operators is
the quality and the cost of water. There is no standard
tariff for the water sold; its cost varies according to the
severity of the water supply problem and source of power
supply for pumping machines. The operators do not use
water meters nor is a monthly-base tariff applicable.
Water is sold as per size of containers used. Commercial
boreholes are sometimes the source of water supplied by
water peddlers. Generally, the water in a 25-litre jerry
can costs N10 irrespective of the season.
These community based water providers take up the
deficit in official supplies. Thus, in water and sanitation
services provision, one new development has been the
involvement of the private secto r in service provision. As
long as customers are trying to get the most convenient
service at the most convenient time and for the amount
they are willing to pay, hunting down illegal resellers and
regulating a great majority of these providers will not be
easy. To curb the water inadequacy wealthy households
own private boreholes. Churches and schools, own pri-
vate boreholes to o which they use and also of ten provide
to neighbourhoods free of charge. They all fall under
non-commercial community based water providers, be-
cause supply is not fo r profit.
The community based water commercial boreholes are
actually widespread than any other alternative commer-
cial water source. While non-commercial boreholes can
be found in all the seventeen wards of Owerri city,
community based water commercial boreholes do not
exist in all the wards. Ekeukwu, Azuzi I and G.R.A are
wards where commercial borehole owners do not operate
(see Tabl e 1). Two out of the these three wards are areas
with the highest commercial activities in the city
(Ekeukwu is the city’s main market, while Azuzi I is on
Douglas Road right in front of that market). The G.R.A
ward has the seat of government (the Government House)
and two five-star hotels. The dominant activities in these
wards explain why they are not areas where commercial
borehole operation can thrive.
In Nigeria decentralization laws in the water resources
sector explicitly gave the establishment, operation and
maintenance of local water scheme to Local Government
Areas/Municipal Councils, in conjunction with the bene-
fiting communities. It was based on this mandate that the
Owerri city municipal council (local government) had
also tried to solve the low coverage of the public Water
Corporation by providing water boreholes and elevated
water tower without reticulation in 13 out of the 17
wards in the city (see Table 1). Since those were funded
and built with the supervision of the Works Unit of the
Municipal Council under the framework of participatory
approach, after being commissioned they were handed
over to the people with the water committees in the bene-
fiting wards to manage it on a not-for-profit basis on be-
half of the people. Aladinma 1, Aladinma II and Ikeneg-
bu III have none due to the fact that they are the highest-
income residential wards of the city where the wealthy
with several private boreholes live. Azuzi I has none. It is
a ward with the Christ church, St Paul’s Catholic Church
and the Main Market that have several private not-for-
profit boreholes that serve the neighbourhood. The de-
tails of the Municipal Council provided boreholes and
their location are in Table 3.
Funds for these projects were obtained from internally
generated revenue and allocation from Federal Govern-
ment. Before embarking on any water project that costs
more than N500,000, the officials of Owerri Municipal
Council (OMC) must first obtain approval from the State
Government through the Ministry of Local Government
and Chieftaincy Affairs. This indicates that Owerri Mu-
nicipal Council suffers from some measure of State Go-
vernment control in its efforts to provide necessary ser-
vices. The council lacks the heavy equipment and exper-
tise for construction of water facilities; as such the pro-
jects are contracted out to engineering firms.
The Council employs a pro-poor approach to water
provision. Its water is tariff free provided the beneficia-
ries can levy themselves to ensure that pumps are pow-
ered and water is pumped regularly. In the provision of
water supply to the people, OMC relies on groundwater
abstraction to avoid the huge costs associated with sur-
face water abstraction (i.e. treatment and reticulation).
Lack of regulatory framework has led to the absence of
quality assurance and lack of policy implementation in
water provision under this tier of government. Field in-
vestigation revealed that no water quality tests were
conducted on water from the boreholes upon completion
and commissioning. There are no inputs from the Minis-
try of Public Utilities and ISWC that ought to monitor
them and ensure compliance with acceptable standards.
This implies that at that level of governance, water policy
issues are not effectively drawn into water provision ac-
Copyright © 2012 SciRes. JWARP
Table 3. Water supply facilities provided by the municipal council in Owerri city.
Year Description of facility Contractor Contract sum Location of facility
Classified information 2,405,00 0 Ikenegbu Girls Sec. School
Classified information 2,494,000 Umuihugba hall at Umuodu
Classified informatio n 2,496,000 Umuoyima
Classified information 2,500,000 Samuel Njemanze Primary School
2005/2006 150 mm diameter boreholes
and elevated water towers
Classified information Informati o n n ot pr o vi d edArea L, World Bank Housing Estate
Health Centre
Year Description of facility Location of facility
2009/2010 Modern boreholes with
standard twin overhead tanks
Tetlow Road by Osuji Street
Edede Street by Oguamanam Street
Ejiaku Street by Lagos Street
No. 184 Tetlow Road
Njiribeako Street by Oha Owerre Hall
Shell Camp/Alvan CKC Chaplaincy
Shell Camp Police Barracks Quarters
Hausa/Yoruba Quarters (Amahausa)
Nekede Mechanic Village
Relief Market
New Market
Data Sourc e: Owerri Municipal Counc il (2011).
Self-provision households in Owerri City use harvested
rainwater as a source of their water supply. According to
Thomas [14] it provides safe water for domestic use.
Those inhabitants in G.R.A ward that use harvested rain-
water have to abandon their dry taps and seek this cost
free alternatives. The areas which make up the G.R.A
ward are Shell Camp, Alvan CKC Chaplaincy, th e Police
Barracks, the Government House and Government Col-
lege. These residents are low-income and middle-income
earners and chose to resort to rainwater harvesting be-
cause of its cost effectiveness. However, storage tanks
and drums for collected rainwater should have covers to
avoid the invasion of algae or other biotic compounds
that may alter its quality [15]. From Table 1, only one
ward uses self provision. It is not a popular source of
water supply and this is simply because rainwater har-
vesting has never been an urban option and it is still not
Water in bottles and in nylon sachets known as “pure
water” is popular in some wards. These wards are
Ikenegbu II, Azuzi I, Azuzi III and New Owerri I. One
thing common to these four wards is that they are high-
density areas, where unmet high demand for water will
have to be supplemented by other readily available water
sources such as packaged water. The water sold at the
water kiosks is said to from springs that exist in some
Local Government Areas of the State. Th e 19 litres bo ttle
is sold for N2000 (US $13.33). Usually the gallon/con-
tainer is owned by some customers. Those customers
who buy only water using their container pay as little as
N300 (about US $2) for the refill. A bottle of 1.5 litre
capacity is sold for N100 (US $0.67), while a crate of 12
such bottles is sold for N1200 (US $8). These bottles
have brand names printed on them. Some of the produ-
cers claim that before the raw is packaged, it is processed
by an ozone machine to make it drinkable. The water
from water kiosks is mainly for drinking. The sachet wa-
ter costs less than the bottled water. A sachet of 0.5 litres
cost N10 (US $0.07), while a big nylon bag of 20 sachets
(10 litres) cost N100 (US $0.67). Shofuyi [16] warns that
the indiscriminate disposal of these non-biodegradable
containers have compounded problems of environmental
In Azuzi I, Azuzi II, G.R.A and New Owerri II wards,
households depend on water peddlers for their supplies.
Residents of these wards live in compounds that have
sufficient space for large PVC tanks for water bought
from peddlers. In Azuzi I the residents that patronize
water peddlers have their tanks right in front of their
premises. Those at Azuzi VI and New Owerri II that buy
from water peddlers keep their own tanks in their prem-
ises at the back of their buildings. The peddlers sell water
in bulk and the buyer must at any point in time buy a
tanker load.
The water peddlers have four agglomeration points
located in wards with the most acute water problems. On
the average, 25 tankers are registered at each agglomera-
tion point, and the tanker drivers belong to a union. The
business is becoming so lucrative that some commercial
borehole owners own water tankers that fill up at their
boreholes and move around in search of patronage. Wa-
ter peddlers do not suffer from government interference,
a situation which keeps them outside any regulatory
framework other than their own.
The water peddlers obtain water for sale mostly from
Copyright © 2012 SciRes. JWARP
commercial boreholes and occasionally from Otamiri
River. To fill a 5000-litre tanker, the driver pays N500
(US $3.34). It costs N1000 (US $6.67) to fill a 10,000-
litre tanker. If the abstraction into a water tanker is di-
rectly from a river, it costs N300 (US $2) to fill up ire-
spective of the tanker’s capacity. W ater is sold in tankers
and not drums or buckets as is often the case in some
peri-urban and rural areas. Water from a 5000-litre tanker
costs N2000. Prices may vary; but often distance is the
major determinant of price difference.
By Edict 35 of 1995, the Imo State government estab-
lished the State Water Corporation (ISWC) empowering
it to construct, operate and maintain waterworks station s,
building and other works; abstract water from any lake,
river, stream or natural water sources within Imo State;
enter upon any land any time for the purpose of examin-
ing repairing or removing any water-pipe belonging to
the corporation; construct public fountains in any street
or other public places; enter into or upon any tenement
between the hours of six o’clock in the morning and six
o’clock in the evening or in an emergency in order to
inspect any services or to disconnect the supply of water;
enter to contracts subject to the prevailing tenders and
awards of contract procedure as may be necessary; di-
minish, withhold, suspend, stop, turn-off or divert the
supply of water; enter into agreement with any person for
the supply, construction, manufacture, maintenance or
repair of any property for the performance of its func-
tions; write off bad debts with the approval of the Gover-
nor in writing; and determine adequate charges or fees
which shall be approved by government for water supply
and treatment.
The National Water Supply and Sanitation Policy
(NWSSP) document of FMWR [6], and the National
Water Policy document of FRN [17], recognized and
gave ISWC and other sister agencies mandate and re-
sponsibilities for the establishment, operation, quality
control and maintenance of urban and semi-urban water
supply systems. It empowered them to encourage private
ownership of water supply and san itation facilities and to
license and monitor private water supply and quality of
water supply to the public. The entire decrees and edict
in the legal framework and the mandate provided by the
water policy documents are tools of empowerment, do-
minance and control of water supply and sanitation pro-
vision in the city. Those are pointers to the fact that the
state government through its agency, the state water cor-
poration, despite its peculiar constraints, is in control. Its
scale of provision both in terms of quantity and quality
cannot be equaled by any other category of water and
sanitation service provider in Owerri city. Table 4 is a
catalogue of water consumer units in Owerri city served
by ISWC in 2008. Its distribution network spans across
the entire seventeen wards of Owerri city, and can pro-
Table 4. Water consumer units served by ISWC in Owerri
city in 2008.
Category Number of units
Residential homes 33,111
Hotels 113
Hospitals/clinics 78
Banks 21
Car-wash enterprises 138
Block industries 137
Fuel stations 36
Hair dressing salons 13
Institutions 401
Data sourc e: Imo state water corporation (2011).
vide services to all when provid ing at full capacity.
ISWC has the advantage of possessing reticulation and
distribution network as well as treatment plant which
other providers do not have and it does not depend on
groundwater. The ISWC also has state government pre-
sence. However the political will to ensure efficiency and
maximum output in the running of its day to day activi-
ties or to provide water adequately in the city is lacking.
Strategies for boosting its services are lacking and that is
why till date ISWC has not been able to provide water
meters to consumers in line with the NWSSP document’
recommendation. It has not succeeded in funding its ac-
tivities sufficiently from monies realized from charges
nor has it sourced for external loans to overhaul its sys-
Currently, the ISWC’s control of Owerri city’s water
and sanitation service provision is not in doubt, but its
short-comings which undermine its powers have to be
highlighted. From field observation, it was discovered
that ISWC does not collaborate with Owerri Municipal
Council (OMC) in water and sanitation services provi-
sion. It is due to ISWC’s non-provision of technical as-
sistance to the Municipal Council water supply unit that
resulted in OMC’s engagement of engineering construc-
tion firms for construction of its facilities. ISWC does
not have a popularly acceptable regulatory framework
and does not monitor other providers nor does it provide
them licenses with which to operate. ISWC ought to re-
gulate the activities of o ther providers and ensure th at the
quality of water provided is high and their charges will
not exclude the poor from being served. Since the Na-
tional Water Policy (NWP) mandates SWAs to encour-
age private ownership of water supply and sanitation
facilities, regulating them is imperative. ISWC has not
yet adopted the National Water Policy of 2004, nor has it
adapted the policy to su it local needs and peculiarities as
it is expected. Though the edict establishing ISWC sti-
pulated that it performs certain specific functions, for
Copyright © 2012 SciRes. JWARP
some reasons the act has not been effectively enforced.
The failure of ISWC to deliver services to 125,337
Owerri city dwellers puts groundwater in jeopardy and
endangers groundwater sustainability in the long run.
The other alternative sources all abstract groundwater
except where rain water is harvested. On the average 20
boreholes (estimated number) exist in every ward in
Owerri city. Groundwater is also a preferred source be-
cause it is a common prop erty resource. The onus lies on
ISWC to fore warn the public of over dependence on
groundwater, especially of the long term implications. It
has been known to deplete and degrade groundwater and
affect continuous aquifer systems in communities where
water is used for both domestic an d agricultural purposes
[18]. Burke & Moench [19] are of the view that legisla-
tion and regulation would help nip this likely problem in
the bud.
During the o il boom days of the 1970 s and earl y 1980s,
the country invested heavily in water resources develop-
ment. It was in this era that the Imo State Government
designed and constructed its Otamiri Regional Water
Scheme. A scheme it has depended on till date. The in-
stitutional arrangement for water resources development
and management is such that all tiers of government,
which is Federal, States and Local Government, are in-
volved. These tiers of government at one time or the
other have had collaborations with external support agen-
cies which they appreciated and felt was encouraging.
However, one of the challenges facing the sector is frag-
mented and uncoordinated water resources development,
while another is rapidly rising water supply costs.
To meet its funding needs, the Federal Government
stipulates that there is need for active private sector par-
ticipation. Previously state government assumed respon-
sibility for overall management of the state’s water re-
sources, and did not involve stakeholders in water re-
sources development. That trend led to its water supply
projects providing services that do not meet consumer
needs and for which the consumers are unwilling to pay
for. From inception of the regional water scheme till date
water has been highly subsidized in Owerri city, and this
has been financially burdensome for the state govern-
In Imo State there is need for a re-orientation to the
fact that people have to be kept at the centre of the con-
cern for water management and development. It should
be conducted on a participatory basis with decision mak-
ing occurring at the lowest appropriate level. There is
also a growing recognition in line with international
views and requirements, that greater emphasis must be
placed on the management of demand for water as an
economic good, to make sure that water use is efficient
and it does not compromise environmental requirements.
The previous approach to water resources development
that has resulted in inefficiency in service provision in-
volved treating water as a public social good.
The Federal Government recognizes the fact that the
role of a regulatory frame work cannot be undermined in
any circumstance, because according to it, water is too
valuable a commodity for its management to be handed
over solely to its users. Thus government must be in the
picture to play a vital role in monitoring and enforcement
of compliance with water policies and laws.
Presently the Federal Government is of the opinion
that water services can be delivered through public, pri-
vate or community based institutions. Water pricing is
important. Cost recovery of these services is also neces-
sary to ensure their long-term utilization. Government
should change its role from being an implementer to be-
ing a regulator, facilitator and coordinator in order to
help improve efficiency and effectiveness in private sec-
tor delivery of water services. It is a new strategy in
conformity with the on-going reforms in the pub lic sector.
There is need for an independent regulatory body (made
up of professional bodies, local officials, government
officials, community members, technocrats, NGOs, and
other resource users) to be created to mediate between
government and their private contract partners from the
public private partnerships in water and sanitation service
All the problems concern management, roles and re-
sponsibilities, accountability, maintenance of scheme, in-
adequate coordination or customer involvement. Accord-
ing to the United Nations Secretary-General, wider ac-
cess to clean water can be achieved through the streng-
thening of institutional capacity and governance at all
levels, promoting more technology transfer, mobilizing
more financial resources and scaling up good practices
and lessons learned. To this end, commitment to carry
out profound new reforms in the way the water supply
and sanitation sector is managed at the national, state and
local level is beginning to ex ist.
According to some scholars, reforms in Nigeria’s wa-
ter and sanitation sector have been partly based on ex-
pectation of loans from multilateral financial institutions
and foreign investments, more so as World Bank has
explicitly made financing conditional on water reform.
The assistance of international actors and development
partners has always been sought in the water sector in
Nigeria, its 36 states and numerous L.G.As. It is evident
that it is because the challenges are myriad and it can not
tackle it in isolation of the International Community that
it has always tried to draft its policies to attain and main-
tain internationally acceptable standards. The interna-
tional actors involved in water supply in Nigeria are
World Bank, the African Development Bank, USAID,
ZONTA International.
Copyright © 2012 SciRes. JWARP
The World Bank has been providing assistance to Ni-
geria in water supply since 1979. It even entered an
agreement with the Federal Ministry of Agriculture, Wa-
ter Resources and Rural Development, and the sum of
US $250 million was released in 1992 to fin ance the Na-
tional Water Rehabilitation Project (NWRP). The Old
Imo State like other nineteen states of the Federal and the
Federal Capital Territory Abuja received $10 million.
Between 1991 and 2001, Otamiri scheme serving Owerri
city got expanded and this ushered in improved services
but this dwindled again with time. The real challenge in
external support is coordination which has produced a
fragmented actor scene. The drawing of erroneous con-
clusions about the scale of the problem due to lack of
statistics is also a contributing factor.
The multilateral development agen cies are supposed to
support and reinforce local effort and capacity and this is
lacking. Their projects for water should actually com-
plement local development structures, institutions and
agencies and not duplicate or undermine them. However,
the World Bank got its intervention of 1992 as well as
other interventions assessed. The Independent Evaluation
Group (IEG) of the World Bank considers its interven-
tion in Nigeria up to 2005 to have failed; many were
rated as unsatisfactory with unlikely sustainability and
with negligible or modest institutional development im-
pact [20].
With respect to the promotion of reforms in the water
sector, the World Bank has repositioned itself more stra-
tegically. The Bank has no longer limited itself to pro-
moting loans but also to promoting policy reform [21].
The goals of the Bank for the water sector in 2005-2009
country partnership paper were prepared for Nigeria by
the Bank and DFID. This is a clear indication that multi-
lateral and bilateral agencies have a shared vision on wa-
ter and sanitation services provision in Nigeria. They are
all advocates of the involvement of private sector, NGO
and government in delivery of water services. With the
unanimous agreement among them, Nigerian government
has moved in the desired direction by producing a Na-
tional Water Supply and Sanitation Policy Document in
2000 and a National Water Policy Document in 2004 to
guide the water sector. These are instruments for the ref-
ormation of the sector and the ushering in of Public Pri-
vate Partnerships (PPP). With decentralization the federal
government has set the stage for state governments and
local governments to follow. Among the generality of
Nigeria people, it has remained an unpopular refo rm; this
is because they do not want powerful international agents
to push government into hasty partnerships that they will
regret in the longer term. Therefore the notion that water
is an economic good must be handled with care in Nige-
ria, where access to adequate water and sanitation is still
at its lowest ebb.
In Imo State where Owerri city is capital, the govern-
ment has the Rescue Mission Agenda. It is a develop-
ment strategy document of State Government detailing
the government’s policy thrust. It has started making
efforts to introduce Public Private Partnership (PPP) in
water supply. To improve service delivery and make the
State Water Agency less dependent on state government
treasury, towards the end of 2011 a memorandum of un-
derstanding was signed with a South African firm known
as the West African Utilities Metering System and Ser-
vices Limited to take over the management of the water
schemes in the state, according to Iwuala [22]. Since
Owerri city’s water and sanitation service provision is
yet to be fully privatized, the state government still re-
tains its monopoly and public interest is still considered
paramount in water governance. The public, who consti-
tute the electorate, would most likely vote for a guberna-
torial candidate considers their interest above that of state.
The state lacks a comprehensive water policy document,
this seems to agree with Adeoti [23 ], view that numerous
policy guidelines for water and sanitation exist only at
the federal level in Nigeria. Nigeria is in a democracy,
and PPP is a politically sensitive issue. This explains
why there is a slow speed in its adoption at the state or
local government level right now. For effectiveness of
policies and programmes in the water sector, they shou ld
be adjusted to or tailored towards local social and cul-
tural realities. It should be carefully explained to all wa-
ter users especially the poor.
It is a fact that citizens of Owerri city use different
water sources, but the distance from the supply source,
the associated hard ship, susceptibility to diseases and the
cost of water are very critical. When the suffering is
weighed against the gains, the majority of the residents
of Owerri city may accept PPP, especially if they are
co-opted into its realization. Regarding water as an eco-
nomic good and privatizing it without adequate explana-
tion might make the profit motive paramount which
could affect both the afford ability and the accessibility of
water. Since the poverty profile in Nigeria reveals that
more than 70 percent live below the poverty line of US
$1 per day [24], an element of cross-subsidization may
be required to produce a sustainable way out.
5. Conclusions and Recommendations
Water and sanitation provision analysis is useful for po-
licy intervention and programme formulation. Action on
the ground often requires information on forms of provi-
sion already existing. The study rev eals that water supply
from ISWC is the best form of water provision. However,
the role of the private sector in water provision is very
important as such should not be disregarded. Service
provision problems can be addressed through govern-
ment’s collaboration with the private sector and the com-
Copyright © 2012 SciRes. JWARP
Copyright © 2012 SciRes. JWARP
munity based organizations. The water users should not
be left out. The tripartite arrangement should enhance
water provision, if well regulated and managed.
It also recommends that Water decree 101 from 1993
(water legislation) be reviewed to address growing chal-
lenges. A new regulatory framework that will carry out
government ownership and control of water resources
and participatory aspects of water management should be
produced by ISWC. Currently, to regulate other urban
water and sanitation service providers, ISWC should
introduce stringent controls in areas of water quantity
and quality, provide procedures for water quality man-
agement, regulate groundwater abstraction and protect
surface water from over exploitation and pollution and
establish a list of fees for abstraction o f groundwater and
surface water and also for sales of abstracted water. It
should resolve disputes on water, and with the help of
government, it should institutionalize into statutes rele-
vant customary laws and practices that relate to water
supply and management.
[1] M. A. Hanjra, T. Ferede and D. G. Gutta, “Reducing Pov-
erty in Sub-Saharan Africa through Investments in Water
and Other Priorities,” Agricultural Water Management,
Vol. 96, No. 7, 2009, pp. 1062-1170.
[2] P. Gleick, “Basic Requirements for Human Activities:
Meeting Basic Needs,” International Water, Vol. 21, No.
2, 1996, pp. 83-92.
[3] United Nations/World Water Assessment Programme
(UN/WWAP), “Water for People, Water for Life,” 2003,
Accessed 27 October 2011.
[4] A. M. MacDonald, “Developing Groundwater: A Guide
for Rural Water Supply,” ITDG Publishing, New York,
[5] World Health Organization (WHO), “Water Recreation
and Diseases,” IWA Publishing, London, 2005.
[6] Federal Ministry of Water Resources (FMWR), “ National
Water Supply and Sanitation Policy Document,” Abuja,
[7] A. Ariyo and A. Jerome, “Utility Privatization and the
Poor: Nigeria in Focus,” Global Issue Papers for Heinrich
Boll Stiftung, No. 12, June 2004.
[8] D. Whittington, D. T. Lauria, D. A. Okun and X. Mu,
“Water Vending Activities in Developing Countries,” In-
ternational Journal of Water Resource Development, Vol.
5, No. 3, 1989, pp. 158-168.
[9] J. Budds and G. McGranahan, “Privatization Missing the
Point? Experiences from Africa, Asia and Latin Amer-
ica,” Environment and Urbanization, Vol. 15, No. 2,
2003, pp. 87-113.
[10] K. Bakker, “Archipelagos and Networks: Urbanisation
and Water Privatization in the South,” The Geography
Journal, Vol. 169, No. 4, 2003, pp. 328-341.
[11] K. J. Bakker, “Privatizing Water: Governance Failure and
the World’s Urban Water Crisis,” Cornell University
Press, Ithaca, 2010.
[12] A. O. K’Akumu and P. O. Appida, “Privatization of Ur-
ban Water Service Provision: The Kenyan Experiment,”
Water Policy, Vol. 8, No. 4, 2006, pp. 313-324.
[13] S. Banerjee, H. Skilling, V. Forster, C. Briceno-Garmen-
dia, E. Morella and T. Chfadi, “Africa Infrastructure
Country Diagnostic: Urban Water Supply in Sub-Saharan
Africa,” Report by the World Bank and the Water and
Sanitation Programme, Washington DC, 2008.
[14] T. Thomas, “Domestic Water Supply Using Rainwater
Harvesting,” Building Research and Information, Vol. 2,
No. 2, 1998, pp. 94-101.
[15] J. D. Njoku and A. Ubuoh, “Quality of Rainwater in Stor-
age Tanks in Selected Locations in Mbaitoli LGA of Imo
State,” In: U. M. Igbozurike, M. A. Ijioma and E. C. On-
yenechere, Eds., Rural Water Supply in Nigeria, Cape
Publishers, Owerri, 2010, pp. 175-183.
[16] S. Shofuyi, “Study X-Rays Poor Quality of ‘Pure Water’
in Nigeria,” The Punch, No. 4, 2003.
[17] Federal Republic of Nigeria (FRN), National Water Pol-
icy Document, Abuja, Nigeria, 2004.
[18] W. Hadipuro and N. Y. Indriyanti, “Ty pical Urban Wate r
Supply Provision in Developing Countries: A Case Study
of Semarang City, Indonesia,” Water P olicy, Vol. 11, No.
1, 2009, pp. 55-66. doi:10.2166/wp.2009.008
[19] J. J. Burke and M. H. Moench, “Groundwater and Society:
Resources, Tensions and Opportunities,” United Nations
Publication, New York, 2000.
[20] World Bank, “Project Assessment Report: Nigeria,” No.
36443, World Bank, Washington DC, 2005.
[21] M. Goldman, “Imperial Nature: The World Bank and
Struggles for Social Justice in the Age of Globalization,”
Yale University Press, London, 2005.
[22] E. N. Iwuala, “Imo Water Corporation and the Rescue
Mission Agenda,” Imo Trumpeta, No. 5, 7 February 2012.
[23] O. Adeoti, “Challenges to Managing Water Resources
along the Hydrological Boundaries in Nigeria,” Water
Policy, Vol. 9, No. 1, 2007, pp. 105-118.
[24] Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), “Nigeria’s Development
Prospects: Poverty Assessment and Alleviation Study,”
CBN, Lagos, 1999.