This year as we fete and retell the value of water, we need to remember the difference – this is the second World Water Day amidst a climate-related pandemic.
It behoves on us to do everything that we deem needful: Increase water availability by harvesting every drop of rainwater; use it much more efficiently so that every drop of that rainwater is valued in the food we eat or the water we flush; and ensure that every drop of that used water is reused and recycled and not degraded by pollution.
But this will not be enough in the age of climate change and pandemic. We will have to do all we know at a faster pace, on a massive scale, and differently.
Climate and Sustainable Development Network (CSDevNet) believes that climate change impacts are about heat, increased and scorching temperatures and about variable and extreme rain. Both have a direct correlation with the water cycle. Climate change mitigation therefore has to be about water and its management.
Every year, we know now, is the hottest year in recorded history, till the next year comes around and breaks the record. In Nigeria, temperatures in certain parts of the north and south have crossed 40 degree Celsius as early as February. North-west and North-east states are breaking all records in terms of rising heat and higher than normal temperatures.
Rising heat has many implications for water security. First, it means that there will be greater evaporation from all waterbodies. It means that we need to work not just on storing water in millions of structures, but also plan for reducing losses due to evaporation. One option is to work on underground water storage – wells in other words.
Increased heat means that it will dry up the moisture in soils; it will make the land dusty and will increase the need for irrigation. In Nigeria, the bulk of the food is still grown in rainfed regions – irrigated by rain. This 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.
There is no gainsaying the obvious that heat will drive up the use of water – 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, and in homes and markets in Nigeria. This will only increase as temperatures go up. Therefore, the demand for water will increase with climate change, making it even more imperative that we do not waste either water or wastewater.
CSDevNet is of the view that climate change is already showing up in terms of the increasing number of extreme rain events and the lack of it in some parts. This means that rain come this year as a flood, making the cycle of floods followed by droughts even more intense.
This has a huge impact on our plans for water management. This means that Nigeria needs to think more about flood management and plan differently for the capture of rainwater. 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.
Nigeria needed to be strategic about water and its management years ago because water is the basis of health and wealth. But now we need to be more than obsessive — we need to be determined and deliberate. This is the real deal for our today and the future.
Happy World Water Day!
By Dr. Ibrahim Choji, Chair Board of Trustees, Climate and Sustainable Development Network (CSDevNet)