Friday, May 18, 2007

The Dawn of Boreholes

Sierra Leone boasted of reliable and affordable pipe borne water supply system in the late 50s and early 70s, which gradually collapsed after this period due to factors such as population growth, political instability, long civil conflicts, and obviously corruption.

And these affected the whole economic development of this nation. As a result, rich people turned to alternative service providers such as tank (water bowsers) supply services as well as bottle vendors that are of high quality but very expensive too. Those who cannot afford it turned to other alternative sources of potable water supply such as unprotected springs and streams flowing from beneath the hills.

Protection of springs, rain water harvesting and the abstraction and development of the ground water resources are some of the alternative sources of water supply. It is quite true that our country has huge surface and ground water resources that could be harnessed to alleviate this acute water problem in the city.

Ground water is not only in huge supply as compared to surface water but also has certain advantages and attributes such as its sustainability and reliability as a source of water supply. This is because it is less vulnerable to pollution and usually free of pathogenic organisms. This means it needs little or no treatment before use. This is a big health advantage.

It also has low vulnerability to drought.

Congruently, the cost of development of this huge surface water resources of Sierra Leone, especially treatment and disinfection are very expensive than that of a borehole. This means we can turn to our groundwater resources for adequate, affordable, sustainable and immediate water supply services. In fact one sound ways of best management practice of our water resources is by conjunctive use of both our surface and groundwater. This simply means using developed surface water in the rainy season and groundwater in the dry season.

Groundwater can be accessed or abstracted by digging or drilling into the ground to produce wells. There are three main types of wells: the traditional hand dug wells (open wells), hand drilled wells (large diameter wells) and boreholes. The first and second types are quite expensive in monetary terms but can be affected by droughts and seasonal declines, as most times they are outside the aquifer (water bearing stratum) zone (that is tapping perched water table).

Also both are highly susceptible to health hazards as they are easily polluted. The third one, which is the borehole, may be expensive but is the safest source of water supply.

Boreholes are drilled with rigs that can drill at depths over three hundred metres. They have the advantages of speed, precision, hygiene and sustainability. Some boreholes have lasted for over two hundred years supplying affordable and quality water. All that it will need is constant re-development.

Boreholes are widely used all over the world. For instance, Libya is getting about eighty percent of its water supply from boreholes developed in the Saharan deserts. Water Utilities in the UK such as Severn Trent, Anglia Waters, Thames Valley, etc use boreholes to provide water services to metro cities like London, Kent, Birmingham, Nottingham, Manchester, etc.

Boreholes provide quality and affordable water supply services in most urban cities in Africa and other developing nations of the world. West Africa for instance, Ghana, Burkina Faso, Mali, The Gambia and Nigeria get much of their pipe borne water supply services from boreholes.

Also, when yields (water produce from the borehole) are high, boreholes can be developed into pipe borne water supply services. The newly commissioned boreholes (water wells) by the government in the eastern part of Freetown were of low yields and therefore installed with hand pumps. On the contrary, the other government boreholes in Grafton are of quite substantial yield that will be installed with electrical submersible pumps which can then be developed into pipe borne water supply system of over ten miles radius.

In the absence of good water supply services in the city, it is the duty of the Government to provide alternative water supply service that is adequate, affordable, robust and of high quality for its people.

If this has happened, I do not see it as a retrogression or backwardness, but rather the government must be commended at least for such development drive.

In fact this type of ground water exploitation is not well known in Sierra Leone. However, it has been welcomed by many industries, non-governmental agencies and even the average Sierra Leonean. It has the potential to relieve the city of this acute water shortage if more investment is made into it and if properly managed.

Therefore, it sounds very naive for somebody to term this venture of providing quality and affordable water supply for the city by developing boreholes as retrogression and non-development.

Link to allAfrica.com: Sierra Leone: The Dawn of Boreholes (Page 1 of 1)