By Diana Coker- washjn SL
Water is a natural resource given free by God to man, since the inception of the human race, there has been no generation that has live without water. Wars have been fought over water, in the same vein as water sources have been used to create peace between warring factions. Water is life, Energy on the other hand is both a natural resource and can be man-made.
History shows that the first form of energy created by man was fire, using implements like stones and dry leaves. It was observed sometime later that these two elements water and energy could be synchronised in such a manner as to make life easier for mankind.
Water and Energy are intricately connected, as all sources of energy require water in their production processes, and therefore water is a significant factor for the production of energy. In the same vein, energy is itself is required to make water resources available for human use and consumption (including irrigation) through pumping, transportation, treatment and desalination.
In Sierra Leone, water is used to create energy in several forms. The volume of water Sierra Leone is blessed with brings into focus the uncontrolled manner in which water is used and stored for future use. It is evidently clear that water authorities responsible for the collection and distribution of water are either incapable or ill-equipped to carry out this function. Water wastage is a common phenomenon in Sierra Leone and this in turn leads to inadequate provision of energy because the water being wasted could be harnessed in such a manner as to ensure sustainable water supply in the event rain water is in short supply in future, for example water banks could be initiated through policies by the government with assistance from international partners.
Water could also be used for economic purposes if well managed. However it would seem like politicians and other decision makers have not fully realised the great potential of our water resources.
Comming to the issue of energy Sierra Leone’s Bumbuna Hydro-Project is mainly responsible to supply electricity to the National Power Authority, (NPA) and the Bo/Kenema Power Station for distribution. It is the main base load of electricity supply to the country’s capital Freetown and other Provincial towns, and depends on water from the Selli River to move the turbines inorder to generate energy.
During our visit to the Bumbuna Dam in October 2012, the Dam was fully operational, generating (50) megawatts of electricity. The former Director of the Bumbuna Hydro-Project, Dr. Abdulrahman Jalloh said that the river was full to its brim and that there was excess water supply, which the two turbines installed in the first floor of the five story building could not contain and therefore the excess water, which probably should be stored to operate the dam during the dry season spills back into the river. However due to lack of political will much of the energy being generated through the use of water at the Bumbuna Dam is either wasted or poorly distributed because proper mechanism for the management of water is not in place. If it could be possible the connection between water and energy could be made simpler through recycling the water used in the dam. But because the importance between water as a necessary and vital proponent of energy is not known, is the reason we suffer from lack of both.
On June 3rd 2014, as a result of Inadequate supply of water to the Bumbuna Dam, coupled with technical problems contributed to the low production of energy due to the decreased level of water in the dam which could have been avoided had the authorities put in place measures to store water rather that let it go to waste. The Ministry of Energy and Management of the National Power Authority was therefore left with no option but to shut down the dam, due to decrease water level and promise to open the Dam when the water increases to an appreciable level. The result was to resort to use of thermal plants to produce energy.
One very important fact to indicate that water and energy are intricately linked was when the Ministry of Energy and Water Resources was one entity. Since their separation following the 2012 General election the collaboration between the two providers of Water and Energy significantly deterioted as several areas were weeks without water while some other were weeks without energy, this is a clear indication that the two are inseparable.
Therefore it is my opinion that water and energy resources in Sierra Leone should be harness in such a manner to ensure that one does not go without the other. I would therefore recommend that the Ministry of Energy be rejoined to that of the Ministry of Water Resources. The government established Water Banks in anticipation of water shortage in the future, and or for economic purposes.
That education on the importance of water and energy is emphasised in all educational institutions with a view to creating national consciousness on its relevance to life.