by Mustapha Sesay
A comprehensive plan to address the water shortages experienced by Freetown’s citizens during the dry season, has been prepared by the Ministry of Water Resources (MWR) and the Guma Valley Water Company (GVWC), in collaboration with the UNDP, DFID, and UNICEF.
The Minister of Water Resources, Momodu Maligi announced the 2017 Freetown Dry Season Water Supply Backup Plan at Baoma in Goderich on 31st January 2016, during a ceremony to hand over the community’s new solar-powered borehole. The solar-powered borehole is one of twenty-two around Freetown, that are being fast-tracked as part of the plan.
Speaking at the launch, the Minister thanked stakeholders such as development partners, the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development, the Sierra Leone Water Company, the President’s Delivery Team, Strategy and Policy Unit, Freetown WASH Consortium and all of Freetown’s councillors and community stakeholders for being part of the planning process.
He outlined the complex causes of the city’s water shortages saying. “The Guma Dam is the source of 98% of Freetown’s water. It is backed up by other smaller sources – Allen Town, White Water, Blue Water and Babadorie. Freetown’s dilapidated water supply infrastructure and the severe environmental degradation of crucial water catchment zones around dams like Guma Valley and Babadorie, mean that current water supply cannot reliably meet the needs of Freetown’s rapidly expanding population. Added to this is the widespread practice of cutting water pipes or ‘created leaks’ which allows an estimate of 40% of the water supplied by Guma Valley to be wasted.”
He assured the audience of the Government’s commitment to ensuring safe water for Freetown’s population. “We are fully conscious of the responsibility we bear to Freetown and its people. We are fully conscious of the social and economic impact of the dry season on households in the city. The key focus of the Dry Season Water Supply Backup Plan is to ensure a coherent and integrated response that mitigates these. If all the men and women of Freetown work with us to make this plan a success, the measures we have put in place will support us through this challenging period.”
The 2017 Freetown Dry Season Water Supply Backup Plan was developed as part of the President’s Recovery Priorities process. Learning from the experience of previous dry seasons, MOWR and GVWC started planning in September last year, to ensure that regular access to safe water around Freetown would be maintained.
The plan entails implementation of a robust water rationing schedule to ensure that water supplied through the network is equitably distributed around the city. Additional water sources include the construction of twenty-two new boreholes in areas like Gloucester, Leicester, Old Wharf, Calaba Town, Allen Town, Wellington and Kissy. These complement a programme of rehabilitating 20 existing boreholes, and the construction of four industrial boreholes in Babadorie, Brookfields and Kissy. Communities not connected to the GVWC network will be kept supplied with water by bowsers. To reduce the significant water loss resulting from ‘created leaks’ or pipe cutting, dedicated rapid response teams have been established to monitor and repair leaking pipes quickly and efficiently along the ten zones in Freetown, and a freephone number – 246 – set up to allow the public to report any concerns.
Mr Bankole Mansaray, General Manager of Guma Valley Water Company, stressed the need for consumers to pay for their water supply to enhance the sustainability of the service. “Water rates generate funds that support the operation and maintenance of our water system. Our city’s ability to reliably and safely meet its water demands is directly related to investment in water infrastructure and ability to fund adequate repair, rehabilitation, and replacement of infrastructure assets. Currently our water rates are among the lowest in West Africa. They are and have, for many years, been insufficient to meet the necessary repairs and upgrades to our water system. Water is free, but the supply of it is not. This is an important concept we all have to accept.”