By Onche Odeh, Head Education & Science
Nigeria is blessed with enormous spread of inland freshwater and brackish (salty) ecosystems. Although the abundance of water varies with season and year, depending on rainfall, it is common knowledge that the country is home to varieties of water sources spread across various locations from the coastal region to the arid zone.
The country is served by about eight major rivers including the Anambra, Benue, Cross, Imo, Kwa Iboe, Niger, Ogun and Oshun rivers. Estimated at about 10,812,400 hectares, these rivers make up about 11.5 per cent of the total surface area of Nigeria which is estimated to be approximately 94,185,000 hectares.
The inland water system includes thirteen lakes and reservoirs with a surface area of between 4000 hectares and 550,000 hectares with a total surface area of 853,600 hectares which represents about one percent of the total area of Nigeria.
In spite of this abundance, Nigeria is classified a water–short country, whose water resource is likely to reduce from 2, 506 cubic meters per year in 1995 to 1, 175 cubic meters in 2025, if not properly managed.
Studies have shown that with the current pressure of rapid population growth coupled with poor management, the available resources of water are being depleted at a fast rate, a situation experts say seriously underlines the need for taking up integrated plans for water conservation and utilisation for every agro-ecological area to meet the increasing demands of irrigation, water harvesting, human and livestock consumption, expanding industry, hydro-electric power generation, recreation, navigation and other uses.
At a recent workshop on Creating Shared Valued organised by Nestle Nigeria, it was disclosed that it takes between 100 to 15, 000 litres of water to produce each kilogramme of agricultural raw material, such as coffee beans, sugar cane or maize, from which various foods and beverages are made.
Managing Director of Nestlé Nigeria, Mr. Martins Woolnough, said that in 2006 alone, Nestlé sold 17 billion kilogrammes of food and 22 billion litres of water, using on average 4.05 litres of water per kilogramme to produce these products. In other words, Nestlé consumed less than 0.004 per cent of the world’s fresh water.
He, however, disclosed that since 2002, the company (excluding Nestlé Waters) has reduced its water use per kilogramme of product by 27 per cent.
Further information from the company shows that, globally, the Nestlé Waters business achieved a 30 per cent reduction by reducing the amount of additional water needed to produce one litre of bottled water from 1.22 to 0.86 litres. This has enabled Nestlé to save the equivalent of 47 billion litres of water and Nestlé Waters to save 8 billion litres in 2006 alone.
Nestle Nigeria’s Communication Director, Dr. Samuel Adenekan, said, “We (Nestle) embed water management into our business to help us reduce water withdrawals, increase reuse, make use of alternative water sources and improve the water efficiency of our products,” in apparent justification of their investments in water management.
At the Agbara manufacturing complex, which is one of two Nestlé factories in Nigeria, despite producing a wide range of brands and products including Maggi Cubes, Milo and Cerelac, the firm say that it saves 100 000 m3/year. This, it stated was enabled by the close proximity of the food manufacturing plant and the Nestlé Waters plant.
Woolnough said this has ensured that all surplus water from the Nestlé Waters deep well is used by Nestlé Nigeria plants, leading to a reduction in the water ratio (m3/tonne of finished product) and huge water saving.
President, African Federation of Science Journalists (AFSJ), Mr. Diran Onifade, pointing out assertions from WaterAid, noted that “Nigeria’s MDG target is to supply 74 per cent of the population with safe water by 2015.”
This seems far fetch, as he noted that “At current rates of progress, Nigeria will miss the water target by 18 years (2033).”
According to him, “Industry and energy together account for 20 per cent of water demand,” making every efforts by Nestle to mop up wastes a step in the right direction.
He, however, noted that other options could serve same purpose.
“Reducing food wastage by50 per cent including post harvest losses, losses in transport and handling, and losses in the household–might vastly reduce or even negate the need for additional water to grow more food, which will ensure sufficient water is available for food in the future,” Onifade said.
It is worth noting that only 2.5 per cent of the world’s water is fresh (without salt), and of that, two-thirds are locked up in the ice caps and glaciers. Two-thirds are then “lost” to water that evaporates directly or passes through plants. Of the remaining amount, some 20 per cent is in areas too remote for human access, and 75 per cent of it comes at the wrong time and place, by way of monsoons and floods, meaning humans only get to use less than 0.1 per cent of the total water on the planet.