Can I drink the tap water in Nigeria? Where does tap water in Lagos, Abuja and other major cities come from? What are the common issues and risks? What is the best water filter in Nigeria for homes with piped water access? Is Bottled water safe to drink?
The short answer is that drinking water in Nigeria is a mess. Water sources are getting more populated, water filtration and disinfection facilities don’t live up to international standards, bottled water is often as contaminated as tap water and water services are constantly interrupted. Access to piped tap water in Nigeria has actually been significantly reduced in the past 20 years.
But there is good news as well. Affordable and easy to install and use solutions are available today to give many households safe and tasty tap water directly from the tap.
In this article we explore the topics above and some of the solutions.
- Where does the tap water come from?
- Is the tap water in Nigeria safe to drink?
- What are the common issues with tap water?
- How do Nigerians get their tap water?
- Who regulates tap water in Nigeria
- Whether bottled water is safe to drink?
- The best water filter for Nigeria
For a summary jump to the end.
Where does tap water in Nigeria come from?
Nigeria is blessed with abundant water resources for various purposes. The country has quite a number of small and big rivers and dams. The total rainfall of the country decreases from the coast northwards, with the south having an annual rainfall ranging between 1500–4000mm and the extreme north between 500–1500mm.
The main rivers are Niger and Benue and their tributaries. Groundwater is widely used for domestic, agricultural and industrial supplies. Most rural areas are dependent on groundwater, and a number of towns and cities. For example Calabar (coastal southeastern Nigeria) and Port Harcourt (capital of Rivers State, south Nigeria) are totally dependent on groundwater.
In 2013 there were around 65,000 boreholes or other groundwater points in Nigeria.
Source: Witpress 2013, Nigerian water bodies in jeopardy: the need for sustainable management and security 2013
Nigeria’s capital Abuja receives part of its drinking water from the lower Usuma dam. The capacity of the plant that treats surface water from the dam’s reservoir was in the process of being increased in 2012 in order to cater for the growing population of the capital. The Guara dam, which was under construction in 2012, is expected to further increase water supply to Abuja and to mitigate against the risk of drought.
Although Abuja supposedly has the best water treatment plant in Nigeria it’s still not safe to drink to lack of capacity and power cuts.
Source: Daily Trust: A Peep Into Source Of Abuja’s Drinking Water 2017
The Lagos Water Corporation states that the water produced in the plant meets the highest standards, and that it supplies “safe drinking water in sufficient and regular quantity to over 12.5 million people in Lagos State”. However, water is often contaminated in the distribution network and people distrust tap water quality. since the raw water in the lagoon is too polluted, the city gets its water from the Ogun and Owo rivers.
There has been years of debate about the poor water quality in Lagos. Recently these have been taken more seriously but yet no solution.
Source: Lagos Water Corporation, http://watercorporation.lagosstate.gov.ng
River Challawa is the main water supply source for Kano town and numerous industries within this area.
Based on the data considered in this paper, revealed that parameters in sachets and ground water consumed in Kano are within the WHO recommended standards for potable water and ensures the suitability of the water for human consumption. Industrial effluents activities contributed immensely in making the river water sources unfit for human and irrigation purposes.
Water, which is treated by different Municipal bodies, meets all drinking water quality standards at treatment plant and at the point where the water enters the distribution system.
The highest values of Fe, Cu and Mn were recorded along the older distribution channel of Challawa. The levels of Pb and Cr were generally high in both routes which are also observed in the raw water used at the two treatments plants. The results obtained from heavy metal concentrations fell within the maximum allowable limit set by the WHO for portable water except in the cases of Pb and Cr.
Source: Biomedigrid: Status of Water Used for Drinking and Irrigation in Kano: A Critical Review on Physicochemical and Heavy Metals Concentration 2019
Who regulates the tap water in Nigeria ?
The Federal Ministry of Water Resources, which had been part of the Ministry of Agriculture is responsible for large water resources development projects and water allocation between states.
The requirements of the Nigeria’s National Water Supply and Sanitation Policy include the smell and taste of the water, and limits to the amounts of minerals and chemicals – like detergents and chlorine – that may be present in the water. They also state that no E coli bacteria may be found in drinking water.
Source: Water Supply and Sanitation in Nigeria 2015
Is the tap water in Nigeria safe to drink?
Generally no. Close to two thirds of households had access to safe or improved water sources, such as piped water, boreholes and collected rainwater. But only 3.7-19% of Nigeria’s population have access to safe drinking water. Source: Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey Nigeria 2018.
The study published in 2017 also concluded that 90.8% of Nigerians’ household drinking water contaminated by E coli bacteria.
This is consistent with the WHO and UNICEF study from 2010 so seems like little has improved since then.
Furthermore. In cities, 82% of people have a basic supply. In rural areas, only 54%. Source: Africa Check 2018
In conclusion, if you have access to an improved water source then get a high quality filter such as TAPP 1 UF and you will have access to clean water from the tap.
What are the common tap water issues in Nigeria?
Historically Nigeria had an abundance of clean tap water but this is changing. Reports of water source and tap water contamination in Nigeria include
- Sea water intrusion into southern coastal aquifers, due to lowering of groundwater levels following over-abstraction (Ministry of Water Resources 2013).
- local contamination of groundwater in the Lagos area by industrial chemicals. There are also reports of metals contamination of groundwater from mining activity (Ministry of Water 2013).
- Naturally highly mineralised groundwater in the Awe Formation sedimentary aquife
- Groundwater pollution related to human activities (agriculture, domestic waste, industry) are issues in shallow aquifers, particularly permeable unconsolidated deposits, which have little protection from surface activities.
- Drinking water from natural sources such as rivers and streams commonly polluted by organic substances from upstream users who use water for agricultural activities.
- Waste dumped in rivers and streams being common throughout the country
- Storm water carries pollutants which contaminate water resources.
- High levels of toxic chemicals such as metals and pesticides in piped water
Source: Case study on Water Sanitation in Nigeria 1997
But the biggest issue is pathogens. According to recent reports by UNICEF and WHO 77.3% of households drinking water was contaminated by bacteria at source. But there is also an increase in contamination between source and household indicating that contamination takes place when water is stored or transported (Yohannah Audu, UNICEF).
This contributes to high prevalence of waterborne diseases, threatens the livelihoods of smallholder farmers, and contributes to low levels of school enrollment, especially among girls.
The use of contaminated drinking water and poor sanitary conditions result in increased vulnerability to water-borne diseases, including diarrhoea which leads to deaths of more than 70,000 children under five annually.
Source: Progress on drinking water, sanitation and hygiene 2017 by WHO
The second biggest issue is pollutants and and chemical contaminants as most of Nigeria’s drinking water is unpurified groundwater. Source: Africa Water Quality Report 2010
This includes heavy metals responsible for debilitating diseases like dysentery, typhoid and cholera. Estimates suggest that these diseases – preventable with clean water and basic sanitation – claim the lives of about 60,000 Nigerian children under five each year. Source: Water Aid 2018
Therefore boiling the tap water is not enough as it will only kill bacteria and not remove heavy metals, pesticides, nitrates and other contaminants.
How do Nigerians get their tap water?
Pipe-borne water was the main source of water in Nigeria in 1995, but by 2010, this source of water accounted for only 8.8 percent of domestic water supply to households.
Within the study area, 61 per cent of households had access to improved water supply (defined by WHO/UNICEF (2012) as water from piped water into dwelling; piped water into yard/plot; public tap/standpipes; tubewell/boreholes; protected dug wells; protected springs and rainwater).
But improved water supply doesn’t mean that it’s safe to drink. Here’s an overview of the amount of pathogens detected in water samples by source.
Although it might not seem like it the situation actually improved considerably during this period in terms of Access to improved water.
Most water supply pipes in the country were laid in the 1970’s. There has been little replacement or construction of new pipelines. This has occasioned the problem of burst pipes, leading to huge wastage of the already scarce resource.
Source: Trend in Access to Safe Water Supply in Nigeria 2017 by Journal of Environment and Science
The most common waterborne diseases in Nigeria include cholera, typhoid, dracunculiasis, hepatitis etc.
Is bottled water and street (sachet) water safe to drink in Nigeria?
The top 5 bottles water brands in Nigeria are Eva Water (Coca Cola which is by far the leader followed by Nestle Pure Life. Aquafina (PepsiCo), Cascade, Redeemed Water and Bigi Table Water.
But bottled water is not necessarily safe or healthy. At least 30% of the 200+ bottled and sachet water samples taken in a 2017 study contained bacteria. In some areas of Nigeria contaminants above WHO guidelines were found in 70% or samples. One common issue is the storage and temperature of the water.
Source: Assessment of sachet and bottled water quality in Nigeria 2019.
Street water quality is even worse. Bacteriological analysis showed that 5% of the 78 samples (A Type) in Abidqn City. Source: Quality of Packaged Waters Sold in Ibadan, Nigeria 2018
Surveys of street vendors in Lagos, Kaduna and Katsina also show that they cost as much as 20 times more than the State Water Agencies tap water. Source: Parasitological Evaluation of Sachet Drinking Water in Areas of Lagos State, Nigeria 2017
A water filter can therefore save from $30 to $500 per year depending on the bottled water or street water source.
What is the best water filter for Nigeria?
As mentioned at the start one of the best and most affordable solutions for safe drinking water is an ultrafiltration water filter. Reverse Osmosis will deliver clean water but is water wasting and often causes bacteria issues due to complexity of maintenance. Therefore the best water filter for Nigerian households is a high quality ultrafiltration faucet filter such as TAPP 1 UF.
Most households with tap water delivered from the faucet will save considerable amounts of money and effort with this ingenious solution. Just make sure the product is independently tested.
You can buy TAPP 1 UF from our partner in Nigeria. Please contact us for more information.
Summary of tap water in Nigeria
- Generally tap water in Nigeria is not safe to drink
- Bottled water is safer than tap water but 30% does not meet safety standards
- The best option for healthy clean tap water in Nigeria is a high quality water filter such as TAPP 1 UF
- Avoid bottled water if you can as it’s expensive, bad for the planet and not necessarily healthy
Agree or disagree with this article? Are our sources outdated? We receive a lot of traffic to our articles so want to make sure that the public information is correct. Please contact us or comment below so that we can correct any information that is not factual.
Note: TAPP 1 UF is intended for piped tap water or well water that adheres to WHO requirements at the source.
1 thought on “Can I drink the tap water in Nigeria (incl Lagos and Abuja)?”
Great article great job Magnus, Nigerians always do the right things and are very conscious of their health and environment. They will respond to this call in their masses very soon