Mogadishu’s big water puzzle

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Supply in the city is insufficient, unreliable and sometimes unsafe

Mogadishu, has huge sources of water, including the Indian Ocean, but not much of it is piped to households. In fact, households get water from boreholes and in bottles.

Water supply and piping in Mogadishu is erratic, poorly regulated, at times unsafe and by various accounts, it is up for grabs. It is an area that has much investment potential, but it is acutely ignored.

Mogadishu and the rest of Somalia needs safe and reliable water supply. Water is one of the critical services that lure and sustain local and foreign investments, especially those interested in the manufacturing sector.

In 1990, the water supply for Mogadishu city was obtained through boreholes in well fields. These wells were in the Balad Road well field,constructed in 1970, and the Afgoye Road well field, constructed in 1983, some 17.5Km North-West of Mogadishu.

During this time, according to a study conducted by The Institute of Hydrology, it was anticipated that the total annual water demands at source would be 25 million cubic meters in 1990, 40 million cubic meters in 1995 and 57million cubic meters in 2000.

The forecast was rendered irrelevant in 1991 because of war. The two decades of destruction that followed affected the water supply system in the city.

The piping system and the boreholes were destroyed. Well fields were fought over. Now the rules governing the drilling and supplying of water no longer apply.

Whereas the previous government had banned drilling of boreholes within the city, today, that rule does not apply.

There are also no regulations regarding the quality of water being supplied, the quality of pipes used in piping it, or existence of the provider and customer contract.

Going for US$1.40 per 1,000 litres, the cost of water is not much of an issue. The big problem is its reliability. Shortages stemming from failed pumps are as common as a burst pipe in the pipeline.

Without proper regulation, no one can be certain of the quality of water they receive for home use

Currently, there are close to 300 companies that loosely operate as Mogadishu Water Development, which supplies much of the water used in the city.

In 2010, the government came up with a water distribution plan that was shoved aside just like the Water Act, which was not enacted.

Currently, every water company wants to drill and set up their own piping routes. This limits their capacity to invest in proper infrastructure, resulting in poor and erratic pumping of water.

Without proper regulation, no one can be certain of the quality of water that they receive. Last December, 70 children died after consuming contaminated water. No one was held accountable for the deaths.

The water supply issue in Mogadishu is further affected by politics. There is the group that holds the 27 wells within Mogadishu well fields, made up of individuals who worked in the Ministry of Water during the government of Said Bare.

They use the wells as bargaining chips with the government. And the group of 300 companies that came together claim to work as a unit, but in reality, they are pushing individual interests.