1.1 Background of Study
Water is a resource that is becoming increasingly scarce and needs to be sustained globally and locally. One of the most serious problems faced by billions of people today is the availability of freshwater. The importance of water supply for domestic uses cannot be compromised not only because of its social and economic values but also because water-based sources of livelihoods have become critical to the survival and health of most rural households, providing valuable contributions to rural livelihoods (Bain, Cronk, Hossain, Bonjour, Onda, Wright, Yang, Slaymaker, Hunter, Pruss-Ustun, and Bartram, 2014). Water is therefore a very strategic socio-economic asset especially in poor economies where wealth and survival are measured by the level of access to water. It has been estimated that 1.2 billion people have no water within 400m of their dwelling (Grant., Mill, Holbrook, Lymburner, McTavish, and Sundby, 2002).
According to WHO/UNICEF (2004) water coverage refers to the proportion of the population using improved sources of drinking water. It is based on the principle that an improved source of water is designed to deliver water to a certain number of people. Again, rural water coverage and access are terms that have been used interchangeably and have been defined differently by different practitioners. Rural water coverage is often calculated by multiplying the number of each safe water point by the number of people who should be served by those water points. However, coverage may not give an accurate estimate of access due to functionality and distance to the water source(s). For example, it could be assumed that the water point can serve a particular number of people but the the number actually having access could be very different (IIDL, 2008). The Ministry of Local Government and Housing, Zambia defined access to water in rural areas based on the ability of people to collect at least a minimum of 25 liters of water per person per day for domestic purposes all year round, and also walk less than 500 meters to the water point (Musanda, 2004; Village Water, 2010). This could be a good definition, but some raised the issue that queuing at the water point can sometimes take time. For instance, in Mozambique, 30 minutes’ round trip which included going to the water point, queuing, fetching the water, and returning home were added as additional criteria for water access to be made.
UNICEF/WHO (2004) broadly defined rural water access as the availability of at least 20 liters per person per day from an improved source within one kilometer of the user’s dwelling. The standard for Nigeria according to the National Water Supply and Sanitation Policy (NWSSP, 2000) is that access to rural water supply should guarantee a minimum level of service, 30 liters per capita per day within 250 meters of the community of 150 to 5000 people, serving about 250-500 persons per point in the rural households. Inaccessibility and unequal access to safe water supply can constrain the inclusiveness of growth and thus result in a low standard of living among the rural people (Yange, Bain, Bartrum, Pedley, and Wright, (2013). In the circumstances where access is denied, the community as well as individual standard of living and productivity become drastically reduced. Governments and organizations all over the world have realized that sustainable water and wastewater management is a necessary component of functioning communities. On the other hand, since the dawn of human civilization, people have been struggling with rivers in order to prevent flooding and secure adequate freshwater supply with acceptable water quality. The capacity of mankind to control and harness natural resources has increased enormously with the rapid development of society and technology in the past century. By now, people have transformed many natural landscapes and aquatic ecosystems by means of hydraulic engineering projects such as dams, irrigation systems, and large-scale water transfer (Song, 2012).