Why Can’t We Get Our Water Act Together?

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Liberians seem never to understand why people of other countries consider Liberia such a blessed country.  Everybody else seems to understand and appreciate that except ourselves.

Others think Liberia is rich not only because of our agricultural and mineral wealth.  They often say the country is blessed also because it has it has a very large land space–43,000 square miles– compared to its puny population–just over three million.

It is not outrageous to compare Liberia with New York City, or Paris, each with millions of people.  Yet these cities are able to transport all of these people to work and to school each day, and also to provide them regularly and reliably with safe and drinkable pipe-borne water.

This editorial is not about transport; it’s about water.  It stems from Edwin Fayia’s story published in yesterday’s Daily Observer entitled, “Water Shortage Persists in Monrovia.” But we threw in the transport bit because it stems from the same principle: a city or national government able or unable to provide a vital service to its citizens on a daily basis.

There is hardly a morning that New Yorkers awake and can’t find water to use.  And that is the case for major capitals around the world–London, Paris, Tokya, you name them.  The puzzling question is, why are these major cities, unlike Monrovia, a very tiny city, able to supply their people regularly and efficiently with safe drinking water are we are not? Wikipedia tells us that the New York water supply system is one of the most extensive municipal water systems in the world.  It relies on a combination of tunnels, aqueducts and reservoirs to meet the daily needs of 8 million residents and hundreds of thousands of visitors.

Thanks to well-protected wilderness watersheds, New York’s water treatment process is simpler than in other American cities. One advantage of the system is that 95% of the total water supply is supplied by gravity. The other 5% needs to be pumped to maintain pressure, but this is sometimes increased in times of drought when the reservoirs are at lower than normal levels.

The city has sought to restrict development throughout its watershed.

One of its largest watershed protection programs is the Land Acquisition Program, under which the New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has purchased or protected through conservation easement over 70,000 acres (28,000 ha) since 1997.

Readers will ask why the Daily Observer has gone all the way to New York to help us fix our water problems.  That is not the point.  The point is that if New York City, with its population more than twice the size of the whole of Liberia’s, is able to supply its people in that one city with safe and reliable water, why can’t we do the same thing?    And remember, we have, yes,  no tunnels in Monrovia or in the whole of Liberia, but we have many rivers, creeks and streams.

There is absolutely no reason for any part of Liberia to be without water, at any time.

The Liberia Water and Sewer Corporation (LWSC) must take immediate steps to fix the water problems not only in Monrovia but throughout the country, in keeping with its mandate.  But a critical part of that mandate is to undertake long-term studies and planning to ensure that Liberia is regularly and adequately supplied with pipe-borne and safe drinking water.

What do New Yorkers mean by supplying 95 percent of their water by gravity?  That seems to be a highly efficient method of water supply.

Can we study our waterways and environment and come up with the most efficient means of water supply that will assure our people reliable and safe drinking water and sanitation?

Chairman Kimmie Weeks, Managing Director Charles Allen, this is your challenge.  Put your engineers, technicians and planners to work and make Liberia the most efficient water supplier in West Africa.

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