By Isha S. Mansaray
Water resources are sources of water that are potentially useful to the human race. The importance of the use of water cannot be underestimated as it is central to our existence. We use water for industrial, agricultural, recreational and environmental activities or purposes.
Thus, one of the basic things people look out for before moving into a new community is the availability of a good and sufficient water system followed by good road network, electricity supply and security.
For the longest time, the Aberdeen community has been one of the most envied communities in Sierra Leone because of the aforementioned communal attributes.
Aberdeen is a coastal neighbourhood in the country’s capital of Freetown, and is home to numerous top-notch restaurants, hotels, Lumley beach and tourists facilities. Due to these, this community has been attracting tourists from different parts of the world, far and near, who pay it regular visits.
In the holidays, people from all around the country, including those in the capital and from the provinces, would come to this community to spend time with their friends and family.
However, the community has been experiencing an unusual water shortage. It is the mandates of the Ministry of Water Resources and the Guma Valley Water Company (GVWC) to provide sufficient water supply for the country’s capital. But community people have raise several concerns about the shortage of water supply in the community.
Aberdeen resident Fatmata Bangura said she has been having serious challenges of late accessing water. “I have lived in this community for over 30 years now and it is my first time as a resident in this community to experience this much water difficulty.”
According to her, even in the dry season, when a bit of water shortage is expected nationwide, the Aberdeen community will get regular daily water supplies, even if it is not throughout the day.
“It is rather unusual that we only get water supply after every other second day; and even when the taps reopen, they last barely six hours and then close again.”
She added that the painful part of it is that the taps reopen mostly at the time they need sleep the most.
“They only reopen the taps at night within the hours of 11 pm and 4 am, which is a cause for concern because we don’t usually get sufficient water due to low pressure. We also don’t sleep since we want to ensure that we get enough water for our domestic use.”
Madam Bangura is calling on the government through the Water Resources Ministry to look into the water shortage issue in the community.
Lately, GVWC has implemented the water kiosk concept as a supplementary means of water supply in the community. However, it may seem as though the people of Aberdeen are suspicious of the project.
According to Isatu Koroma, the project is not as helpful as they thought it would be. “This kiosk water project is not here to help us. Due to the availability of these kiosks, Guma are now refusing to supply adequate water, like they used to do in the previous dry seasons to these areas, so that the tanks in the kiosks will be filled up, leaving us with no choice but to buy water from these kiosks.”
She added that her household and family livelihood depends mostly on water supply, saying: “I need water to do my cooking, cleaning, laundry, bathing, drinking and the like. It is very challenging having to deal with water shortage when I know deep down that there is possibility we could have just enough water that will serve my family and I.”
Madam Bangura is pleading to GVWC to extend its hours of water supply in and to the community. Madam Modu Davies, Aberdeen community resident as well as one of the vendors of these water kiosks, agreed to an exclusive interview on the challenges she is facing as a kiosk water vendor.
“I’m having series of challenges looking after this kiosk. One of the biggest challenges is that the water pressure is very low. When taps reopen at night, we find it difficult to fill up these tanks due to low pressure.”
According to her, the tanks barely get filled as the water usually stops on the tanks’ first brim, only serve a few people and stop running when the water is down to a particular level below the brim. She added that the community people are also suspicious of her.
“People think that we are conniving with the Guma people so that taps supplying them water will be closed so that they only get to fetch water from these tanks, which they pay for.”
Madam Davies is calling on Guma Valley to improve on the facility system at the water kiosks “to avoid misconceptions from the community people”.
Mr. Prince Moore-Sourie, the GVWC Chief Engineer, said, “Some parts of Aberdeen were not getting a drop of water while some were enjoying 24 hour water supply; so we had to trick our system so that there will be a balance. Those parts that were having 16 to 24 hours of water supply have been reduced to limited numbers of hours so that other areas will benefit during that period.”
He said anyone who understands the climate system in Sierra Leone will understand that there are always reductions in water supply systems nationwide.
“We are at the peak of the dry season; thus, it is expected that we experience water shortage. The source of water which is at the Guma dam in Mile 13 has depleted significantly by a 10,000 drop of cubic water.”
According to him, the Guma kiosk system is a replacement of the street pumps, which he said were managed by unauthorised personnel requesting money.
“The Guma kiosks are set up in a way of sharing 24 hour water supply even when Guma’s water supply through the taps is closed.”
Mr. Moore-Sourie also clarified the importance of the water kiosks as opposed to the street pumps. “The kiosks unlike the street pumps have tanks. The tanks store water even in the period wherein the rationing programme will involve water supplies not available in that particular area at the given time.”
He also indicated how the community people get access to the kiosks to fetch water: “The water stored in those tanks will be used by the vendor in charge of the tanks through an agreement with Guma to supply water to the people, and the people would have to pay for the water.”
Ing. Moore-Sourie also explained why they are requesting the community people to pay before getting access to the kiosk water supply system.
“We are asking them to pay in a modest form so that those monies can be utilised to make improvement on the water system. The GoSL cannot give us the required money to manage the water system in the urban areas.”
Meanwhile, Moore-Sourie also expressed his disappointment in the suspicious community people. “It is wrong for people to think that we are criminals. To think we are conniving with the Guma vendors mean we are criminals. How can we be criminals when we are there to help you?”
Ing. Moore-Sourie concluded that the water kiosk system is a pilot project, as they are open to complaints, which would encourage them make improvements to the system. He also mentioned that the Guma technical team will look into the hilly areas of the community causing low pressure in the water system.
He also encouraged the people of Aberdeen to look at those managing the kiosk as their brethren, as all of them are from the community.