Potable water has been a major concern for residents of Zaria, an ancient city in Kaduna State. For many decades, many parts of the city have been without tap water. Most residents rely on wells, boreholes, rivers and other sources. At the peak of dry season, water usually becomes “a golden egg”, as most residents spend most of their precious time searching for the colourless liquid.

At this period of the year, wells, which most residents heavily rely on, are usually dry, forcing residents to buy water from vendors at expensive rates. Sometime the price is not the major issue, but the availability of the water vendors. The few vendors that roam the streets usually wear the aura of kings as demand becomes high.

But residents said water vendors could not be blamed for raising their prices as they usually cover long distances and spend hours queuing to get the water.

Hopes of residents rose when, on Saturday, May 27, 2017, the incumbent Governor Nasir el-Rufa’i commissioned the Zaria water project treatment plant. As a result of that event, many residents expected that the perennial water scarcity that bedevilled the ancient city would be brought to an end.

Daily Trust on Sunday observed that long before the formal commissioning of the water treatment plant, pipes that covered tens of kilometres were laid in almost all parts of the city.

Similarly, huge water reservoirs were constructed in different parts of Zaria. These, according to findings, are in various stages of completion.

The state Water Board also commenced the connection of water meters to residences, following which the residents were made to pay N1,000 as administrative charge. But months after the commencement of the exercise, the water is not yet available.

Our findings also revealed that the few areas that hitherto had tap water have now joined the queue of communities that have been without water for years.

The Zaria water project was nicknamed “el-Rufa’i water’’ because of the governor’s obvious passion and seriousness about it.

Because of the acute shortage of water in the entire Zaria city, a 25-litre jeri-can of water now sells between N25 to N40. This situation, residents said, subjected them to untold hardship as many of them could not afford it.

Speaking to our correspondent about the situation, a resident, Malam Sama’ila Sani, however, said they were still hopeful that the current work on the project would yield fruit at the end of the day.

“For now, we are really suffering. I don’t know if the government could create temporary water stations for residents. I think this can be possible. Since the treatment plant is ready and laying of pipes is completed, the government can create some points in different parts of the city for residents to go and fetch water, instead of waiting for the reservoirs to be completed. They are doing this for water tankers at the state Water Board offices in Anguwar Kaya and GRA.

“If the government can create such water centres in different parts of the city, it would go a long way in alleviating the suffering of the residents. Such centres can be maintained even after the completion of the work. This is because it is not every household that can afford meters and pay monthly. If such centres are available, the less privileged residents can fetch water for domestic use,” he suggested.

It was also observed that as a result of the water scarcity in Zaria, residents are now forced to patronise irrigation boreholes constructed by farmers at the Kubanni river. The way residents storm these boreholes for water gives a clear picture of how difficult the situation has become.

Furthermore, most of the solar-powered water systems the state government constructed years ago to help in lessening the sufferings of residents are not functioning.

Governor Nasir el-Rufa’i’s senior assistant on media and publicity, Samuel Aruwan did not respond to Daily Trust on Sunday’s inquiries on the update of the progress of work on the water project. However, in an interview with newsmen, one of the governor’s media aides, Abdallah Yunus Abdallah, said the Zaria water project was in its final stage.

He said the construction of water reservoirs was expected to be completed by the end of this year. According to him, when this is done, water scarcity in the city would become history.

In an interview with our correspondent after the May 27, 2017 commissioning of the water plant, the then commissioner for water resources in Kaduna State, Suleiman Aliyu Lere, said the Zaria water project had many phases, including the commissioning of the treatment plant.

“The event of May 27 was the commissioning of the treatment plant, which is the major component of the project. Pipes have been laid. We are now constructing the reservoirs where the water would be stored before being pumped to users. Very soon, connection to households would commence, where residences would be linked with the new pipes and meters mounted. This will allow residents to get water immediately distribution commences.

“We have to understand all these processes. The people that were on the old pipes have started seeing improvement because the plant has started pumping water at one-third of its capacity. It is after the commissioning of the new lines that most areas would start getting the water. We understand the concern of residents. However, the most important thing is the commitment to complete this project hundred per cent, and we will achieve that, insha Allah, by October this year,” he said.

Daily Trust on Sunday reports that October 2017 is now history and water has continued to elude residents of Zaria. However, residents said they were keeping their fingers crossed. “It will be celebration galore the day I see water in my tap,” a resident, Muntari Aliyu said.