(formerly IRIN News) Journalism from the heart of crises

Water shortage becomes more accute in capital

Map of Burkina Faso

The government of Burkina Faso announced new more stringent measures to conserve water in the capital, Ouagadougou, on Thursday. Shortages in the city have reached critical levels and some residents spent the last three days with dry taps.

The new ban on using tanker lorries to collect water from nearby dams to irrigate gardens, wash cars and build houses tightens up a water rationing system introduced in March. Until further notice, the government said, no resident of the city would be allowed to collect water from the main Ouagadougou dam or from the Loumbila reservoir, 35 km north of the city, for these purposes.

"The situation is serious and we want to give priority to domestic use of water," the water and sewerage authority said in a joint statement with the ministry of agriculture, hydraulic and water resources. "Those who disregard these measures will be prosecuted," the statement added. It did not elaborate.

The government said water tankers would be used to supply some areas of Ouagadougou which have been without piped water for up to three days.

The price of water purchased from private tankers has soared up to 10-fold as a result of the accute shortage. Water sellers in some areas have increased the price of a 200 litre delivery from 200 CFA francs to 1,500 and sometimes as much as 2,000 (US $3.50).

The government said that with daytime temperatures rising to 44 degrees Centigrade, the capital's main reservoirs had started to dry up, agravating chronic water shortages in the city of nearly 1.2 million.

"Due to the drying up of the Ouagadougou dam, the high heat and other external factors out of our control," the water authority said, "[even] the March rationing program is of no avail today."

It noted that while the supply of water to Ouagadougou was only growing by three percent a year, the city's population was growing faster at an annual rate of four percent. The result was that the four dams around Ouagadougou could only supply about 70% of the city's demand -currently estimated at 80,000 cubic metres per day.

The water authority said the situation would ease with the completion of a new US $250 million dam at Ziga, 40 km north of the city in 2006. It said the dam would allow 50,000 new customers to be added to the 40,000 who currently receive piped water in their homes. The Ziga dam would also allow the water authority to add 400 more public fountains to the 600 currently in use.

Landlocked Burkina Faso with a population of 11 million, lies within the arid savannah belt of the Sahel, just south of the Sahara desert. It receives only 635-1,145 mm of rain a year over a five month wet season. In 2002, Burkina Faso ranked 169 out of 173 countries on the UNDP human development index.

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