Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Geography & Environmental Studies


Faculty of Arts

First Advisor

Gordon J. Young

Advisor Role

Dissertation Supervisor


Projections indicate that the disparity in population numbers will widen further by the year 2025 when the global population is expected to be 8.5 billion, and at that time about 84% will be living in the developing countries (World Resources Institute, 1992). The greatest proportional increase will occur in Africa, where the population is projected to nearly triple, from a 1990 level of 642 million to 1.6 billion in 2025. In 1997, the population of Nigeria alone was about 100 million, making it the largest country, in terms of population, in Africa. From 1960 to 1990, the average annual population growth in the urban areas of Nigeria was 6.3% and in rural areas was 2.2%. Such rapid urbanization places enormous strain on developing countries to provide the infrastructure necessary to support their expanding populations. The negative impacts of urbanization on freshwater resources are more acute in the developing countries, particularly in Africa, where the human and material resources, including institutional mechanisms, needed to cope with these growing problems are grossly inadequate. The World Bank has stated that Nigeria alone, the lack of water resources integrity threatens to place about 40 million of the population at risk, and that it would cost in excess of US $1 billion annually to correct if ground and surface water contamination continues to go unchecked. Balancing the needs of urban development, economic growth, and environmental protection is a formidable challenge in Nigerian cities. Meeting this challenge is the only way the country can ensure the health of its citizens, and at the same time avoid a social and economic crisis in many of her major cities. The main objective of the research is to examine the human and institutional interactions in urban water resources management in Sub-Saharan Africa, and the impacts on the resource. The study has three specific objectives: (1) to investigate in detail at a city level, using Owerri (a Nigerian city) as a case study, the human and institutional interactions in urban water resources management, and the impacts on the resource; (2) to examine the institutional arrangements and mechanisms for water resources management in Nigeria, particularly those relevant to urban areas; and, (3) to develop a framework for institutional and management arrangements for urban water resources management in Owerri, which might also be applied to other cities in Nigeria, and in other African cities with similar characteristics. For each objective, a specific research question and a number of sub-questions were developed to help generate and elicit relevant data in the context of the issues and concepts the study addressed. This study used primarily a qualitative approach. It involved the combination and integration of many different kinds of information and data. The methods and procedures are essentially a descriptive survey method, and the techniques are from rapid assessment methods, which are adaptive (and rapid) and have tailored to the local situation. They include particularly participant-observation, semi-structured interviews and participatory social mapping. The analysis of the results is presented using the case method. The cases take the form of short descriptive details put together as a coherent whole, within the context of specific theoretical points, to illustrate the underlying themes and issues emerging from the study. There is a strong cultural perspective used in this study. Contexts, processes and interactions are examined. At the state and the city level, the overall poor urban water resources management in Owerri is largely due to lack of funds for operation and maintenance, inadequate skilled labor, inefficient billing and collection of water revenues, lack of inter-agency coordination, weak enforcement of relevant laws and regulations, the problem of institutional gridlock, and absence of public participation. The institutional arrangements at the federal level have been greatly impeded by lack of continuity and poor implementation of water programs due to incessant and abrupt changes in government and policies, lack of integration and coordination among the relevant government agencies, and the tribalism and corruption within the bureaucratic system. In general, there is a serious problem of scarcity and degradation of the urban water resources, and the institutional arrangements for effective management of the resource are grossly inadequate. The thesis proposes a new planning approach for urban water resources management in Owerri. The method—the CAM Approach—is a combination of collaborative, adaptive and mixed scanning planning theories. The thesis also develops an institutional framework for creating a viable urban water resources management system in Owerri using the planned change concept. This framework is recommended for testing and adoption. Because of the diversity of the country some cities will demonstrate wide differences in climate, hydrology, size, political arrangements, economic and social structure. However, the framework and recommendations presented in this thesis can be adopted by other Nigerian cities, and other cities in Africa with the same characteristics as Owerri, with some modifications to suit their peculiar needs and situations. This study concluded that reforming and transforming urban water resources management in Owerri will come through a planned change process with multiple strategies and clearly defined actions aimed at the organizational system, and some specifically at the cultural, human, managerial, and technological subsystems, of the Imo State Water Corporation (ISWC). The change agent must be external. It should be in the form of an independent task force appointed by the government and granted sufficient powers to initiate and implement change. The task force should also include highly qualified experts with adequate information and knowledge about the organization and its subsystems.

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