Buying Water by the Baggie in Lagos

In a city where urban water infrastructure ranges from "insufficient" to "nonexistent," Lagos entrepreneurs have developed a bustling trade in "sachet water." Is it time to focus more attention on regulating the sachet industry?

No one is immune from the poor state of the urban water infrastructure in Lagos, Nigeria. Those that have water connections face erratic and sometimes contaminated supply; 70 percent have no access to piped water at all. Of those with "piped" access, two-thirds access that water from community taps.

Enter the sachet industry, commercially purified packets of water sold by the polyethylene sack at 6 cents a pop. For many of Lagos' poor, it is the most affordable option for potable water. Or should we say, "mostly potable"? Recent research shows that contamination in the sachet water trade is rampant.

It's easy to say that the answer is improving traditional water infrastructure (you know: pipes). However, beyond the usual issues of cost and implementation logistics, in Lagos efforts to improve water infrastructure are met by fierce opposition from water hawkers and others who profit from the status quo. In the short term, the best solution may be to focus on those ubiquitous water sachets, not as the best solution, but as the "least-worst" solution.

Thanks to Rachel Proctor May

Full Story: On Clean Drinking Water in Lagos: Many Options, Few Solutions

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