Increasing the resilience of urban water utilities to extreme weather events
Ezeji, Joachim Ibeziako
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The sustainability of municipal drinking water services in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria requires that its water utilities enhance their resilience to a range of risks posed by extreme weather events. Excellence in managing such risks is essential, not only to the bottom line and reputation of the utilities, but also to the wellbeing and prosperity of the people they serve and the preservation of nature in order to sustain ecosystem services. In the context of this study, organisational resilience has been defined as the adaptive deployment of the utility s assets and structures within its continua of inter-dependences to improve and sustain performance even in the face of repeated perturbations. On the other hand, vulnerability is defined as the utility s inability to withstand adverse stress based on limited or constrained capacity to adapt hence creating pathways through which risk impacts the utility. This definition of vulnerability is in tandem with those that argue that the key parameters of vulnerability are the stress to which a system is exposed, its sensitivity, and its adaptive capacity. In view of this, and also based on the findings of the study, the study notes that utility management could be a complex and challenging task, especially, in a multi-risk delta environment where extreme events are intense and frequent. Utility managers can become veterans of risks by dissipating, more than ever before technical competence, watershed/ecosystem awareness, social engagement skills and conceptual ability. The latter includes an understanding of how the complexities of the upstream and downstream environment impacts on the utility s internal environment and operations. The diffusive nature of risk makes every risk a potential high impact risk and the understanding of this, is the key to a resilient organization. Risk analysis and management in water utilities should aim to limit the diffusion of risks across streams in order to retard vulnerability. Utility resilience options will need to vary depending on climate related risks to each system, utility management goals, legislation, local and national water management strategies and finance. Utilities in the Niger delta needs to fully understand that they operate close to the edge by virtue of being below sea level and should cultivate a keen awareness of the consequences of flooding and saltwater intrusion, and the importance to manage them amongst others. The study has shown that there is need now, more than ever before for increased revenue generation, elimination of wastes/inefficiencies, financial investment and strategic management of water services operations in the study area if residents and the unborn generation are to be guaranteed of safe and adequate drinking water.