Over the years, the indiscriminate drilling of boreholes in the country, especially the urban centres has remained a hydra-headed challenge to the government. Indeed, the trend is unabated. It threatens not only our environment and water security but also, the well-being of communities in the nation.  Recently, the situation has been exacerbated due to citizens’ limited and inadequate access to safe, clean and portable water, occasioned by rapid population growth. That explains why citizens have resorted to drilling boreholes indiscriminately, in an attempt to provide and improve water supply for their daily needs.

It will be recalled that some experts in the water resources sector opined that over 110, 000 boreholes have been drilled within the Federal Capital Territory, FCT. In contrast, more than 330, 000 metric tons of water are extracted daily from the holes. They have therefore warned that indiscriminate drilling of boreholes and extraction of water from the ground are capable of upsetting the equilibrium of the earth as well as causing violent tremors (slight earthquakes) in the FCT.

Given the looming danger usually associated with the proliferation of borehole drilling globally, the Nigeria Integrated Water Resources Management Commission (NIWRMC), recently organised a workshop in Abuja. The workshop which attracted stakeholders from both public and private sectors, had the theme: “Uncontrolled Boreholes Drilling, Threat to Underground Water and Aquifers Sustainability”.

What is a borehole? It is a deep round hole made by a special tool or machine, especially one made in the ground when searching for oil or water.

According to Wikipedia, groundwater is the water present beneath the earth’s surface in rocks and soil pore spaces and the fractures of rock formations. About 30 per cent of all readily available fresh water in the world is said to be groundwater. Some examples of sources of groundwater include artesian wells, man-made wells, springs and aquifers. Aquifers are a body of rocks and or sediment that hold groundwater. It serves as a natural reservoir of water. When boreholes are drilled without proper assessment or regulations, there is a real risk of water sources drying up and in some cases, communities and ecosystems are left without a reliable water supply, because it takes aquifers years to recharge adequately.

While delivering his keynote address, the Executive Director of Nigeria Integrated Water Resources Management Commission (NIWRMC), Engr. Magashi said, “Boreholes, undoubtedly, have played and are still playing a crucial role in addressing water scarcity globally. They provide a convenient and relatively affordable source of water, particularly in areas where traditional water infrastructure is not accessible”. However, it is our responsibility to ensure that these boreholes are drilled judiciously, with careful consideration of the environment and its long-term implications. He added.

He identified some of the main concerns with indiscriminate drilling of boreholes to include the potential depletion of groundwater resources, loss of biodiversity, crop failures and depletion of   aquifers.  Aquifers which serve as natural reservoirs of water, take years or even centuries to recharge adequately. As such, when boreholes are drilled without proper assessment or regulations, there is a real risk of water sources drying up, leaving communities and ecosystems without a reliable water supply.

Continuing: “We must also consider the quality of water obtained from these boreholes. Indiscriminate drilling poses a great threat to the purity of groundwater. Without appropriate standards and monitoring, hazardous substances, such as iron, chemicals or pollutants may contaminate the groundwater, thus posing serious health risks to communities who depend on these sources for their daily needs”, he warned.

However, he maintained that addressing this issue requires a multifaceted approach. Firstly, he emphasized the need for comprehensive data collection and evaluation mechanisms. According to him, we must understand the hydrogeological conditions of specific regions before drilling a borehole. Undertaking proper hydrological/geological surveys and assessments before drilling; helps identify suitable locations for boreholes and ensure the long-term sustainability of our water resources.

Magashi further stated that there is an ongoing collaboration with some professional bodies like Council of Nigerian Mining Engineers and Geoscientists (COMEG), Association of Water Well Drilling Rig Owners and Practitioners (AWDROP), Borehole Drillers Association of Nigeria (BODAN) and the FCT Rural Water Supply & Sanitation Agency (RUWASSA), to create synergy in effectively regulating indiscriminate boreholes drilling and efficient data collection regarding the activities of players in the industry.

Earlier, in his welcome address, the Director of Corporate Support Services, Mr. Sunday Idowu stated that indiscriminate drilling of boreholes not only affects the availability and quality of water resources but also, has far-reaching consequences on the ecosystem, public health and the overall well-being of communities. He therefore stressed the need to address this challenge as well as promote sustainable water management practices.

On his part, President of the Borehole Drillers Association of Nigeria (BODAN), Mr. Francis Uzoma posited that the reason why people drill boreholes is because of the absence of adequate water supply to the people by the government. He stated that these boreholes are drilled when water becomes an issue in the environment, and called on the government to ensure that there are well-thought-out water policies and adequate water supply to citizens to minimize borehole drilling in the country.

Presenting his paper, the lead facilitator, Dr. Muslim Idris pointed out that in most cases, women and children will have to walk for hours to fetch drinking water. A situation he described as being responsible for the proliferation of boreholes in many parts of the country. He also argued that with a rapidly growing population, borehole drilling will continue to enjoy patronage as far as housing development projects are concerned because every house needs a water supply for its daily activities.

According to him, some boreholes are drilled next to dump sites, septic tanks, animal pens, stormwater canals and even sewage lines. This, he says, affects greatly the quality of groundwater. His words: “In recent times, water samples collected from boreholes of over 60m depth in Idu, Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Dobi, Mararaba in Nasarawa State as well as Suleja in Niger State respectively have shown the presence of faecal coliform (bacteria). This is alarming and calls for urgent attention as it indicates massive interaction of our groundwater and human/animal wastes”.

To buttress his point, Muslim cited the UNICEF report where out of over sixty water samples from boreholes within Owerri zone, Imo State, South-East Nigeria revealed that the PH of the water samples is 6.0 to 6.5 on average. The underlying implication is that the water around this area is slightly acidic and not fit for consumption. He urged the government to take immediate measures to address this problem and halt the trend.

He therefore, appeals to the government agencies saddled with regulations of borehole drilling activities in the country, to as a matter of urgency, roll out modalities to checkmate drillers and drilling companies; while calling on the government at all levels to invest more in the pipe-borne water supply. This, he said, would provide trusted portable water and help reduce reliance on boreholes. He also, advises the Nigerian populace to always seek professional advice and services when constructing boreholes, as the negative effect of using quacks due to ignorance is not an excuse.

In conclusion, to attain the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) no.6 which seeks to achieve universal and equitable access to safe and affordable drinking water for all by 2030, the Nigerian government must as a matter of priority, define technical standards for borehole construction in the country including casing materials, well screens, and sealing methods to forestall contamination. In addition, the government should specify minimum distances between boreholes to prevent interference and over-extraction.


Sampson Ikemitang writes from the: Nigeria Integrated Water Resources Management Commission, Abuja.