Research Key

The causes and consequences of water shortage on households in Cameroon : Case study Buea Municipality

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International: $20
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Analytical tool
Descriptive statistics
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Water is universally one of the influential natural resources, if not the most valuable. As defined in the first paragraph of the European Union (EU) Water Framework Directive (WFD) established by the European Parliament and the Council of 23rd of October 2000” Water is not a commercial product like any other but,  rather a heritage which must be protected, defended, and treated as such”.

Water is life; no water means no life. The availability of water is necessary but the quality of the available water ids even more critical. In 2000, the United Nations established the millennium Development Goals (MDG) which was later replaced in 2016 by the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) comprising of 8 goals which were achieved by 2005.

Improved water sources were accessible to over 2 billion people from 1990 to 2010, thus meeting up with the target of the MDG on drinking water (UNICEF and WHO report 2012).

The same report confirms that sub-Sahara Africa has the lowest drinking water coverage compared to all the other regions of the world.

In fact, 82% of the urban population in sub-Saharan Africa has access to improved water sources as compared to 95% worldwide. For the rural population, it is about 44% compared to 72% (Carle, 2009)

Water scarcity is the lack of fresh water resources to meet water demand. It affects every continent and was listed in 2019 by the World Economic Forum as one of the largest global risks in terms of potential impact over the next decades.

It is manifested by partial and no satisfaction of expressed demand, economic competition of water quantity, quality, disputes between users, irreversible depletion of ground water, and negative impact on the environment.

Two-third of the global population (4 billion people) live under conditions of severe water scarcity in at least 1 month of the year. Half a billion people face water scarcity all year round.

Water scarcity can be further categorized into; physical, social and economic water scarcity.

Physical water scarcity: It refers to a situation where, a country or region naturally has limited access to water. Physical water scarcity can be divided into two concepts which are; demand-driven scarcity (water stress) and          population-driven scarcity (water shortage) (Kummu et al 2010).

About 25% of the world’s population is located in areas of physical water scarcity. Arid and semi-Arid areas are mostly characterized by physical water scarcity.

Economic water scarcity: It refers to a situation where a country or region has available water resources but lack financial means to exploit her water resources. Most parts of the sub-Saharan Africa suffer from economic water scarcity.

This condition continues to aggravate in this region and will only get better if the governments of the affected countries make this problem a national issue and top priority.

Good governance and available financial resources are both required to combat economic water scarcity.

Water scarcity issues lead to health issues as a result of the exposure to water borne diseases. In the case of water stress people consume people consume water ever quality of water they can lay their hands on.

The total amount of water on the earth surface is about 1.35 billion cubic kilometers (Etcha, 2016). Over 97% of this quantity is in the oceans as salt water. The earth’s fresh water amount to only 37 million cubic kilometers.

The water we use comes from 50 cubic kilometers per day run off in the rivers, streams and lakes and 70 cubic kilometers per day flow through underground reservoirs. This supply has been constant over tens of thousands of years.

Only the demand has shown a steep increase over the last century. Due to this increase, in India the average annual availability of water per capita has declined from 5236 cubic meters in 1951 to only 2227 cubic meters in 1991. As per estimates this would further decline to only 1555 cubic meters by the year 2013. ( B.K Sharma, 2005).

On March 22, 2011, Cameroon joined the world to celebrate the World Water Day under the theme, “Water for cities: responding to the urban challenge”.

As the theme presupposes, there is a need to spotlight and encourage governments, organizations, communities, and individuals to become actively involved in addressing the challenges of urban water management.

Endowed with enormous water resources which could be harnessed to ensure sufficient water supply, ironically, however, the nation is still faced with the challenge of providing adequate water supply especially to her burgeoning urban population. Put succinctly, the urban centers of Cameroon have, over the years

Been rocked by the problem of inadequate water supply. One could be tempted in this case to make allusion to the ironical situation in Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s The Rime of the Ancient Mariner which noted “Water, water everywhere but not a drop to drink”.

In 2010, more than 600 Cameroonians died from a cholera outbreak, according to official Public Health sources while reports of more cholera outbreaks keep coming and this disease is largely attributed to the absence of clean potable water and poor sanitary conditions (Nkemngu, 2011).

The authorities of   the Camerounaise Des Eaux (CDE) which holds monopoly of public water provision and whose job description also includes the need to improve urban water service quality and volume has not been able to solve the problem. 

The fact that one is connected to the pipe borne network is no guarantee that one can just turn the faucet and water pours out immediately.

The issue of 250 persons per stand pipe by 2015 would be difficult to achieve as far as Buea is concerned given the current state of periodicity in the rationing of water (Morfor, 2010).

 A major problem facing water corporations is to effectively allocate an essentially fixed supply of water to rapidly growing populations and increasing and competing water demand.

This problem is further compounded by the fact that meeting up with rising water needs through the development of untapped supplies is becoming very difficult due to the degradation of water sources (Iacovides, 2001).

Attention has now been tilted towards demand management. Demand management has thus become an integral part of water management and it involves the formulation and evaluation of demand reduction approaches and strategies as complements to or substitutes for supply augmentation projects.

This management centres among other things, the need to ration water to the growing population in urban centres (Iacovides, 2001).

The water shortage, referred to in this study, is crucial for basic household needs such as washing, cooking, drinking and sewerage system. The households in this Township solely depend on the CAMWATER for water supply.

The source of this water is from. In the years before water used to reach all the households in Molyko through pipes to the taps in their yards. However, currently many people are seen carrying water containers up and down drawing water in Molyko.

This situation depicts an inadequate supply of water in the township, which prompted the researcher to investigate the impact of water shortage in the Buea Municipality.

However, the people of Molyko, Buea still experience water shortages, thus the researcher intends to explore the causes and impact of water shortage on the members of these households.

1.2. Statement of the problem

Water scarcity is a global phenomenon which affects close to 2.8 billion people worldwide especially in developing countries. Buea (Cameroon) is blessed with abundant water resources but paradoxically the inhabitants of this region are facing a serious water crisis.

The increase in population and rapid urbanization exert tremendous pressure on the water resources of this community. Also, the capacity of the main water supply authority CAMWATER (Cameroon Water Utilities Corporation) is insufficient to cater for the 90000 inhabitants.

The water sector in any economy is closely linked with poverty reduction, especially for Developing Countries that are highly dependent on rural economy.

In Third World Countries, the increased scarcity of water by the municipal, industrial, agricultural sectors has increased food insecurity, health problems, poverty and lack of some basis socio-economic facilities.

Thus thoroughly addressing water deficiency issues would contribute in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

This problem of water scarcity is becoming worse as the nearby streams which would have served as backup to the water demands of the population during times of prolonged water cuts are also facing pollution due to increased human activities, waste dumps, bathing and washing of dresses and even defecation.

Water scarcity issues will lead to the prevalence of water borne diseases such as typhoid, dysentery, diarrhea, cholera.

In early 2011when water scarcity was at its peak, Newspaper tabloids showed “Cholera Outbreak in the Buea Municipality” where 7 infected cases were noted and instant death of 1. Such horrible news bears eloquent testimony to the fact that water availability was a problem since prolonged and unannounced rationing was the order of the day.

This saw the banning of food selling in schools because it is alleged that the water that is used might not have been from a reliable source.

 This study seeks to establish the durations of water scarcity and investigate the causes and consequences of water scarcity in the Buea Municipality. Based on the findings, the study suggests possible sustainable water management options to make water scarcity less problematic in Buea.

1.3. Aim of the study

The aim of this study is to investigate the causes and impact/ consequences of water shortage on the households of the Buea Municipality

1.4. Objectives

The objectives that this study aims to achieve are the following:

  • To establish the duration of water scarcity

  • To investigate into the causes and effect/ consequences of water scarcity in the Buea Municipality

  • To outline sustainable water management options.

  • To compare the current water supply trends with the previous four years in the Municipality

1.5. Research Questions

  • How does the water scarcity manifest in Buea?
  • Does the existing water supply facility (CAMWATER) have the capacity to serve the fast growing population in Buea? What are the hurdles and how do they overcome it?
  • To what extend does the population participate in the water resource protection?
  • Does the legal framework facilitate innovative and sustainable water management?
  • What are the perspective of the respondents on the causes and impact of the water scarcity in the Buea Municipality
  • To what extent is the water supply service accessible to all the households of Buea
  • How are the current water supply trends as compared to the previous four years?
  • What measures should be put in place to alleviate the problem of water scarcity in the Buea Municipality
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