Senegal is found at the same time in three climatic domains (Sahelian in north, Sudanese in the center and sub-Guinean in the south) , with annual rainfall ranging from about 1250 mm in the south to just over 200 mm in the north. The potential of Senegal’s water resources (surface and groundwater) is important . Because Senegal is situated within two river basins; namely the Gambia and Senegal rivers and lake basins, transboundary cooperation for water security, peace and sustainable development is crucial .
Lake Guiers is located in the delta on the left bank of the Senegal River, south of the town of Richard-Toll. It is the main surface freshwater reserve of Senegal, occupying an area of 240 km², with an average volume of 390 million m³, which can increase to 600 million m³ at the conclusion of ongoing major work projects. This important water reserve is utilized for multiple purposes, especially for irrigation, the production of drinking water for the agglomeration of Dakar (50%) and some secondary cities in the country, and for livestock watering .
Senegal has made substantial improvements in its water supply and sanitation sector, thanks in part to institutional and legislative reforms that began in 1996 . According to the Joint Monitoring Program (JMP), Senegal’s overall access to basic drinking water rose from 60% of the population in 2000 to close to 80% in 2017. In the same period, basic sanitation rose from 39% to slightly over 50%, although about 15% of the population still practice open defecation. In addition, Senegal has excelled in expanding access to piped water in urban settings (over 80% of the population in urban areas has access to piped water on premises) and has one of the most robust urban water sectors in sub-Saharan Africa .
Progress has also been steadily improving in rural water supply, with access to at least a basic water service now covering more than 70% of the population. However, there are still marked regional and income disparities in access to drinking water and sanitation, with rural areas facing the largest gaps in access. Rural services in the country’s south and east lag most significantly behind, and poverty is highly correlated with lack of access. Among rural people in the lower two wealth quintiles, access ranges from only 10-31% for sanitation and from 48-61% for drinking water .
Senegal has a relatively large supply of both surface and groundwater, and access to improved water sources across the country is relatively high . But challenges related to the management of water resources are increasing steadily in connection with climatic, demographic and socio-economic changes as well as with the multiplication of sources of pollution of both surface and underground water bodies. This continuous increase in pressure on water resources is likely to be at the origin of numerous conflicts between users (irrigation, drinking water, industry, hydroelectricity, etc.) and between zones or countries sharing the same basin . In Dakar, water shortages have been reported recently attributed to increasing demand which has reduced water pressure in some suburbs where infrastructure remains inadequate , . In addition, floods and strong spatio-temporal variations in rainfall put many production facilities out of service, while aquatic environments are increasingly threatened .
The water sector is highly vulnerable to increasing climate variability and future climate change. Surface water and shallow groundwater are highly dependent on rainfall conditions. River flows in Senegal declined by an estimated 35.7% from 1981 to 1989 due to droughts and rainfall deficits. Groundwater levels also decreased significantly during this period, 5 meters to 10 meters in the north and 15 meters to 20 meters in the south. In addition to reduced surface flows, future rainfall deficits and increased variability are likely to reduce aquifer recharge rates. Along the coast and in major cities like Dakar, saltwater intrusion into coastal aquifers and arable land is already a problem, and sea level rise and decreased rainfall will likely exacerbate salinity issues .
Key policies and governance approach
Senegal continues efforts to achieve water and sanitation targets and the reduction of inequalities between urban and rural areas, even if this requires significant investments . The Government of Senegal has set ambitious targets to boost the overall rate of basic water and sanitation services and to meet the SDGs by 2025, including a commitment to eliminate the practice of open defecation. In 2016, Senegal released a new Program of Priority Actions for the implementation of the Integrated Water Resources Management Plan for 2018-2030, setting out key objectives for strengthening governance and management of water resources .
Senegal’s approach to reach the SDGs has centered on sector reforms to lay the groundwork for improved governance and financial resource allocation, and on leveraging the private sector to expand and improve quality and sustainability of service delivery. The reforms include the consolidation of responsibility for water and sanitation policy, as well as water resource management within the Ministère de l’Eau et de l’Assainissement (MEA) .
In order to address challenges in the sector, a Sectoral Development Policy (LPSD) 2016-2025 also established specific offices with responsibility for asset management and advancing rural water services, and for management of urban and rural sanitation with a mandate to bolster private sector participation in the operation and maintenance of public sanitation facilities through service contracts. Ongoing sanitation reforms such as the Sanitation Code and the National Rural Sanitation Strategy (SNAR) and its associated implementation plan further improve the foundation for effective non-sewered sanitation and fecal sludge management .
Successes and Remaining Challenges
Despite much progress in rural water supply in recent years, challenges remain in accelerating increases to basic access and to improving the quality of service, including obsolete or dilapidated infrastructure; limited capacity to meet growing demand; physical, chemical, and microbiological issues with water quality; low efficiency in operations; and difficulty in setting and applying cost-realistic tariffs .
Ongoing sanitation sector reforms provide opportunities to make sustainable progress toward sanitation and hygiene goals, but increased focus and technical assistance, as well as large public and private investment are required to sustainably improve rural sanitation and fecal sludge management in small towns and newly urbanizing areas .
In rural areas, where ongoing reforms also lay the groundwork for private sector participation, success will hinge in large part on strengthening and facilitating the sanitation market to better link supply and demand. This will require increasing the capacities of private actors to meet the demand for latrine products that are both desirable and affordable, as well as carrying out behaviour change, promotion, and marketing campaigns that help grow household demand. Financing is a critical element for the nascent sanitation market, and subsidies of some form are likely to continue to be necessary to build the market for sanitation products and businesses, and to reach the poorest households for whom even the most affordable products remain out of reach. However, it is important that both donor and Government of Senegal subsidies to individual households and businesses are properly managed to align positive incentives and prevent the emerging sanitation market from being distorted and undermined .
In Senegal’s latest progress report on SDG indicator 6.5.1 (2020), for the four dimensions of IWRM, ‘funding’ was recorded as the lowest average score (37 points out of 100), which corresponds to a “low” level. This was followed by the dimension "institutions and participation" (50 points out of 100) which falls between the “medium-low” and “medium high" level. These scores reveal a still insufficient mobilization of financial resources for IWRM implementation activities in Senegal and a lack of participation of actors, especially vulnerable groups, and weak intersectoral coordination .
Whilst the degree of implementation for “institutions and participation" recognises the effectiveness of the authorities and institutions at the national level with clear roles and the beginnings of private sector involvement, the level of intersectoral coordination, the participation of citizens, especially of the weakest, remains insufficient at all levels of intervention. Consequently, there is a real need for sensitization and capacity building in order to accelerate the processes of reform of water policies and laws as well as the operationalization of water resources management plans (management of water resources). More work is also needed to promote inclusive multi-stakeholder participation (gender issues) and the creation of competent local institutions for water resources management (monitoring, police, arbitration, etc.). Legal frameworks should also help address institutional and gender disparities in water resource management at all levels .
Empowering women, youth, and people of different abilities to engage and lead on WASH issues represent cross-cutting challenges, as well as important opportunities for institutionalizing and accelerating progress within the sector. In Senegal, women are largely responsible for water for their families for drinking, washing, cooking, and cleaning. Women and girls are more vulnerable to abuse and attack while walking to and using a toilet or openly defecating, and women have specific hygiene needs during menstruation, pregnancy and child rearing. Despite this, women are underrepresented in water and sanitation decision-making, compromising less than 8% of the total technical workforce in WASH according to the most recent estimate. Improving the inclusion of women, youth and differently-abled people as decision makers in WASH is a persistent challenge, but one that must be addressed in order to ensure that solutions in the sector are relevant and durable .
Initiatives and Development Plans
The Senegalese government will devote 195 million euros to water and sanitation in 2022. This budget will allow the consolidation of four programmes, these are: coordination and administrative management, integrated water resources management, access to drinking water, sanitation and rainwater management. The Senegalese authorities are relying on several initiatives, such as the reform of rural water supply with the creation of the Office des Forages Ruraux (OFOR), the effective implementation of the first public service delegation (DSP) in rural areas and the development of a national strategy for water quality .
In addition, in November 2021, Sen’Eau, the company responsible for the operation and distribution of drinking water in urban and peri-urban areas in Senegal, received a promise of financing of 15 million euros from the West African Banking Company (CBAO) to strengthen its operational efficiency. In two years, Sen’Eau, a technical partner of the French group Suez, has distributed 300 million m³ of water in 11 regions of Senegal .
In support of the ‘Team Europe’ approach, in February 2021, the European Investment Bank (EIB) confirmed CFAF 75 billion (€114.5 million) of new support to strengthen drinking water supply to the cities of Saint-Louis, Kaolack and Kolda, alongside improving waste management in cities across the country including Saint-Louis, Podor, Matam, Thiès, Mbour, Ziguinchor, Kolda and Sédhiou. This will ensure that 634,000 people will have adequate access to drinking water and provide subsidies water connections for 350,000 more .
- Improve water resources monitoring, planning, and active management, ensuring adequate quantity and quality of water for continued economic growth and healthy populations.
- Address governance and the underlying enabling environment, in particular systems for improving coordination and clarifying roles of key stakeholders in the water and sanitation sector.
- Activities to strengthen sectoral policies, making them more transparent and effective in balancing sustainability and equity across the sector need to be implemented.
- Investment in necessary infrastructure.
- Work on institutional capacities, urban planning, wetland management, community engagement in flood risk reduction, waste management and climate change adaptation, and bring in a cross-sectoral approach to address these growing challenges.
- Accounting for rainfall water resources is largely an untapped potential. To address future food demand, potential climate change and poverty, especially in the rural setting, a more holistic approach linking land and water resources, including the rainfall in IWRM processes may provide alternative win-win development paths.
- Additionally, in the water sector, the government of Senegal needs to revitalize river systems and protect available water resources from, for example, pollution and over-extraction.
- There are opportunities to bolster private operator competitiveness, credit-worthiness, and innovation to further advance the ability of the private sector and government to collectively meet the growing demand for reliable, accessible, and contaminant-free drinking water, while contributing to overall economic growth .
- Extensive awareness-raising campaigns for stakeholders on water resources management legislation is required to obtain support and the commitment of all stakeholders.
- Promote participatory, inclusive and effective inter-sectoral coordination through the revitalized Superior Water Council (CSE) and the Technical Water Committee (CTE) and the revitalization and generalization of multi-actor platforms at regional and local level .
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