The water treatment market in Senegal

Senegal has abundant water resources, both on the surface and underground, but the availability of these waters fluctuates according to the season (and the abundance or scarcity of rainfall), and the area of ​​the country. This means that it has a level of dependence on external water resources that is considered high compared to other countries in sub-Saharan Africa.

On the other hand, the case of water supply and treatment in Senegal has very particular characteristics compared to other African countries, due to two factors. The first is the existence of the company Senegalaise Des Eaux, a public-private association that operates and manages the public drinking water service in urban areas since 1996. Thanks to this system, access to drinking water has improved, domestic connections have increased, and, in general, the quality of rural and urban life. The success of this partnership has led Senegal to be considered “a model public-private partnership in sub-Saharan Africa.”

The other factor that improves the prospects for access to drinking water is the existence of a national company, the Societe Nationale Des Eaux Du Sénégal(SONES), in charge of investment management, information, and public awareness of the economy of water, and quality control of the public water service, among other functions.

However, while these two entities have so far contributed to making a difference in access to drinking water in Senegal, high population growth, especially in urban areas, and climate change are modifying the country’s water supply needs. and, therefore, its immediate and future challenges.

Current status of access to drinking water in Senegal

In Senegal, surface water is the main source of supply for agriculture, but if there is a shortage of rain, there is not enough to meet the demand of one of the main economic sectors and a self-subsistence system for many people in the country. On the other hand, groundwater supplies 85% of the water for human consumption and industrial uses, but this source is in danger due to overexploitation and contamination.

According to The World Bank, Senegal is already in a situation of “water stress” due to increasing water needs, and the forecast is that current extractions will grow between 30% and 60% between now and 2035. The recent COVID-19 pandemic 19 and the rapid urbanization of certain areas, especially in Dakar, only add to the problem.

The actual Senegal Emerging Plan (PSE), which aims to provide “abundant, good-quality water for everyone, everywhere and for all uses in a healthy and sustainable living environment” by 2035, may not be enough, as it does not take into account the constraints related to the availability or management of water resources. If the country wants to achieve its development goals, it needs to diversify water sources and improve intersectoral coordination.

Future challenges involve improving the water supply

Senegal is currently one of the emerging economies of the African continent, especially in terms of technology, but this will hardly consolidate if the current challenges related to water supply are not resolved.

Luckily, projects are already underway to improve the country’s water infrastructure, such as the USAID investment in two initiatives to, on the one hand, produce and market safe drinking water for human consumption, and on the other to improve sanitation facilities and treat both industrial and residential wastewater.

According to a study by The World Bank, the priorities for Senegal regarding its water resources are:

  • Establish a platform that favors collaboration both between sectors and the different actors involved, to improve water management.
  • Diversify the sources of water supply.
  • Better protect Lac de Guiers from pollution. Currently, this lake, located in the north of the country, is the main source of Dakar’s water supply through underground pipes.
  • Implement a voluntary groundwater replenishment program.
  • Promote the use of treated wastewater for agriculture and for recharging aquifers. At this point, the installation of electrolysis plants for local supply would be an efficient and profitable solution.
  • Promote the use of rainwater for agriculture in the Niayes area, the coastal area where most of the country’s horticultural production is concentrated.
  • Increase the population’s access to safely managed sanitation services, to prevent the proliferation of diseases from the use of contaminated water.

The main conclusion of the current state of the water treatment sector in Senegal is that the old systems, no matter how efficient they were at the time, may not be enough to face the new remains derived, in this case, from the increase in the population in highly localized urban areas, and climate change that alters the natural cycles of rainfall and decreases water resources, especially in rural areas. Thus, the improvement of water supply and treatment infrastructures will be key to the economic and social future of Senegal.