In the town of Foundiougne, in southern Senegal, black or sometimes bright orange water is spurting out of taps. The salty, brackish liquid can’t even be used to wash clothes or dishes. Residents have to queue to fill up containers with clean water brought in by truck. This has been going on for several weeks.
A number of residents contacted the FRANCE 24 Observers team to send us photos and videos of the poor-quality water that was coming out of taps in Foundiougne. The town is 170 kilometres south of Dakar, the country’s capital, and has around 6,710 residents according to official estimates.
Video published on Facebook on December 9.
"There have been problems ever since I was a child"
Mamadou Abdoulaye Diene, who is 31 years old, comes from Foundiougne but is currently a student in the capital, Dakar. He contacted the FRANCE 24 Observers team about the problem in his hometown.
“There have been problems with the water in Foundiougne ever since I was a child. The water has always been too salty. But for several weeks now, it’s had a strange colour and is even more salty and bitter. Whereas before we could at least always use it for household chores, for washing our clothes or washing dishes, now it’s completely unusable.
"The water can be black, bright orange or clear, but it’s always brackish"
The spokesperson of the consultation committee on the water problem in the town, Ndiaye Dior, represents the townspeople when there are meetings with the authorities. He says:
This problem started at the beginning of December, when the taps were connected to a new drilling site, as the old one was on a groundwater table that was almost running dry. The problem is that the new site draws water from a very salty water table. The water can be black, bright orange or clear, but it’s always brackish.
The Senegalese water company that provides running water to Foundiougne told FRANCE 24 that the colour of the water was caused “by the water mixing with different types of sand, which can give it different colours”. Gorgui Mbaye, a local official, says that the salinity of the water, usually quite high, is due to “inlets of seawater that come into the water table. The level of salinity rises as the water table empties”.
"Frustrated residents are even fighting amongst themselves"
Dior explained how residents were now relying on temporary measures for clean water.
We are entirely dependent on the water brought by trucks. But this solution isn’t practical: why don't they put in place a filtering system to make the dirty water we have drinkable? Two people in the town have their own water filters that they bought themselves. They are selling 20 litres of clean water for 200 CFA francs (0.30 euros). It’s a good solution that should be made freely available for everyone.
That would help solve a number of problems: first of all, the conflicts at the water trucks, where people get into fights while trying to fill their containers. Who gets water at the water truck is decided on a ‘first come, first served’ basis, which means that some people manage to get 10 or 20 litres of water, while others come away with only two.
There are also health problems for the population in the town, who have been drinking salty water for many years. We have noticed that lots of residents have health problems like high blood pressure or cardio-vascular illnesses, which can be linked to consuming too much salt.
Locals are really at the end of their tether. We don’t understand why it’s so difficult to provide clean water in 2018. To make sure our complaints were heard, we organised a protest on Saturday December 15.
"We are working on solutions for the medium term and for the long term"
When contacted by the FRANCE 24 Observers, local official Gorgui Mbaye said that the authorities had quickly responded to the problem.
It’s the first time that the situation has been so serious. We recognise that the water in Foundiougne isn’t usable anymore, but we very quickly set up the water trucks and have repeatedly added more when needed. Now there are 12 trucks that go around different areas in the town to provide water two or three times a day.
It’s not entirely satisfactory, but the vast majority of the population has access to drinking water. We can’t say exactly how many litres are provided for each resident, as it’s a constantly changing situation.
We are working to put in place medium- and long-term solutions. We are going to link the water supply in Foundiougne to the supply in the neighbouring village of Mbam, which will soon have access to clean drinking water. We are also looking to install a purification system to make the brackish water drinkable, and to create a new drilling site 60 kilometres away from Foundiougne.
Work has already started on all of these projects, but I can’t give precise timetables for when they will be finished. In terms of the problems that people are having with the water trucks, I want to emphasise that we are doing all we can to make sure the distribution of water goes smoothly. But residents have to organise themselves and be self-disciplined too. We are asking residents to follow instructions so that everything works as well as possible.
This article was written by Liselotte Mas (@liselottemas).