Water, although recognized as an essential requirement of all living beings and breathing things, is a major challenge faced by many developing countries for which Nigeria is not an exception. In Calabar it is obvious that there is no equity in the distribution of water across the metropolis. This is seen in the percentage difference of connected and unconnected households. In Calabar Metropolis ten residential areas were randomly selected for the study as representative of the entire Calabar Urban. About 400 copies of questionnaire were administered to different heads of the households and staff of the public water supply agency. Out of this number, 392 copies were retrieved from respondents. Data were analysed and presented in tables. The result showed that, the unconnected households spend monthly average of between ₦1850 and use 564 litres of water as against ₦900 and 741 litres consumed by connected residents. The unconnected households also cover distances between 250 and 500 metres far above threshold level of 100 metres to obtain the commodity for their usage. The uneven distribution of water supply mains, and low level of income of residents in some parts of the metropolis, restricts the supply of water in desired quantities to most urban dwellers. This is responsible for the low per capita consumption of water recorded. The study recommends among others; increase in the provision of water pipeline across the city and the provision of additional standpipes at strategic locations to make the service rendered by municipal Water Board more sustainable.

There is very little that a government can do which will be of greater benefits than providing clean and healthy water to its population (Oxman and Oxer, 2000). Water is a critical resource. Yet, the extent of the spatial distribution of water in satisfying the demand of the public’s overall welfare, particularly, in areas of health, agriculture, commerce, industry, general livelihood and well-being of the populace is greatly insufficient as a result of rapid population growth. The provision of water in the desired quantity and quality at the right time and place has been an issue for all generations and governments. No other natural resource has had such an overwhelming influence in human history (Nwonkwoala and Mmom, 2006). Water supplies become ever more important as human population increases, requiring careful management and adequate distribution.

Water is central to human life and general living. It is essential to all forms of existence, and forms the very breath of life. There is hardly any human endeavour in which water is not involved. There is no substitute for it. Water is one of the most invigorating, soothing, and the most dynamic element of our landscape. It is the blood system of the atmosphere. Arunkumar and Nethaji Mariappan (2011) substantiated the relevance of water, as that which makes life possible, as without it; life and civilization cannot develop or survive. As man’s standard of living increases; so does his need for consumption of water.

Water is indispensible to human health, for the functioning of the ecosystem, food production and a wide range of economic activities. The following are the usefulness of water, among the wide range of uses: for drinking, food preparation, laundering, personal and environmental hygiene, power generation, sports and recreation.

Without water, life on earth would be non-existent. Thus, it is often said “water is life”. It is essential to a country’s social, economic and environmental security. Therefore, without any exaggeration, water can be described as the most helpful servant to mankind, and consequently the most important resource of a society (Gray, 2005).

Water which comprises over 70% of the earth’s surface is undoubtedly the most precious natural resource that exists on our planet. It has the peculiar quality of being an inexhaustible natural resource, but water of useable quantity, present in the right place and at the right time is not inexhaustible. Although, it is a natural renewable resource, demand is often greater than supply with attendant water shortages becoming an increasing global problem (Isirima, 2002). Adequate reliable water supply for domestic and industrial purposes is indisputably necessary for maintaining high standard of sanitation, clean environment, adequate industrial production, a good quality life and a sustainable development.

Despite the importance of water to man, urban water supply has remained one of the major social problems in Nigeria. In Cross River State, which is the wider study area, it is observed that many local government headquarters and other urban centres are still without sufficient water supply. Regrettably, the local authorities lack the required resources necessary to provide the needed social facilities to match the high population increase.

The city of Calabar is not excluded from this problem. Though, the fact remains that Calabar has abundant surface and ground water resources. Calabar is currently experiencing a serious water supply problem with reference to acceleration in water demand, without a commensurate improvement in water infrastructural facility over the years. This is as a result of population explosion by natural increase and rural – urban migration. Consequently, overstretched, inadequate or sometimes total lack of facilities in some areas is common features challenging adequate water supply in Calabar. Also, inadequate distribution network to various settlements/residential and institutional areas has led to diminishing and deteriorating supplies. The shortage in the distribution of water across Calabar metropolis is substantiated in the report prepared by the Bread of Life Development Foundation - (2010), indicating that the Cross River Water Board Limited (CRSWBL) conferred with the responsibility of administering water supply within Calabar and other areas of Akamkpa and Ugep/Ediba is currently only utilizing about 40% of its production capacity as a result of its inadequate distribution system.

The importance of water for socio-economic development is generally recognized. Hence, Ekop (2007) informed that without the basic infrastructure of development such as adequate water and power supplies, good transportation and communications facilities, urban centres cannot perform their socio-economic roles. Adequate water supply is central to life and it constitutes one of the basic requirements of urban welfare. Its supply and adequate distribution is vital for societal well-being and human existence.

However, the effects of water scarcity and its associated hazards have not been regarded with levity in Calabar town. Yet, inappropriate checks and balances pose a serious challenge. Particularly seen in the appalling state of the Cross River State Water Board (CRSWB) infrastructure, some of which need to be refurbished. More so, it reliance on generating plants to operate is another confrontation as a result of their inconsistency. Its treatment plants are obsolete and need replacement.

Also, the decline in the carrying capacity of the CRSWB equipment in Calabar against what they were previously designed to accommodate is another problem. Again, the non-corresponding expansion of existing water scheme to the rapid growth in population has contributed to water shortage in the area.

Furthermore, the inadequate allocation and delivery of water services for meeting the social water needs of the Calabar dwellers or inhabitants is a major problem. The inequity in distribution of existing water services is a problem that cannot be ignored.

Primarily, the present network of water pipes in Calabar is grossly inadequate. These pipes have indeed become crooked, rusty, twisted and perforated at several points such that there are distortions and leakages disrupting the supply of water.

This research attempts to expose, through analysis the extent of the spatial distribution of the CRSWB water supply services, in regards to areas connected or benefiting from it services as well as those areas lacking this services.

The aim of this research is to appraise the supply or spatial distribution of water by the Cross River State Water Board (CRSWB) in Calabar. This is in context of the extent to which it administers the functions of controlling, managing, extending and developing new and old water works to meet the yearnings of the study area regarding water.

Following the intent of this study, are their specific objectives:
- To assess the degree of consumers’ access to piped water networks in Calabar.
- Examine the service reliability of Cross River State Water Board Limited.
- To find out the adequacy of water supplied to the consumers in Calabar.
- Attempt to propose strategies for solving the present problems and improving future performances.

In tandem with the scope of the broad objectives of this study, the following research questions are proposed:

- To what extent is consumers’ access to public water supply networks in Calabar metropolis?

- How dependable is the piped water delivery services of the Cross River State Water Board Limited to residents in the study area?

- Is the volume of water supplied by the State Water Board proportionate to the consumers’ demands in Calabar metropolis?

The following is the postulated hypothesis for this study:

(H0): There is no significant relationship between connected residents and unconnected residents to the Cross River State Water Board (CRSWB) Services.

The significance of the study reveals the expanse of the spatial distribution of water in Calabar. The findings of this research are useful in further academic studies. It is also gainful to the Municipal Water Board, the government at all levels and non-governmental organizations, interested in the area of improved water supply.

The crux here is on the extent of coverage done in the study and all those aspects of the research which was deliberately eliminated from the study as result of the constraint stated below.

This study, concentrated on exploring the factors affecting access to water provided by the CRSWB in Calabar. Much emphasis was laid on some selected and sampled residence which then was generalized.

The magnitude of this investigation is inescapably present with some difficulties and frustrations. One of such limiting factors encountered in the course of this research was the insensitive treatment by respondents; in refusing access to their water meter for fear of exposure that could emanate from wrongdoings. More disappointing was settling for alternative sources after the denial of access to desired information from the CRSWB.

Overall, the arduous task of having to deal with the vast expanse of Calabar Metropolis was not possible, so, the reason for sampling selected quarters of the study area.

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