Water supply and sanitation in Ghana
This article was written in 2008 and was last updated on substance in 2012. Please feel free to update it further.
|Ghana: Water and Sanitation|
|Water coverage (broad definition)||86% (2010) |
|Sanitation coverage (broad definition)||14% (2010) |
|Continuity of supply (%)||25% in Accra|
|Average urban water use (l/c/d)||n/a|
|Average urban water tariff (US$/m³)||US$0.66 (2006)|
|Share of household metering||n/a|
|Share of collected wastewater treated||about 10% in Accra|
|Annual investment in WSS||US$ 0.7 per capita |
|Financing||About 90% development assistance |
|Decentralization to municipalities||In rural areas: Decentralization to districts, since 1994|
|National water and sanitation company||Yes: Ghana Water Company Limited (GWCL)|
|Water and sanitation regulator||In urban areas: Public Utilities Regulatory Commission (PURC)|
|Responsibility for policy setting||Water Directorate within the Ministry of Water Resources, Works and Housing|
|Number of urban service providers||1: GWCL|
|Number of rural service providers||more than 400 community-managed piped systems|
The drinking water supply and sanitation sector in Ghana faces a number of challenges, including very limited access to sanitation, intermittent supply, high water losses and low water pressure. Since 1994, the sector has been gradually reformed through the creation of an autonomous regulatory agency, introduction of private sector participation, decentralization of the rural supply to 138 districts and increased community participation in the management of rural water systems. An international company managed all urban water systems since 2006 under a 5-year management contract which expired after achieving only some of its objectives. The reforms also aim at increasing cost recovery and a modernization of the urban utility Ghana Water Company Ltd. (GWCL). Another problem which partly arose from the recent reforms is the existence of a multitude of institutions with overlapping responsibilities. The National Water Policy (NWP), launched at the beginning of 2008, seeks to introduce a comprehensive sector policy.
- 1 Access
- 2 Service quality
- 3 Water resources
- 4 Water use
- 5 History and recent developments
- 6 Responsibility for water supply and sanitation
- 7 Efficiency of utilities
- 8 Financial aspects
- 9 External cooperation
- 10 References
- 11 External links
The water supply and sanitation infrastructure is insufficient, especially in rural areas and concerning sanitation. There are substantial discrepancies between access data from various sources, partially because of different definitions being used by different institutions that are providing access data. According to the Joint Monitoring Program for Water Supply and Sanitation of UNICEF and WHO access is as follows:
(51% of the population)
(49% of the population)
The share of non-functional supply systems in Ghana is estimated at almost one third, with many others operating substantially below designed capacity. Moreover, domestic water supply competes with a rising demand for water by the expanding industry and agriculture sectors. Ghana aims at achieving 85% coverage for water supply and sanitation by 2015, which would exceed the Millennium Development Goals' target of 78%.
Continuity of supply
According to one estimate, only one quarter of the residents in Accra receive a continuous water supply, whereas approximately 30% are provided for 12 hours each day, five days a week. Another 35% are supplied for two days each week. The remaining 10% who mainly live on the outskirts of the capital are completely without access to piped water. According to another source, the situation is even worse: In February 2008 some communities within the Accra-Tema metropolis were served either once in a week, once in a fortnight or once in a month.
Drinking water quality
The lack of clean drinking water and sanitation systems is a severe public health concern in Ghana, contributing to 70% of diseases in the country. Consequently, households without access to clean water are forced to use less reliable and hygienic sources, and often pay more.
It is estimated that in 2000 the urban areas of Ghana generated about 763,698 m³ of wastewater each day, resulting in approximately 280 million m³ over the entire year. Regional capitals count for another 180 million m³. Only a small share of the generated urban wastewater is collected, and an even smaller share is being treated. In Accra, the share of wastewater collected is approximately 10%. Moreover, less than 25% of the 46 industrial and municipal treatment plants in Ghana were functional according to an inventory undertaken by the Ghana Environmental Protection Agency in 2001. Treatment plants for municipal wastewater are operated by local governments, and most of them are stabilization ponds. A biological treatment plant has been built in the late 1990s at Accra's Korle Lagoon. However, it only handles about 8% of Accra's wastewater.
Ghana is well endowed with water resources. The Volta river system basin, consisting of the Oti, Daka, Pru, Sene and Afram rivers as well as the white and black volta rivers, covers 70% of the country area. Another 22% of Ghana is covered by the southwestern river system watershed comprising the Bia, Tano, Ankobra and Pra rivers. The coastal river system watershed, comprising the Ochi-Nawuka, Ochi Amissah, Ayensu, Densu and Tordzie rivers, covers the remaining 8% of the country.
Furthermore, groundwater is available in mesozoic and cenozoic sedimentary rocks and in sedimentary formations underlying the Volta basin. The Volta Lake, with a surface of 8,500 km², is one of the world's largest artificial lakes. In all, the total actual renewable water resources are estimated to be 53.2 billion m³ per year.
In 2000, total water withdrawal was 982 million m³, of which two thirds were used for agricultural purposes. Another 10% was withdrawn for industry, leaving 24% or 235 million m³ for domestic use. Furthermore, 37,843 km³ are used for hydroelectricity generation at the Akosombo Dam each year.
History and recent developments
In 1928, the first piped water supply system was constructed at Cape Coast. The Water Supply Division of the Public Works Department was responsible for the service provision in rural and urban areas of Ghana. After Ghana's independence in 1957, the division was separated from the Public Works Department and placed under the Ministry of Works and Housing. In 1965, it was transformed into the Ghana Water and Sewerage Corporation (GWSC), a legal public utility responsible for the provision of urban and rural water supply for public, domestic, and industrial purposes as well as the establishment, operation, and control of sewerage systems.
Decentralization, focus on rural areas and independent regulation (1994-1999)
In the mid-1990s, under the Presidency of Jerry Rawlings and after the passing of a new democratic Constitution in 1992, the government of Ghana enacted five key laws that affected the responsibility for water supply and sanitation:
- The Local Government Act No. 462 of 1993 defined the powers of District Assemblies as the highest political authority in each District, headed by a District Chief Executive (similar to a mayor). Neither the constitution nor the Local Government Act clearly define the responsibities of District Assemblies, and initially they had no role in water supply and sanitation until they were partially transferred to them in 1999.
- the Water Resources Commission Act No. 552 of 1996 created the Water Resources Commission (WRC) that was made responsible for integrated water resources management including permits for water abstraction;
- the Public Utilities and Regulatory Commission Act No. 538 of 1997 created the Public Utilities and Regulatory Commission (PURC) that was made responsible for the regulation of the electricity sector and urban water supply, including the review of requests for tariff increases, the monitoring of service quality and the protection of consumers;,
- the Community Water and Sanitation Agency Act No. 564 of 1998 created the Community Water and Sanitation Agency (CWSA) that became responsible for the support of local communities and District Assemblies in terms of rural water supply and sanitation. The CWSA emerged from the Community Water and Sanitation Division that had been created as a semi-autonomous division of GWSC in 1994.
- Under the provisions of the Statutory Corporations (Conversion to Companies) Act 461 of 1993 and in line with a government policy to transform state corporations into companies operated on a commercial basis, GWSC was transformed into a company called GWCL, which remained responsible for urban water supply only, while responsibility for sewer systems was transferred to the District Assemblies.
In 1999, the responsibility to support communities in the provision of water supply and sanitation in more than 110 small towns and in rural areas was transferred to the District Assemblies. Sanitation also became a responsibility of the District Assemblies, both in urban and rural areas. Furthermore, the government pursued private sector participation in urban water supply with the assistance of the World Bank through preparatory studies and workshops, but without actually bringing in the private sector yet.
Private sector participation in urban areas (2000-2011)
To carry out the private sector participation of GWCL, originally a 10-year lease contract was envisaged. In 2000, a lease contract between GWCL and the US company Azurix failed due to public opposition and accusations of corruption which led to the formation of the Coalition against Water Privatization. In October 2006, under the Presidency of John Kufuor and with the support of the World Bank-funded Urban Water Project (see below) a five-year management contract was signed between the GWCL and Aqua Vitens Rand Limited (AVRL), a consortium of the Dutch public water company Vitens and the South African public company Rand Water. The main objectives of the 5-year management contract were:
- Improving the reliability (pressure and flow rate) and quality of potable water,
- Ensuring the company’s financial sustainability,
- Improving customer service, and
- Providing access to potable water at affordable prices to low income consumers. In 2008 severe water shortages in Accra were reported due to power outages at two water treatment plants. The management contract expired in June 2011 without being renewed after having achieved its objectives only partially.
In rural areas, the powers and resources of District Assemblies were strengthened through the Local Government Service Act 656 of 2003. The Act transferred the power to appoint, promote and discipline civil servants from the national government to the District Assemblies. Furthermore, in 2006 a Districts Development Fund was created to channel central government and donor funds in a transparent and effective way to District Assemblies. An Environmental, Health and Sanitation Directorate was created in the Ministry of Local Governments and Rural Development in 2009 in order to focus more on sanitation. In this context a program was launched to eliminate open defecation through community-led total sanitation.
Responsibility for water supply and sanitation
According to a multi-donor review of Ghana's water supply sector, it is "quite well structured", with the government in charge of policy and regulation, while the private sector and communities play important roles in service delivery. The institutional framework for sanitation is much less clear, with responsibilities not being clearly defined.
Policy and regulation
At the moment, a number of institutions exist to supervise and regulate water supply and sanitation. The policy framework is based on the Ghana Poverty Reduction Strategy (GPRS).
General water sector policies for both rural and urban areas are set by the Water Directorate within the Ministry of Water Resources, Works and Housing (MWRWH). Furthermore, the ministry solicits funding from external support agencies, monitors the sector, and advises the Cabinet. The Water Sector Restructuring Secretariat, created in 1997 in the Ministry of Water Resources, Works and Housing, oversees the process of private sector participation in the sector.
The Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development shares responsibility for setting sanitation policies and coordinating funding for the subsector with MWRWH. The government promotes decentralization so that sanitation policies are expected to be carried out by Metropolitan, Municipal, and District Assemblies. To enforce environmental quality laws, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) under the Ministry of Environment and Science is expected to examine the impact of sanitation development activities on the environment.
To overcome the lack of coordination between the numerous sector institutions, the Minister of Water Resources, Works, and Housing, Abubakar Saddique Boniface, launched a National Water Policy (NWP) in February 2008, which covers water resources management, water supply and sanitation. Although the sector has made progress, a lack of coherence in policy formulation resulted in a multitude of implementation strategies. The NWP aimed to formulate a comprehensive sector policy and to make it easier for development partners to provide the necessary support to the sector. The NWP had been prepared by the Water Resources Commission (WRC) since 2002.
The Ghana Water Company Ltd. (GWCL) is responsible for providing, distributing, and conserving water for domestic, public, and industrial purposes in 82 urban systems in localities with more than 5,000 inhabitants. Local private companies are in charge of meter installation, customer billing, and revenue collection.  Urban sanitation is a responsibility of local governments.
The Community Water and Sanitation Agency (CWSA) is in charge of coordinating and facilitating the implementation of the National Community Water and Sanitation Programme (NCWSP) in rural areas, which is carried out directly by the communities and their District Assemblies. The NCWSP focuses on three main objectives in order to achieve health improvements: safe water supply, hygiene education, and improved sanitation.
The CWSA was created in 1994 under the framework of the Ghana decentralization policy and became autonomous in 1998. The institution does not directly construct, operate, and maintain facilities for water supply and sanitation. Instead, its role is to coordinate the work of a number of actors which carry out the services in rural areas, including public sector organizations, local beneficiary communities, private sector organizations, and NGOs. The CWSA is also expected to ensure that financial support from development partners is effectively used and to ensure hygiene education. The agency operates ten regional offices besides its head office in Accra.
In communities with fewer than 5,000 inhabitants, water supply systems are owned and managed by the respective community on a demand-driven basis. According to the NCWSP, these systems do not receive any cross-subsidies and 5% of investment costs are paid by District Assemblies. Communities and in rural areas and small towns elect gender-balanced water and sanitation boards consisting of volunteers, including one or two village-based caretakers who received special training in repair and maintenance. Communities can contract private companies or NGOs to provide technical assistance, goods, or services. Local companies drill boreholes and build hand-dug wells, and local artisans are used to provide household latrines. Maintenance units of CWSA have been privatized and the regional companies created through this process now perform major repairs on behalf of District Assemblies. Minor repairs are carried out by area mechanics. The communities' water and sanitation boards receive technical assistance by District Water and Sanitation Teams (DWST), ideally consisting of an engineer, a hygiene expert, and a community mobilizer. However, in some districts these teams are so weak that the regional teams of CWSA resort to providing direct assistance to local water and sanitation boards.
The Ghana Coalition of NGOs in Water and Sanitation (CONIWAS), created in 2001, "works in partnership with sector players to influence policies, remove barriers and promote access to potable water, sanitation and improved hygiene for the poor and vulnerable." According to the coalition, giving NGOs one voice for advocacy and lobbying has been one of its major benefits.
Efficiency of utilities
According to the Water Sector Restructuring Secretariat non-revenue water in urban areas stands at approximately 50% of the produced water, i.e. it is lost, among other things, due to leakage and illegal connections. According to a Ghanaian radio station, a survey showed that 3,000 out of 15,000 connections were illegal while 20 minor leaks were found. Furthermore, most of those connected to water supply do not pay their bills. At least at the end of the 1990s, the Ghanaian government participated in that poor payment culture.
As part of the efforts to reduce system losses, in February 2008 the Accra East Region of AVRL-GWCL has caused the arrest of ten illegal connection syndicates in the Adenta community. They had constructed huge underground reservoirs which served as a source of water for private water tanker operators. The tanker operators buy water from these illegal sources and sell it to private individuals at Ashaley Botwe at high prices.
It is estimated that in 2010, GWCL had 7.2 per 1,000 connections. This figure is in line with regional levels. However, international good practice is less than 4 employees per 1,000 connections.
Tariffs and cost recovery
Water tariffs in Ghana are too low to recover the costs of the service. Water tariffs in rural areas tend to be higher than in urban areas.
Urban areas. Between 1990 and 1997, the average water tariff in Ghana's urban areas was in the range of US$0.10 to US$0.15 per m³. At that time, the Government was not willing to approve major tariff increases. However, the situation changed with the creation of the regulatory agency PURC which autonomously examines and approves public service tariffs, resulting in an average water tariff of about US$0.50 in 2004. In 2006, GWCL's tariff for the first 20m³ consumed was US$0.55 per m³, whereas US$0.76 were charged for each m³ exceeding 20m³ within a month.
Rural areas. According to the CWSA's policy, the water tariff in rural areas should recover the supply cost of the service, including operation, maintenance, major repairs, replacements, and extension to new areas. Tariffs are set by the District Assemblies in rural areas. However, the supply cost should be low enough to not result in a tariff of more than US$1 per m³. A study conducted in five community-managed piped systems in the Ashanti region found an average tariff of about US$0.60 per m³ in 2003, which actually covers between 57 and 77% of the full supply cost. Another study which was carried out in 2005 indicates an average monthly expenditure for water of US$0.99 in 97 sample villages in the Volta region and US$0.89 in 103 villages in the Brong Ahafo region per household. However, in nearly 70% of the villages in Volta and only 40% of the villages in Brong Ahafo, at least 90% of the interviewed households actually paid for water. Where water use is charged, it is done through a fixed system or a pay-as-you-fetch system.
Investment and financing
Since economic efficiency as well as cost recovery in the sector are extremely low, financing water and sanitation investments in Ghana relies heavily on external funding. According to one estimate 90% of the total investment in the sector in the 1990s was made by external agencies, which contributed about US$500 million for the sector between 1990 and 2003. It is worth mentioning that sanitation generally receives much less attention. According to another estimate, more than 96% of expected financing in 2006 will be from external donors.
Despite the strong engagement of international donors, funding remains insufficient to achieve the Millennium Development Goals for water and sanitation, aiming at halving the share of the population without access to these services by 2015 compared to 1990. According to one estimate, the expansion and rehabilitation of urban infrastructure requires investments of US$1.3 billion over an unspecified period. Annual investment needs in water supply and sanitation are estimated by another source at US$ 150 million. Expected investment funding for 2006 was US$ 85 million, or 57% of the needs.
Actual annual investments in urban areas have been estimated by the Water Sector Restructuring Secretariat at around US$40 million per year, having "recently" declined to only US$17 million per year (without specifying which year). The US$ 40m figure for urban areas corresponds to about US$4 per capita, an average level compared to other low-income countries.
Private investments were mobilized through a Build-Operate-Transfer (BOT) project for a seawater desalination plant in Accra. The 25-year contract for the financing, construction and operation of a 60,000 cubic meter per day plant was awarded in 2012. Water will be sold at US$1.36/cubic meter to GWCL, with a guarantee from the Ministry of Finance. The World Bank subsidiary MIGA insures the package against political risk. Funding comes from the South African Standard Bank (US$ 88.7m) and the shareholder Abengoa Water ($38.1m). GWCL ruled out further desalination projects citing the country's abundant water resources and the need to quickly find a solution for the quickly growing Nungua area where the plant will be located. The International Finance Corporation (IFC) supports the Asutsuare Water Treatment Plant, a 500 million Euro Build, Own, Operate and Transfer (BOOT) project with GWCL developed by the Belgian contractor Denys. It includes a water treatment plant with a capacity of 432,000 m3/day, located downstream from the Kpong Dam on the Volta River and two pipelines, each of approximately 73 km to Grand Accra, as well as two water reservoirs.
Major donors active in water supply and sanitation in Ghana are the African Development Bank, Canada, Denmark, the EU Commission, France, Germany, Japan, the Netherlands, and the World Bank. There is a Multi-Donor Budgetary Support Mechanism, a Water and Sanitation Sector Group as well as Joint Sector Annual Review Conferences between the government and its "development partners" (donors).
African Development Bank
The African Development Bank contributes to the Accra Sewerage Improvement Project (ASIP) with a loan of US$69 million, while the Government of Ghana provides US$8.6 million. The project was approved by the ADB in 2006 and is expected to be implemented within five years. In this time, two treatment plants and eight pumping stations are expected to be built. Moreover, sewerage networks and sanitation facilities will be extended and rehabilitated. The project also supports environmental measures, institutional strengthening, engineering services, and project management.
Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA)
The Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) supports the water supply and sanitation sector in Ghana's northern regions through three projects:
- CIDA contributes US$11 million to the gender-balanced District Capacity Building Project (DISCAP), which aims at strengthening local capacities to manage water and sanitation resources, thus enabling local government bodies to provide water supply and sanitation services. DISCAP began in 2000 and will end in 2008.
- The agency provides US$16.4 million for the Northern Region Water Sanitation Project (NORWASP), which began in 1999 and is expected to end in 2009. The main objective of the gender-balanced project is to increase access to water and sanitation through a demand-driven approach. At the end of the project, up to 250,000 communities in the eastern corridor section of the northern region are expected to have access to safe drinking water, including 420 which independently manage their new water systems.
- The Northern Region Small Towns (NORST) project, which is being implemented from 2004 to 2014, is supported by CIDA with US$30 million. The project is expected to establish water supply and sanitation services in up to 30 small towns.
Germany supports rural water supply and sanitation as part of its support for Ghana's decentralization program. Together with other donors Germany supports the District Development Facility since 2009, established under the lead of the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development. Until 2014, Germany cofinances up to 36 million euros of a total 210 million euros. The remainder is financed by other donors and the Ghanaian Government, which provides a third of the funding. The District Development Facility provides funds to District Assemblies that have to follow strict rules concerning transparency and accountability which are independently monitored. Districts that manage their funds well also receive more funds. A previous rural water supply project supported by Germany was rated satisfactorily in an ex-post evaluation conducted in 2005. The evaluation found, among other things, that three to eight years after their construction only 4 percent of the wells had fallen completely in disuse, while 76 percent were functioning and 20 percent were temporarily out of order. The evaluation also found that in 28 percent of water samples the iron content was high and that water from other sources than the wells built under the project was still used for various purposes, including drinking.
The World Bank supports both rural and urban water supply in Ghana.
Community Water and Sanitation Program (CWSP) The Second Community Water and Sanitation Program was initiated in 2000 with support of a World Bank IDA credit of US$21.9 million, aiming at increasing access and supporting effective and sustained use of improved community water supply and sanitation services in villages and small towns through a demand-driven approach. It built on lessons learned from the first Community Water and Sanitation Program which had been carried out from 1994 to 2000. A large-scale decentralization approach in the planning, implementation, and management of water supply and sanitation in Ghana was one of the main characteristics of the second program. Moreover, the communities were given technical assistance and hygiene education. Gender-balanced water and sanitation committees were set up to actively engage and include NGOs, private sector actors, and District Assemblies. As a result of the program, which ended in 2004, nearly 800,000 people were provided with potable water and almost 6,000 households and 440 schools were provided with latrines.
Small Towns Water Supply and Sanitation Project The Small Towns Water Supply and Sanitation Project was approved by the World Bank in 2004 with a loan of US$26 million. In 2007 the World Bank decided to support the project with an additional credit of US$10 million. The German development agency GTZ contributes to the project with US$400,000, while the Government of Ghana provides US$4.6 million.
The project will end in 2009 and aims at increasing water supply and sanitation access to small towns in six Ghanaian regions, providing about 500,000 people with water supply facilities and about 50,000 people with sanitary facilities. Therefore, the project supports the planning, construction, and rehabilitation of water and sanitation systems in small towns and provides hygiene promotion, training, and technical assistance. In addition, the CWSA is supported by a management fee equal to 5% of the funds disbursed to support the incremental costs of the project.
Urban Water Project In 2004, the World Bank's Board approved a credit of US$103 million for the Urban Water Project, which was later turned into a grant. The Nordic Development Fund contributes another US$5 million, while the Government of Ghana provides the remaining US$12 million of the US$120 million project.
The main objectives of the program, which will end in 2010, are to (i) significantly increase access to water supply systems in the urban areas of Ghana with an emphasis on improving the service for the urban poor; and (ii) restoring the long-term financial stability, viability, and sustainability of the GWCL. It provides technical assistance and training. Moreover, the Urban Water Project supports private sector participation and thus contributed to the management contract between GWCL and AVRL.
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- African Development Fund (October 2005). "Accra Sewerage Improvement Project (ASIP). Appraisal Report." (PDF). Retrieved 2008-03-28.[dead link]
- Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA). "District Capacity Building Project (DISCAP)". Retrieved 2008-03-28.[dead link]
- Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA). "Northern Region Water Sanitation Project (NORWASP)". Retrieved 2008-03-28.
- Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA). "Northern Region Small Towns (NORST)". Retrieved 2008-03-28.[dead link]
- KfW Entwicklungsbank. "Ghana: Programme - Decentralisation". Retrieved 19 August 2012.
- World Bank. "A Demand-Driven Approach in Service-Delivery: The Community Water and Sanitation Program in Ghana". Retrieved 2008-03-28.
- World Bank. "Small Towns Water Supply and Sanitation Project". Retrieved 2008-03-28.
- World Bank. "Ghana: World Bank Turns US$103 Million Ghana Urban Water Credit To Grant". Retrieved 2008-03-28.
- World Bank. "Urban Water Project". Retrieved 2008-03-28.
- Water In Africa Through Everyday Responsiveness, a nonprofit which installs boreholes throughout Ghana