In 2010, “the UN Resolution 64/292 explicitly recognized the Human right to water and sanitation and acknowledged it as essential to the fulfillment of all human rights.”1 Ghana was one of the countries of 122 countries that voted in favour of this resolution.2 10 years later, Ghana seems still to be invested in making water an accessible commodity for water. In the past month, a new Water ATM access at Abomosu in the Eastern region has garnered discussions about water accessibility in Ghana3. Some were excited about the innovation, praising it for giving people clean water. Others were not quite so impressed; arguing that at this point in progress in our nation, water should be accessible in individual households. Of course, it would be inadequate to take these first impressions by face value. The important question is what progress have we made in terms of water accessibility?

The major concern when it comes to water in Ghana is pollution and not a lack of it. The Managing Director of the Ghana Water Company Limited (GWCL), Dr. Clifford Braimah, was quoted in a 2019 article on the Modern Ghana website saying “…Pollution of our rivers and water bodies have had a negative impact on the operations of GWCL and this is primarily because of the high level of pollution on these rivers and water bodies from which GWCL abstracts raw water for treatment.”4 Urbanization and industrialization in Ghana play a role in the pollution of water with illegal mining, industrial waste, household disposals, and commercial farming causing the most pollution. Even though water pollution affects most Ghanaians, rural areas suffer more when it comes to access. Ghana Water Company Limited ― which is responsible for portable water supply to all urban communities in Ghana ― is fully owned by the government and currently lists 11 projects5. The Community Water and Sanitation Agency which is responsible for rural area water supply list 5 different projects all of which are partnerships with foreign countries and organizations6. These projects for the rural areas usually develop or expand surface or groundwater sources such as dug wells, boreholes, etc. In addition to the aforementioned companies, there are about five other stakeholder companies that provide water in Ghana7.

The new Water ATM system at Abomosu looks promising when considered as an individual project. However, multiple companies currently attempting to provide water can make it overly complex and difficult to monitor our true progress. For example, it was exceedingly hard to find out exactly who or what organization exactly provided the machine and if there will be future additions elsewhere in the community or region. The new Water ATM system raises more questions, for example, how much will 1 gallon of water cost? According to the 2019 publication of Ghana water tariffs, urban areas pay around GH₵ 3.22 for 1 cubic meter (about 220 gallons) along with a 1% surcharge for firefighting water and 2% for rural areas water supply8. Considering the per capita income of most rural areas, the people of Abomosu should pay less for their water9. Another question is how much distance will the people have to travel to get to the machine? WHO stipulates that “a water source has to be within 1,000 metres from the home and collection time should not exceed 30 minutes.”10  How many machines will we need to accomplish this requirement? Would the cost of those machines be less expensive than say, perhaps another system? 

Finally, what are the incentives to use the ATM? The system relies on instant payment. Given that rural areas usually have some surface or groundwater source, is there enough incentive to go and buy water when one could just as easily go find free water however polluted? In most cases, financial situations impede good health decisions.  

The Ghana water provision system has too many appendages therefore, any progress or regression is can only be counted in anecdotal or localized situations. If it were as easy as moving the rural systems to the care of the urban-focused Ghana Water Company Limited, we could all breathe easier. But as it is, the Ghana Water Company faces its own problems with water rationing and lack of service to the urban poor11.  There is a water problem for Ghana and the best way forward should a unified organization created to deal with the issues uniformly.

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  • Great Article but I must confess for water at my place iwe don’t lack water. Besides the MP there has built borehole water powered by solar panels and this cut across the Oforikrom municipal and for my town Boadi the water that MP built has been free for more than 100 days. #WATV

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