As Ghana joined the international community to mark World Water Day yesterday, the Ghana Water Company Limited (GWCL) and its stakeholders have warned of a possible scarcity of potable water nationwide in the near future if the pollution of water bodies is not addressed
Painting a picture of a possible bleak future, the GWCL explained that although all the treatment plants in Ghana drew raw water from the various water bodies, the spate of water pollution was approaching alarming levels.
According to the company, currently some of the water bodies had been polluted beyond treatment and the GWCL feared that soon Ghana would not be able to produce drinking water.
“Water crisis looms,” it said.
It attributed the development to human activities such as illegal mining (galamsey) and improper agricultural activities along water bodies.
Other contributory factors, it said, were pollution caused by crude oil dumping, the discharge of untreated urban domestic waste and contamination of other industrial processes.
Currently, the country has achieved 77 per cent potable water coverage, meaning that 77 people out of every 100 sampled have access to potable water, but it has been warned that soon many more people will lose access to potable water.
In an interview, the Head of Communications of the GWCL, Mr Stanley Martey, said the recent water shortages in some parts of the country and the attendant stress due to the long spell of dryness across the country should be a wake-up call to all stakeholders.
He said currently water from some water bodies such as the River Pra had become virtually impossible to treat due to the presence of heavy metals such as mercury.
He submitted that the Densu and the Birim rivers and the Volta Lake were some of the water bodies that fed various treatment plants with raw water that had been overly polluted.
According to him, the GWCL had to spend huge sums of money on chemicals to treat the raw water, thereby contributing to the increase in water tariffs.
“The government is doing its bit by investing in and facilitating donor investment in several water treatment plants, among other projects, to ensure the provision of potable water for all by 2025,” he said.
In spite of the interventions, he said, the GWCL and its stakeholders feared that the national vision to make water available to all by 2025 would face challenges due to the effects of human activities on water bodies which were the main sources of fresh water for the local treatment plants.
Mr Martey said the impact of human activities on water resources was more dreadful, compared to natural causes and called for cooperation among stakeholders to address the pollution of water bodies.
He said the water situation was becoming terrible and could lead to a very serious crisis if conscious efforts were not made by all stakeholders, including members of the public, immediately to forestall any calamity.
He said the Daboase Water Treatment Plant, the major treatment plant that supplied potable water to the people of Sekondi-Takoradi and its environs, which had the capacity to supply six million gallons of water per day (mgd) was now producing only 3.5mgd, which was not sufficient for the twin city, looking at its present population, for which reason the beneficiary communities were now facing consistent water shortages.
He said the raw water was now taken from Bosomase, a community close to Daboase.
“Chemicals such as mercury and cyanide used for galamsey operations have increased the cost of production of treated water by the GWCL for the people of Sekondi-Takoradi,” he added.
For instance, he explained, previously at Daboase, the company was using 30 bags of alum to produce 6mgd but now the 3.5mgd used 75 bags of alum.
Mr Martey said the GWCL was facing a similar problem with the Weija treatment plant as a result of human activities, including fishing, farming, washing and cattle rearing along the banks of the dam.
Water Resources Commission
In a related development, the Executive Director of the Water Resources Commission (WRC), Mr Ben Ampomah, has said the commission has put in place measures within its mandate to protect water resources.
Among the interventions, he said, was collaborating with National Security to deploy security officers to the banks of some dams and water bodies on a pilot basis, to be replicated at the banks of all water resources, particularly the ones serving GWCL treatment plants, based on the success of the pilot programme.
Mr Ampomah said the WRC had also proposed that households build individual fresh water reservoirs besides the huge ones the GWCL was going to build to mitigate the impact of water shortage during prolonged dry seasons such as the country was experiencing now.
“The commission is making a number of proposals to the GWCL and other stakeholders and will develop more pragmatic proposals that will safeguard water resources and enhance the production of potable water all-year round,” he said.
2017 World Water Day in Ghana
The celebration of World Water Day provides a platform to advocate the sustainable management of freshwater resources worldwide.
This year’s local celebration was on the theme: “Water and waste water”, while the global theme was: Why waste water?”, in support of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG 6.3) on improving water quality and reducing, treating and re-using waste water.
At a ceremony to mark the day in Ghana, the Director of the Water Research Institute (WRI), Dr Osman Ansah-Asare, said waste water disposal had a significant impact on the quality and cost of drinking water produced, as well as its availability.
“The wasting of water poses sustainable challenges and undermines water security,” he said.
Dr Ansah-Asare was of the opinion that improving waste water management would translate into improvement on all six targets of the SDG 6, which enjoins all UN member countries to, by 2030, achieve universal and equitable access to safe and affordable drinking water for all.
He submitted that to ensure sustainable management of water and sanitation for all, Ghana needed to move away from sectoral development and management of water resources to an integrated approach that could balance different needs in a coordinated manner.
In a keynote address read on his behalf, the Minister for Water Resources and Sanitation, Mr Kofi Adda, enumerated strategic policies the government was putting in place to treat waste water.
He said there would be the effective use of science and technology in identifying ways to recycle water, especially in the urban areas.
Making a contribution, the UN Resident Coordinator in Ghana, Ms Christine Evans-Klock, said in Ghana three out of every five people drank water contaminated by faeces, risking diseases such as diarrhoea and cholera.
“Diarrhoea causes the death of over 3,600 children in Ghana every year and cholera outbreaks occur too frequently in our cities,” she said.
She, therefore, underscored the need to treat waste water before disposal, just as water was treated before drinking.
Central Region marks day
Meanwhile, the GWCL has asked the WRC and the government to take urgent steps to safeguard the country’s water bodies or be ready for water scarcity in the next five years, reports Shirley Asiedu-Addo.
The Central Regional Production Manager of the GWCL, Mr John Eric Kwofie, who made the call at the regional celebration of World Water Day at the Baifikrom Headworks in Mankessim, called on the commission to speed up the implementation of the buffer zone policy to check all illegal activities along the country’s water bodies.
Schoolchildren and members of the public participated in the durbar to mark the day, after which they were taken on a tour of the facility.
Mr Kwoffie said the myriad of problems facing the company included farming along water bodies, discharge of waste into water bodies and illegal mining.
From Barekese, Daniel Kenu reports that the Ashanti Regional office of the GWCL is investing an unspecified amount of money and technology, including drones, to restore and preserve the Barekese Dam to ensure uninterrupted supply of water to the region.
The drone technology has helped to track and arrest encroachers and poachers who have depleted vegetation along the dam, threatening its existence.
But the Chief Manager, Ashanti Production, Mr Francis Kwesi Awotse, told the Daily Graphic yesterday during a ceremony to mark World Water Day at Barekese, that following pragmatic measures embarked upon by the company last year, the human activities had been curtailed