Ghana's First Market & Feasibility Assessment of Decentralized Water Systems
Safe Water Network has just completed the country's first comprehensive survey of the role decentralized water systems serve in Ghana and it concluded that market-based approaches can play a significant role in bridging the gap in the population's safe water access.
This research was funded by the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, and the assessment built upon the knowledge Safe Water Network has developed during its four years of overseeing market-based initiatives in Ghana that provide safe water access to 35,000 people (Safe Water Network's field program in India provides access to another 200,000+). The report also draws upon the Conrad N.Hilton Foundation's long-term commitment and investment to water access in Ghana.
The assessment identified key barriers and promising solutions to providing sustainable water service using a market-based approach targeting the poor in rural and peri-urban areas in Ghana. The assessment categorized the key obstacles to providing safe water into six groups and each section addressed both the challenges and potential solutions. The categories included: (1) consumer (2) technology (3) local capacity (4) policy environment (5) economics and (6) financing.
Systems that generate sufficient revenue to recoup capital are more likely in communities of 5,000 or more. However, hybrid solutions where capital, and when necessary, a degree of operating costs are subsidized, can provide a long-term solution for the poor, especially in areas of less than a thousand people.
Solar power is another means to reducing operating costs and providing access to communities without a reliable source of electricity. Although there are upfront costs, the price of solar panels continues to drop, making the payback comparison to diesel generators more favorable every year. Inexpensive power also creates additional revenue streams from adjunct businesses like cell phone charging.
Another important aspect to success over the long term is routine servicing and maintenance, as well as access to parts, supplies, and the expertise required for the unexpected operational problem. There may be potential for a 'service entity' to cost-effectively meet the needs of [50 +] systems through clustering to leverage scale efficiencies.
Much of what was learned from the study confirms Safe Water Network's commitment to developing local capability to own and manage systems. The technical assessment, however, provided new insights on LMS, Ultra-filtration and the use of solar power, and this opens up possibilities to service other regions in Ghana not currently addressed in Safe Water Network's three-year strategic plan.
Safe Water Network presented the finalized findings from this report at our Beyond the Pipe Forum held in Accra in March. Many of the sector's key stakeholders were in attendance. Safe Water Network is grateful for the support and insights provided by The Conrad N. Hilton Foundation.
For more information on the report and the forum contact: Joseph Aboakye: firstname.lastname@example.org
1. Water Sector Monitoring Platform-Ghana (2010) Compilation of Information on Water and Sanitation Sector Investment in Ghana. WSMP/Ministry of Water Resources, Works and Housing-Accra.