I was surprised in my recent visit to the UK when I found that many households I visited drank treated water directly from their taps. I must confess, it took some time for me to adjust to this. Why? I guess because I was conditioned to believing that tap water was not as clean as the bottled and sachet water I consumed in Ghana.
Water is an essential commodity in the lives of humans. Research has shown that, one can survive for more than 8–21 days without food but the same cannot be said about water. A person cannot survive without water for just 3 days. This shows how vital water is for the human race.
The value of water necessitated the institution of a day to highlight the importance of clean water to society and to sensitize the world about the need to protect our water bodies. World Water Day is celebrated each year on the 22nd of March.
Unfortunately, access to potable water has become a problem globally and Ghana cannot be left out. With our recent fight against galamsey, it hurts to say that we have a long way to go to achieve the world’s target of making clean water available to everybody. Ghana Water Company has said it spends a significant amount of money per day to treat our water because of the activities of illegal miners.
Indeed, President Akufo-Addo at a recent program in the Ashanti region is reported to have lamented that GWCL (in Konongo) spends a whopping GH¢ 80,000 a day to treat water; a huge jump from the GH¢ 7,000 the company expended on water treatment in the immediate past. This is a lot of money which could be invested to make water accessible to everybody, but is having to be spent because of galamsey activities.
We have seen media houses and some major stakeholders run campaigns to stop illegal mining in Ghana but governments, chiefs and other relevant stakeholders have paid lip service to these frantic calls. In 2019, I had the opportunity to work with some Researchers in CSIR- Water Research Institute, running a DANIDA project titled “Building Climate Resilience into Basin Water Management – CREAM” which is still ongoing. We embarked on a reconnaissance visit to the Pra and Densu basins which are the study areas.
The Pra and the Densu are the source of water supply in most communities and cities in the Western, Central, Ashanti, Eastern and some parts of Greater Accra Regions. It was an awful sight to see the murky waters as we drove by the towns. Some issues of concern in the Densu basin were encroachment, sand winning, and pollution among many others, whereas in the Pra basin, there was a decline in water quality due to the menace of galamsey activities.
The UN Sustainable Development Goals Six (SDG 6) is to ensure access to Water and Sanitation for all by 2030. Access to safe water, sanitation and hygiene is one of the most basic human needs for health and well-being. According to the UN, about 82,900 people die each year from diarrhoea as a result of unsafe drinking water.
Between 2015 and 2020, the population with safely managed sanitation increased from 47 per cent to 54 per cent. This period also saw the population with access to handwashing facilities with soap and water in the home increase from 67 per cent to 71 per cent. The progress in these rates for basic services would need to quadruple for universal coverage to be reached by 2030. 2030 is only a few years away as human rights to water and sanitation has not been fulfilled.
The theme for this year’s World Water Day is “To accelerate change to solve the water and sanitation crises”. How ready and involved are we as Ghanaians to help solve water and sanitation problems? 2030 is just seven years away and Ghana does not have practical policies in place to ensure that we achieve this global target.
In accelerating the change, I believe there is a need to pay more attention to groundwater resources.
Groundwater is a source of fresh water found underground in natural storage reservoirs called aquifers. It is ‘recharged’ from rain and snowfall that infiltrates into the ground and feeds sensitive aquatic ecosystems such as wetlands and rivers.
About 30 per cent of all freshwater in the world is groundwater. It is interesting to note that it is now becoming commonplace in Ghana that people and organisations contact CSIR- Water Research Institute to drill boreholes for them to be able to tap groundwater for their daily use. This, in the long run, will take pressure off Ghana Water Company.
Over three million people in Ghana rely on surface water and one out of every four children suffers chronic malnutrition or dies from diarrhoea as a result of inaccessibility to safe water source (UNICEF Ghana, 2014). Groundwater is important to the environment; it is the most abundant source of fresh water available to the human race, although it is largely unseen. It is currently under serious threat globally from over-abstraction and population.
Climate change exacerbates the threats on the quality of the source of water with flooding and drier seasons globally increasing pressure on groundwater resources. It is important to protect groundwater as the demand for fresh water continues to increase in the past decade due to population explosion. Groundwater is used in sanitation, domestic and industrial processes.
The global campaign “Be the Change” encourages people to take action in their lives to change how they use, consume and manage water. We owe it to the next generation to make clean and safe water available to all. I look forward to a time where l can comfortably fetch water from the tap in Ghana to quench my thirst. The responsibility to protect our environment and water bodies lies with all of us.
“The earth, the air, the land and water are not an inheritance from our forefathers but a loan from our children, so we have to hand over to them at least as it was handed over to us,” Ghandi.