Stakeholders discuss water safety issues in Asutifi North District
On 17th September 2020, Asutifi North District Assembly in the Ahafo Region of Ghana together with Hilton Grantees organised a webinar under the Asutifi North District Level Learning Alliance Platform (DLLAP) to discuss potential water treatment strategies for adoption by service providers to improve water safety in the district.
Since 2017, the Hilton Grantees together with Asutifi District Assembly have been working on a master plan to collectively achieve full WASH coverage in ANDA with funding from the Hilton Foundation. The Master Plan also known as the Asutifi North Ahonnidie Mpontuuo (ANAM) involves a joint visioning and partnership between the Hilton Grantees and the District Assembly geared towards achieving SDG6.
By the end of 2030, the District intent is to increase the proportion of the urban households who have access to safely managed water from 11 % to 50% and achieve 20% for rural households. In order to achieve the target, 50% of the 2030 urban population and 20% of the rural population will need to have access to safely managed water supply which is free from contamination. Achieving this target will require regular water quality testing and treatment of identified contaminated water source.
The share vision of the Hilton Grantees and Asutifi North District to ensure the supply of safety water to citizens was highlighted by Mr. James Atta-Era, the District Planning Officer on behalf of the District Chief Executive. He said in order to make this vision a reality, the District Assembly in collaboration with Aquaya Institute conducted series of water quality test in the district.
In 2018, Aquaya conducted water quality testing that found indicators of fecal contamination in ~45% (28/64) of water systems throughout the district. As a follow-up, in March 2020, Asutifi North District Assembly (ANDA), Ghana Water Company Limited (GWCL), and Aquaya launched a pilot water quality testing agreement with 10 water systems serving approximately half of the district’s population. GWCL has been conducting routine (~monthly) testing, which has also revealed E. coli contamination and low PH in several of these systems. To protect public health and advance the objectives of the masterplan, actions must be taken to address water contamination which will require the district Assembly’s leadership and support from partners.
Mr. Bashiru Yachori, who presented Aquaya’s water quality findings proposed that in order to achieve the 2030 target some potential immediate and long-term action for water treatment options for households and service providers will have to be considered. This is to improve water safety in the district as a starting point which include households water filtration, Aquatabs disinfection, boiling, solar water disinfection and source protection to reduce water contamination, in-line chlorination for piped systems and hand pumps, and chlorine dispensers. He further indicated “as partners there is the need to develop communication strategies by leveraging on the power of chiefs and community leaders to sensitization citizens to promote water safety and the potential treatment options for community members and service providers to improve water safety in the District.” Mr. Yachori noted that there is the need for strong collaboration between Aquaya, the District Assembly and Netcentric to disseminate appropriate information through the radio program to communicate to the community members on the water safety strategies.
Ms. Veronica Ayi-Bonte, Programs Officer, IRC Ghana commended Aquaya’s proposals for immediate and long-term action to improve water safety in the District. However, she said it will be appropriate for Aquaya to check with Community Water and Sanitation Agency since they are also working on systems and addressing water issues; and that it will be helpful to know the kind of mechanisms they have been using to clean their systems. She again stated that, “if we do want to provide safely managed water, then the water that is produced from these systems should first and famous be safely manage in order to manage the trust issues. Because if we loss the trust, then it will be difficult for even people to come and fetch it if they think the water is not good”.
Jeremiah Atengdem, Water Expert-IRC Ghana mentioned that, the primary responsibility of the service provider is to provide clean and safe water. So, if we begin to take that responsibility away and given to the household then it really creates serious credibility challenges for the system managers who are providing water to these households. So, we must ensure that system level take up the responsibility.
Katheine Marshall, Programs and Research Officer, Aquaya Intitute in her submissions explained, “Aquaya is trying to identify solution that can help address water quality issues that have been realised. We have started to monitor water quality and doing testing to bring the issue more to the fore font. We are having some success in raising awareness with the WSMT’s through focus group discussions very month. So, we need to keep that conversion ongoing, like Veronica has said about the water safety trust issue and to see how we can integrate that into water safety management approach. But I think the challenge is that water safety never stops, and it takes resources and people’s time in building capacity. These are all things that we want to be cognitive enough and start to think through them on how these things are really going to be implemented and sustained through the partners, government and others that are already working in the district”.
Janet Atebayi, GWCL explained that, though some of the system providers are treating the water, but whether they can measure the dosage is an issue which needs to be look at. “Because we need to measure the chlorine to avoid overdosing or under dosing” She added. Janet further suggested that a comprehensive test should be conducted for iron, manganese, and other chemicals so that we don’t compound the problems when trying to disinfect the water.
Stakeholders at the meeting concluded with the following recommendations:
- The need to bring in CWSA a lot more to benefit from the experience of implementing in their rural utility model and from their technical expertise that they have been providing to the sector over these years.
- The need to support service providers to carry out regular water quality test and implement remedial measures to address and secure the safety of the water they are providing.
- The need to have the right partnership in place to collaborate and work with each other to be able to see how go forward to provide the strategies to solve the water quality issues in the District.
- The need to conduct a comprehensive water quality test for iron, manganese and other chemicals
- To be able to analyze the chemicals present in the water so that our solutions would not compound the problem.