This is indeed a reasonable question that travelers to Ghana should ask themselves.
In today’s post we will share with you some interesting facts about where the water, which flows through your tap in Ghana, actually comes from.
Safe drinking water supply in Ghana faces a number of challenges.
Without going too much into detail, we can safely say that some of the major challenges drinking water supply in Ghana faces is related to:
- Rapid urbanization
- Limited numbers of household connections
- Limited access to safe water sources in rural areas
- An old and deteriorated pipe system
- Frequent break-downs of machinery at the water works
- General water shortages, especially during the dry season
- Low water pressure and
- Erratic water supply.
Coupled with poor sanitation (which is a major problem in the country), this can easily lead to contraction of waterborne diseases, such as Diarrhea, Cholera, Dysentery, Hepatitis A and Typhoid infections.
So where does your water in Ghana actually come from?
Water in Ghanaian households can come from many different sources.
In rural areas, small ponds, streams and unprotected wells are often the source for drinking water supply, all which can be easily polluted.
Ghana Water Works
In the cities, households that are connected to the city’s water pipe system will often experience erratic water supply. Water can flow for several hours or days and will be shut off for equal long periods. Some areas are hit worse than others, but the problem commonly applies throughout the city. In addition to inconsistent water flow, the underground piping system is old and deteriorated. Broken pipes are quite common, which can lead to water pollution with bacteria, rust and soil particles. So even though the water left the water works station in a clean drinking water quality state, it could well become contaminated before it reaches the end-users’ water faucet.
Due to rapid urbanization, there are a large number of households in the city with no connection to the urban water pipe system.
Affected households or households with unstable supply of drinking water are forced to rely on alternative and often less hygienically safe solutions.
Water tanker supplier
Private individuals, that own a water tanker vehicle, supply households with water on a commercial basis. Household owners would call the water tanker operators, who in turn will go and fetch water and deliver to the caller for a fee. Costs can vary depending on the water quantity that a tanker can hold. Water delivered in this way can come from various sources. Licensed Tanker operators are expected to buy the water directly from the city and then resell it to households. But unfortunately, many times the water that has been delivered to the caller comes from unidentified and undisclosed sources, some legal, and some not so much legal.
In addition to “clean” water deliveries, water tanker vehicles also supply stream and river water to callers for construction purposes. This poses the problem that a tanker operator might deliver water for construction purposes and afterwards makes a delivery for “drinking water”. Even though guidelines for tanker operators have been released, which should aid to follow general hygienic rules, in reality this is often not enforced.
Borehole or underground water
This is underground water that has been pumped from a depth of sometimes 150 meters or more through a narrow pipe into your faucet. And even though the water comes from deep underground there are factors to consider whether this source of water is safe for consumption. Some things to keep in mind are
- General location of the borehole (is it close to a dumping side or already contaminated area)?
- Has the water been treated by special filters before reaching the faucet?
Borehole water quality changes with locations and might change its content over time. It is advisable to have regular water quality tests done (which are quite inexpensive) to check for harmful bacteria and large quantities of minerals. Borehole water is best used with a special filter, but this comes usually at a higher cost.
So once water has been delivered, households find the next challenge that comes along with water storage
Water Storage Tanks – a.k.a Polytank, Wata Tank, Syntex Tank and similar
In Ghana you will find these types of tank (typically black in color) everywhere and in various sizes. They are fantastic to store large amounts of water for dry spells, but if not maintained correctly can cause a lot of health issues.
Depending on the quality of water that has been delivered into the tanks, particles and other impurities will settle at the bottom of the tank. If water levels drop, these layers will come loose and find its way into your main faucet. It is therefore advised to regularly get the tanks deep- cleaned by professional clearers.
So looking at all these issues, which is the safest way to brush your teeth (or generally use water for consumption) in Ghana?
For travelers, using bottled water to brush your teeth is generally the best advice. It is a relatively cheap solution to the water safety dilemma and easily available everywhere. Check for an intact plastic seal and inspect the bottle visually for any impurities, such as floating particles.
For instances where you do not have access to bottled water, you can choose to use tap water that has been brought to a rolling boil for at least one full minute. This usually kills bacteria, viruses, protozoa, helminths and most other pathogens from drinking water. Water that appears cloudy should be filtered through a clean cloth in addition to boiling. Allow the boiled water to cool down and store in clean containers.
For any further inquiries about water safety and how to prevent waterborne diseases whiles in Ghana, contact us through WhatsApp on (+233) 20 928 0215 or send us a message through email on email@example.com and we will be in touch shortly to answer all your questions.