Social Policies and Private Sector Participation in Water Supply: Beyond Regulation

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The National Development Framework informs policy development and planning at the sectoral level. It does so in close consultation with the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning which prepares the national budget to inform annual expenditure nationwide. It also oversees the activities of the Water Resources Commission which, among others, is responsible for regulating water resources abstraction across the country. The Commission has River Basin Boards across the country overseeing developments in river basins to ensure protection of water resources.

The Public Utilities Regulatory Commission PURC is an independent public body which regulates the provision of utility services in the electricity and water sectors. It works in close consultation with utility providers to set tariffs for consumers. Policies and plans regarding environmental protection are developed by the Ministry of Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation and this has a direct bearing on water resources.

Under the Ministry, the Environmental Protection Agency EPA is the regulatory body responsible for managing, protecting and enhancing the country's environment. The Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development oversees development at the local administrative levels in metropolitan, municipal and district assemblies across the country.

At this level, Water and Sanitation Committees and District Water and Sanitation Teams are tasked with overseeing delivery of water and sanitation services. Water service delivery at the local level by the public sector is complemented by numerous international and local non-governmental organisations, private organisations, community and faith based organisations. Private borehole drillers lend their services to both individuals and organisations for the provision of water in homes or communities through mechanised or hand-operated wells.

This is however, regulated by the Water Resources Commission. In urban communities without access to the urban water supply system, private water tanker operators supply water in water tankers for a fee and their operations are regulated by the PURC PURC The constitution of Ghana unambiguously set the tone for the ownership and management of Ghana's water resources. As per the constitution, water resources throughout Ghana are vested in the President on behalf of and in trust for the people of Ghana.

In line with this, the Central Government, through the NDPC, develops the blueprint for sustainable utilisation of water resources in its near- and long-term National Development Frameworks. Whilst the national IWRM plan charts the course for sustainable management of all the river basins and related natural resources, the Urban Water Supply Strategy and the Rural Water Supply and sanitation strategy define the strategies for supply of potable water in both urban and rural communities. The Water Use Regulation also gives the legal mandate to the Water Resources Commission to regulate abstraction of water resources.

Additionally, in a timely effort to proactively address issues of climate change, Ghana has developed a National Climate Change Policy which provides the blueprint for dealing with the challenges presented by climate change both in the near- and long-term including water scarcity Ministry of Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation It is complemented by an implementation framework: the National Climate Change Adaptation Strategy, to guide the implementation of the policy.

Sustainable financing is crucial for the water sector to provide new infrastructure and sustain existing services. While the provision of new infrastructure requires long-term resources, sustaining existing services requires effective cost recovery mechanisms to support operational expenses as well as maintenance and rehabilitation Kolker et al. But how exactly has Ghana funded developments in the water sector and what are the arrangements to sustain and expand existing water infrastructure? An assessment of financing mechanisms in the water sector over the years shows that Ghana has enjoyed the support of external support agencies in funding developments in this sector.

This has been a major factor that has fuelled the accelerated improvement in access to drinking water across the country. Domestic expenditure towards providing potable drinking water represents less than 0. However, inflows from donors have generally dwindled across the African continent in recent times. In fact, statistics show that aid from the European Union, a major donor to Ghana, began to decline after the financial meltdown in , reducing by half by Forson et al.

Generally, it is argued that excessive levels of borrowing without productive investment can reduce a country's growth Pattillo et al. Ghana's public debts continue to rise and this has necessitated a request for an extended credit facility from the International Monetary Fund in To reverse this trend, the Government of Ghana has committed to mobilise domestic resources development and capitalise on concessionary loans for productive investments as per its budget statement Government of Ghana b.

This commitment needs to be implemented to the letter if sustainable development in the water sector is to be achieved. However, performance indicators show that the urban water utility; GWCL is in dire straits. The company loses about half of water produced through non-revenue water; collects at best three-quarters of its revenue; and recovers about two-thirds of its total costs Public Utilities Regulatory Commission ; Awuah et al.

This is in spite of significant water tariff rises over the years, in a bid to raise more revenue towards achieving full cost recovery Water and Sanitation Program The World Bank posits that the poor performance of Ghana's urban water utility is due to extensive leakages in the water distribution networks and extensive commercial theft of water The World Bank This makes improving revenue collection for urban water service critical, not only to sustain operations of the urban water supply systems but also to improve rural water supply.

However, local water and sanitation committees instituted to ensure the operational sustainability of the systems do not work effectively CWSA Sustaining these systems has therefore become the responsibility of donors without which some water supply systems in rural areas fail to operate. There is therefore the impression that very little can be done by the Government of Ghana without the support of donor agencies in a critical sector like water supply Entsua-Mensah et al.

Innovative financial arrangements are required to ensure that everyone has access to safe drinking water. According to the UN Principle of Human Right to Water, everyone has the right to sufficient, safe, acceptable, physically accessible and affordable water for personal and domestic uses Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights In line with this, Ghana has instituted various strategies to ensure the right to water across the country is met.

Among them is the lifeline tariff system where domestic consumers using less water 20 m 3 per month , particularly the poor, are charged lower tariffs PURC However, because the urban poor usually live in multiple occupancy houses with a single water metering device, their consumption exceeds the lifeline tariff and thereby pay more than the rich Nyarko et al. Additionally, poor households without in-house connection to water supply depend on water vendors where they purchase not only contaminated drinking water but also at prices more than 10 times the domestic rates approved by GWCL Fiasorgbor ; Monney et al.

Moreover, in utter violation of the human right to water, disconnection from urban water supply system, especially in low-income areas, is a common practice in Ghana Boakye ; Amankwaa et al. These suggest that the measures instituted to ensure the human right to water are currently ineffective. To overcome this requires extensive studies locally, complemented by experiences from similar countries like Kenya.

This will inform adoption of appropriate strategies towards achieving the human right to water. Strategies such as bulk metering for low-income households, automated water kiosks, water bill payment by instalments, and reduced water flow for residents failing to pay water tariffs can be adopted to ensure that people are not denied water but can also pay for the service.

Besides regulating water tariffs, the PURC needs to be mandated to ensure that utility service providers provide drinking water of acceptable quality and provide continuous supply of water to consumers. Practicable benchmarks for improvements consented to by both service providers and the regulator should be developed to reward service improvements or otherwise. Across the country, both domestic and industrial wastewater generally end up entering water courses and open spaces mostly without prior treatment Ingallinella et al.

Meanwhile, Ghana has since set up the EPA which, among others, is tasked to ensure that wastewater is treated before disposal into the environment. In areas where some form of treatment for wastewater exists, the waste water is usually stored in underground septic tanks and emptied by vacuum tanks for treatment at a central location UNU-IRNA Sewerage systems which channel wastewater through underground pipes directly to wastewater treatment plants are rarely seen across the country UNU-IRNA There is generally paucity of data on the number and operational status of wastewater treatment plants currently in Ghana.

However, these facilities are mostly non-functional or in poor operating conditions culminating in the unbridled disposal of untreated human excreta into the sea at Korle Gonno popularly called Lavender Hill Sam Uncontrolled disposal of untreated human excreta into the environment is not uncommon across the country and is mostly due to inadequate capital, inappropriate technologies and poor implementation of policies Taweesan et al.

For instance, in Obuasi, water samples from 12 boreholes, 10 streams and three dug wells show arsenic levels between 10 and 38 times higher than the permissible limits by the EPA ActionAid A study by Buamah et al. They observed that, in addition to mining activities, arsenic can also be released into the aquifers naturally through reductive dissolution and desorption. In Tarkwa, extremely high levels of arsenic, lead, cadmium and mercury have been reported in drinking water sources due to mining activities Obiri et al. Additionally, the activities of illegal miners have caused the shutdown of drinking water treatment systems in Tarkwa, Sekondi-Takoradi and Konongo Sarpong Diversion of water by illegal miners from rivers feeding into the reservoirs of these treatment systems have reduced the water volumes in the reservoirs below their operational levels whilst in other instances the raw water has been extremely polluted by mining wastes making water treatment impossible.

The extensive pollution of freshwater resources in the face of climate change poses a huge threat to potable water supply. In some parts of the country, drying of some hitherto perennial rivers in the dry season, flash floods, reduced water storage capacities in major dams, and reduction in groundwater recharge are becoming commonplace as a result of climate change Kankam-Yeboah et al.

Social Policies and Private Sector Participation in Water Supply

This will have dire consequences on agriculture — a major contributor to Ghana's GDP and thus calls for the adoption of adaptation strategies to minimise the impact. Some of these strategies have been outlined in the National Climate Change Policy and the accompanying Adaptation Strategies document. Most importantly for the water sector, the country needs to focus more attention on efficient water use and water resource protection through wastewater recycling and reuse, afforestation of catchment areas of major river basins and rainwater harvesting.

Ghana has made significant strides in the water sector with the strong support of donors. However, in the years ahead, the annual increase in drinking water coverage countrywide needs to keep pace with the exploding population in the face of a changing climate and a booming economy.

The role of the private sector in social protection

This will require a paradigm shift particularly in the financing mechanisms for the water sector as the country consolidates its position as a middle-income country. Strong financial support from domestic sources rather than donor agencies will be required to support efforts in the water sector.

Beyond Regulation

Rural water supply still needs to be supported with more revenues from the urban water utility to progressively decouple it from donor agencies. In the short- to medium-term, GWCL needs to focus on significantly reducing non-revenue water and most importantly improving revenue collection. User tariffs may not necessarily need to be increased if non-revenue water is lowered and revenue collection rate is significantly improved.

Investments towards replacement of old water infrastructure and construction of new ones should be considered. This can be achieved with private financing for the sector.

Public-Private Partnerships in China’s Urban Water Sector

To attract private investments into the water sector would require an improvement in its commercial efficiency by reducing water losses and increasing revenue collection rates. Moreover, with the recent oil discoveries in the country, the government should increase its allocation of national resources to support the water sector to gradually decouple the sector from external support. The well-organised institutional framework and policy direction for the country's water sector and subsectors is a commendable effort from which other countries can learn.

The policies and strategic plans however, need to be implemented to the letter if indeed the requisite paradigm shift can materialise. Given the dynamic nature of the water sector, the policies need to be revised accordingly to keep up with new challenges in the future.


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    This is significant in a transboundary context due to territorial and sovereign implications. IPP participation in such projects means that discussions occur outside of diplomatic negotiations centred on national interests. This can facilitate cooperation and help by-pass politically sensitive national issues. Government-IPP agreements can improve economic and trade relations between riparian nations and facilitate further cooperation, thereby increasing water security. However, there are domestic concerns over foreign investment in national waters, which may cause local backlash.

    These developments are often opaque and subject to vested economic interests of governments and the IPP. They can exacerbate insecurity through increasing local instability and mistrust of foreign projects, especially as local communities often receive the least benefits and bear the highest cost. Projects often evict local communities to less hospitable land, depriving them of jobs and livelihoods, and resettlement funds and compensation are often inadequate or not forthcoming. For example, the Chinese and Arab funded Merowe Dam in Sudan forcibly displaced 50, farmers to arid desert 9.

    Similarly the World Bank funded Lesotho Highlands Project adversely affected 27, people and exacerbated poverty Host governments must ensure adequate national regulatory capacity to address these challenges 7. There is increasing recognition that companies face and generate water related risks for society through their operational impacts.


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    Therefore, companies seek to reduce these risks by ensuring that their water use is equitable, economical and environmentally sustainable As a result major companies, including Unilever, PepsiCo and Coca-Cola, have undertaken water saving measures and initiatives to increase local access to drinking water. PepsiCo has saved almost 3.



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