Cabinet approves community water and sanitation agency policy reform
The Sustainable Development Goal 6 (SDG 6), enjoins member countries, including Ghana to provide at all times clean water and sustainable sanitation facilities for its citizens and also ensure the availability and sustainable management of its water resources.
The SGD 6 aligns with Government of Ghana’s vision for the sector, enshrined in the Water Sector Strategic Development Plan (WSSDP), expressed as ‘all people living in Ghana have access to adequate, safe, affordable, reliable and sustainable water services, and practice safe sanitation and hygiene’.
In line with meeting the requirements of the SDG 6 and national commitments for water and sanitation, CWSA, in 2017, initiated policy reforms in the Rural Water and Sanitation Sub-sector to change the existing Community Management Model to professionalized management of water supply services. The change in policy was triggered by recommendations by stakeholders and available research findings which point to the fact that the Community Management Model is not efficient enough to ensure the sustainable management of water supply infrastructure which government has committed so much investments into providing.
As part of the reforms, a cabinet memo was submitted to Cabinet by the sector ministry to consider and grant policy approval towards the amendment of the Community Water and Sanitation Agency Act, 1998 (Act 564) to transform the Community Water and Sanitation Agency (CWSA) into a utility service organization, with focus on application of innovation and professional skills to achieve sustainability.
Hence, it was heartwarming when the Vice – President Alhaji Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia announced at the Mole 30 (Mole XXX) Conference on Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) that Cabinet has given approval for the CWSA policy reforms towards transforming the Agency into a utility service organization. The announcement was received with applause and endorsement by stakeholders at the conference which was held from November 4 to 8, 2019 in Ho, Volta Region.
WHY THE REFORM?
The policy reform was necessitated by a number of challenges that threaten the sustainability of investments made in water supply infrastructure in rural communities and small towns by government and its development partners. These include the following:
1. Continuous cycle of breakdown and rehabilitation with resources that should have been used to provide water systems to ‘first time’ beneficiaries.
2. Many of the water systems cannot provide uninterrupted service to communities as a result of frequent breakdowns.
3. Water quality of most systems are not monitored, on a wrong assumption that groundwater which is the most used water source has a constant quality. High levels of iron, manganese, fluoride, arsenic, hardness, and salinity are common.
4. There is a water management knowledge gap at the district and community levels. Water provision, operation and maintenance is technical and involves application of complex technology and innovation which requires the use of qualified professionals. For instance, even when water quality tests are carried out, its interpretation is difficult for the districts and communities
5. Non- revenue water on rural piped water systems have increased steadily to between 45-60%, resulting in higher unit cost of production and water tariff. Effort is required to reduce this to the desired 10% maximum.
6. Inadequate accountability for revenue generated by WSMTs and Private Operators
7. Financing for post construction operation and maintenance is inadequate to guarantee regular monitoring, repairs and maintenance of the water systems by district assemblies and CWSA.
8. High indebtedness by community managed water systems to electricity companies has virtually made it impossible for the water systems to provide uninterrupted water delivery. In total, before CWSA’s intervention, 90 water systems nationwide owed an accumulated electricity bill of GHS 3,322,900.71 to VRA and ECG.
OBJECTIVES OF THE REFORM
The ultimate objective of the policy reforms is to transform CWSA into a utility service organization, having responsibility for the provision and management of small towns piped water supply systems while providing point water systems (boreholes fitted with hand pumps), in collaboration with the MMDAs. This is to ensure the delivery of quality, reliable and affordable water services to rural communities and small towns on sustainable basis.
The specific objectives of the reforms are as follows:
1. Professionalize the operation and management of piped water systems.
2. Improve on the operational efficiency of water systems.
3. Mobilize revenue from water system management for maintenance, expansion and construction of new facilities.
4. Increase water access towards meeting Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6.
5. Create decent jobs for unemployed water management professionals.
6. Apply appropriate technology to reduce non-revenue water.
7. Adopt state-of-the-art technology to address water quality challenges.
8. Create a support mechanism for sustained operation and maintenance of point water systems
9. Improve access to Sanitation and Hygiene Services to maximize health benefits.
ACHIEVEMENTS OF THE REFORM – AUGUST 2017 TO DATE
Since August 2017 to date, the CWSA has made modest achievements under the reform programme. These include the following:
1. Seventy-three (73) boreholes in twenty (20) piped systems have been cleaned, redeveloped, pump tested and water quality reassessed.
2. Contracts for cleaning, redevelopment, pumping test and water quality re-assessment of one hundred and thirty-two (132) boreholes in fifty-one (51) piped water systems have been signed and works on-going.
3. Twelve (12) pump houses for six (6) piped water systems have been reconstructed
4. Rehabilitation works on forty-four (44) pump houses for nine (9) piped systems have been completed
5. Procurement for rehabilitation works on sixteen (16) pump houses for six (6) piped water systems in the Ashanti region is on-going
6. Seventeen (17) piped water systems are currently under-going major rehabilitation
7. Four hundred and four (404) bulk meters have been installed to improve recording of production and distribution, and estimation of non-revenue water.
8. Five thousand five hundred and seventy (5,570) manual service meters have been installed to improve measurement of water consumption and revenue.
9. Two thousand, five hundred and thirty (2,530) prepaid household water meters are currently being deployed to twenty-three (23) piped water systems in six (6) regions
10. Thirty-five (35) packaged water treatment plants are currently being procured for twenty-six (26) piped water systems in seven (7) regions.
11. Procurement of HDPE and UPVC pipes for rehabilitation of pipelines for piped water systems is on-going
1. Eight hundred and thirty-four (834) professional staff made up of engineers, technician engineers, accountants, water safety specialist, revenue officers, community relations officers have been deployed
2. Two hundred and sixty-nine (269) auxiliary staff (who are mainly community members) to manage Piped Water Systems across the country.
WATER SAFETY MANAGEMENT
Water safety plans have been developed for ninety (90) piped water systems. Ghana can now provide data to WHO as part of its obligations towards the achievement of Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) 6.
IMMEDIATE OUTCOMES OF THE REFORMS.
1. Revenue from the sale of water has increased on all the water systems without a raise in tariff.
2. Efficiency in the operation and management of piped water systems has improved tremendously
3. Reporting and tracking of performance has improved significantly
4. Capacity for technical and financial audit of the water systems have improved due to employment of professionals
In conclusion, the best model for sustained water services delivery is the professionalization of the management of water systems, a shift from community management approach. This model will save the huge public investments in water infrastructure from deterioration and create a common pool of resources for the operation and maintenance of existing water supply systems and also provide new ones to communities with no access.
The Community Water and Sanitation Agency (CWSA) was established by an Act of Parliament 1998, Act 564 to facilitate the provision of water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) services to rural communities and small towns in Ghana. The Agency was mandated to implement the National Community Water and Sanitation Programme (NCWSP) which was launched in 1994 to speed up access of communities to WASH services. The key management model under the NCWSP is Community Ownership and Management (COM) Concept which involves the training and engagement of community members, who are non-professionals, to operate and manage the water supply systems. Since 1994, modest gains have been made in the provision of water, sanitation and hygiene services to rural communities and small towns. Access to water supply in rural communities and small towns in Ghana increased from a low 27% in the early 1990s to 62.13% in 2017.