Millions of people in towns and cities across Sub-Saharan Africa depend on groundwater day-to-day – but is it safe to drink? How can we measure the safety quickly, cheaply and accurately? In this RWSN-UPGro webinar, Dr Jenny Grönwall (SIWI/T-GroUP) and Dr Dan Lapworth (BGS) present the latest updates on their research into urban groundwater monitoring and use, and how it can be improved.
A UPGro paper has been published by Dr Jenny Grönwall (SIWI) and Dr Sampson Oduro-Kwarteng (KNUST) of the T-GroUP project, entitled “Groundwater as a strategic resource for improved resilience: a case study from peri-urban Accra”
Water insecurity is a growing concern globally, especially for developing countries, where a range of factors including urbanization are putting pressure on water provisioning systems.
The role of groundwater and aquifers in buffering the effects of climate variability is increasingly acknowledged, but it can only be fully realized with a more robust understanding of groundwater as a resource, and how use of it and dependency on it differ.
Accra, in Ghana, and its hinterland is a good example of an African city with chronic water shortages, where groundwater resources offer opportunities to improve resilience against recurring droughts and general water insecurity.
Based on a mixed-methods study of a peri-urban township, it was found that for end users, particularly poor urban households, resilience is an every-day matter of ensuring access from different sources, for different purposes, while attention to drinking water safety is falling behind.
Planners and decision makers should take their cue from how households have developed coping mechanisms by diversifying, and move away from the focus on large infrastructure and centralized water supply solutions.
Conjunctive use, managed aquifer recharge, and suitable treatment measures are vital to make groundwater a strategic resource on the urban agenda.
photo: Dr Grönwall
Poor urban dwellers tend to be disadvantaged in terms of public service delivery, often relying instead on groundwater through self-supply, but their specific needs and opportunities—and own level of responsibility—are seldom on the agenda. The Greater Accra Region of Ghana and the country as a whole serve to illustrate many interconnected aspects of urbanization, inadequate service provision, peri-urban dwellers’ conditions, private actors’ involvement and user preferences for packaged water.
Based on interviews and a household survey covering 300 respondents, this case study aims to provide insights into the water-related practices and preferences of residents in the peri-urban, largely unplanned township of Dodowa on the Accra Plains in Ghana and to discuss implications of low accountability and a complex governance landscape on the understanding of reliance on groundwater.
Self-sufficient from wells and boreholes until a distribution network expansion, Dodowa residents today take a “combinator approach” to access water from different sources. The findings suggest that piped water supplies just over half the population, while the District Assembly and individuals add ever-more groundwater abstraction points. Sachet water completes the picture of a low-income area that is comparatively well off in terms of water access. However, with parallel bodies tasked with water provisioning and governance, the reliance on wells and boreholes among poor (peri-) urban users has for long been lost in aggregate statistics, making those accountable unresponsive to strategic planning requirements for groundwater as a resource, and to those using it.
Dr. Jenny Grönwall, Programme Manager, SIWI, forms part of the T-GroUP consortium led by UNESCO-IHE and funded by the research programme Unlocking the potential of groundwater for the poor in Sub-Saharan Africa (UPGro). The project focuses on parts of Kampala (Uganda), Arusha (Tanzania), and Accra (Ghana) as examples of growing mixed urban areas in Sub-Saharan Africa, including poor people in slums, who depend on groundwater.
Self-supply and accountability: to govern or not to govern groundwater for the (peri-) urban poor in Accra, Ghana. Available with Open Access from Environmental Earth Sciences, 75(16), 1-10.