fbpx

Groundwater: Strategic resource

BY: Emelia Ennin Abbey
Dr. Olufunke Cofie (2nd from right), Country Representative Ghana and West Africa, International Water Management Institute, continues to advocate for detailed studies on ground water availability and quantity. Picture: EDNA SALVO-KOTEY
Dr. Olufunke Cofie (2nd from right), Country Representative Ghana and West Africa, International Water Management Institute, continues to advocate for detailed studies on ground water availability and quantity. Picture: EDNA SALVO-KOTEY

Hajia Rashida Komba, is a 51-year -old porridge seller at Ablekuma-Manhean in the Ga West District.

Her porridge business requires the use of a lot of water, yet the community in which she lives has no access to potable water supply from the Ghana Water Company Limited (GWCL), leaving most residents to find their own access to water.

As a result, most households either depend on dug/drilled boreholes or the services of water tankers.

The tankers charge between GH¢120 and GH¢200 for a tanker with the capacity of 1000 gallons and between GH¢80 and GH¢150 for a tanker with the capacity of 600 gallons.

For Hajia Rashida, as she is affectionately called by her customers and neighbours, she had to stop buying water from tankers as what they supplied was never enough for her business and other domestic chores. It was expensive and those supplying were not reliable.

One of her neighbours who had a borehole in his house introduced her to someone who drilled boreholes and after parting with GH¢2,000, the men got to work and in a week, the borehole was ready.

Challenges

Hajia confessed she counted herself "a lucky woman, as water keeps flowing from my borehole”.

But soon, she started experiencing challenges with the quality of the water from the borehole. She realised that “the water is hard, salty and can not lather when used to wash.”

She also found out that the water from the boreholes of some of her neighbours contained lead and was not good for consumption.

Groundwater

In Ghana, rural water supply is almost exclusively provided through groundwater exploitation, mainly through boreholes.

Groundwater is a major source of fresh water and it is used for domestic, agricultural and other productive purposes.

Groundwater is mainly for domestic use in Ghana and it is estimated to contribute about 62 per cent of the total water requirement of Ghana.

It is obtained from a variety of hard rock units, comprising basement complex systems and varying Neoproterozoic sedimentary rock types and, therefore, have varying hydrogeological characteristics.

Day

On March 22, 2022, Ghana joined the world to commemorate the 2022 World Water day.

This year's celebration was themed "Groundwater: making the invisible visible," and aimed at drawing attention to the hidden water resource that has always been critically important, but not fully recognised in sustainable development policymaking.

The International Water Management Institute (IWMI) Representative for Ghana and West Africa, Dr Olufunke Cofie, says as population grows, the number of people relying on groundwater for domestic supply and livelihood opportunities also increases with direct competition over groundwater usage to grow food to feed people and to support other ecosystem services.

Water from wells have to be tested in laboratories because they may look clean and clear, but might have harmful chemicals

According to her, studies showed that groundwater in Ghana was of good quality, although there were localised pollution due to high levels of iron, fluoride and other minerals and cases of high salinity in some coastal areas.

According to Dr Cofie, there were uncertainties in knowledge about groundwater recharge in the country, therefore, there was the need for detailed studies on it, its availability, quantity variations over time due to natural variability and abstraction.

Seek expert advice

The Water Resources Commission (WRC) is responsible for the management of groundwater and surface water, dam safety, managing the impact of flooding in communities, as well as managing water resources to prevent drought.

The Head of Planning at the WRC, Dr Bob Alpha said, “Ghana has good quality groundwater across the country, yet only about five per cent of the available groundwater is extracted and used in the country.”

"Groundwater is a very important resource for this country and we need to have knowledge about how to use it and how to protect it," he said.

Dr Alpha is worried that in most cases, drilling and digging of wells is done with little to no expert advice.

This development, he said, made it impossible for the quality of the water from these boreholes to be known to the communities.

Moreover, without expert advice, wells or boreholes may be drilled in areas heavily polluted, which can contribute to their contamination.

Arrowed: A water drilling machine. The public is encouraged to engaging the services of licensed water drilling companies.

He cautioned the public against engaging the services of unlicensed water drilling companies to drill water wells for them.

That was because licensed water drilling companies undergo processes to ensure they have the expertise and use approved equipment for drilling water in an environmentally friendly manner and the water is safe for use.

He, therefore urged individuals, corporate organisations and Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs), who drill or intend to undertake water prospecting and drilling to contract only drilling companies duly licensed by the commission, since it is an offence to engage unlicensed drillers.

He said well owners were also required by law to register their boreholes with the commission for the effective management and sustainable utilisation of groundwater resources in Ghana.

"Last year, the commission, in collaboration with the police, undertook an operation across the country where a number of companies were arrested, their rigs impounded and fined up to GH¢60,000 before their rigs were released to them. And this has served as a deterrent to illegal operators,” Dr Alpha said.

He said as of the end of 2021, more than 200 companies had been registered and licensed by the commission.

Testing

The Head of Ground Water Division of the Centre for Scientific and Industrial Research, Water Research Institute (CSIR-WRI), Dr Anthony Duah, advised the public to get the quality of water from boreholes or wells tested by a lab.

“This is important because the water may look clean and clear, but it may have qualities that may be harmful," he said.

He said it was important to protect groundwater because it provided almost 50 per cent of drinking water worldwide, 40 per cent of water for irrigation worldwide and sustained biodiversity and terrestrial ecosystems such as wetlands and rivers.

Groundwater, he pointed out, was a strategic resource for climate change adaptation and critical to achieving the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6, which is aimed at ensuring water and sanitation for all by 2030.

He said groundwater was invisible, but its impact was visible on all aspects of life and that its over-exploitation could lead to land instability and eventual depletion of the resource.