The SDG 6 Target – is it for us all?
The SDG 6 targets achieving universal and equitable access to safe and affordable drinking water for all by 2030. This sets a higher bar, which requires innovative ways of addressing both the usual and unusual challenges affecting the water sector. Water Safety Planning (WSP) has been one of the approaches that, in the last decade, has come to attention as an effective way of improving water quality across the water delivery chain. TREND Group, with funding support from the SDG Philanthropy Platform, is implementing this idea in two communities in Assin South District (Adaddientem No. 2 and Achiase-Asamankese); to promote the concept of Water Safety Planning (WSP) as a key strategy for improving quality water service delivery in Ghana.
Why Water Safety Planning?
Water Safety Planning (WSP) promotes a participatory and comprehensive understanding of a water supply system and related risk assessment to determine plausible points of risk or contamination, coupled with the formulation and implementation of consistent mitigation measures and risk management procedures at all stages of the water delivery chain.
In Assin South District, TREND advanced WSP as a community-led approach to dealing with water quality challenges. Thus the Water System Management Teams (WSMTs) in the project communities who are responsible for the management of water supply at the service delivery level, were made to understand that it is their core responsibility to develop a Water Safety Plan and ensure its implementation. These ideas, other training engagements and participatory activities in the communities, changed the game altogether.
Introduction of WSP cancels Misconceptions about Water Quality
The WSP process in Assin South encouraged the participation of various groups of people within the community – Women, Men, Children, Water vendors, Traditional Leaders, Technicians, Local Government Staff, and other stakeholders. Each of the implementing communities had a WSMT responsible for the management of the water supply at the service delivery level. However, these teams admitted that they have not undertaken any water quality inspections or improvements on their water systems.
Water and Sanitation Management Teams (WSMT) have turned into a somewhat political structure in the communities, controlling the supply of water. However, they realized that WSP goes beyond just pumping water to various households, and agreed to the formation of WSP Teams. They now view the WSP Teams as an expanded WSMT platform which affords them the opportunity to collectively manage their water facilities and not a rivalry committee. The WSP Teams have become champions of water safety in the two communities.
In Adaddientem No.2, during the Water System Mapping exercise, it was revealed that one of the boreholes serving the Community had an excessive concentration of iron. The WSMT indicated that “they had seen the iron particles in the water but were told by a local technician that the iron in the water was good for their bones and as such having excess of it is actually a good thing”. This misconception was corrected, and the community is taking steps towards installing an iron removal plant.
As part of the WSP processes, there were District Staffs from the Environmental Health and Sanitation Unit, Community Development Department and the District Water and Sanitation Engineer who participated in the process and led the facilitation of the WSP Stages in the communities. One of the common issues that emerged in their engagements especially during the introduction of the WSP concept was that communities kept asking why the District Assembly or Donors cannot come in to monitor and ensure consistent improvements of their water systems – after all the DA and the Donor constructed the facilities. However, after going through the WSP Process, communities have embraced the essence of the community itself, consciously taking steps to track risks, manage, and finance improvements of their water system. WSP can be indeed advanced as a community-led approach to dealing with water quality challenges.
Interestingly, in Adaddientem No. 2, the boreholes in the community is not paid for. Community members were only required to pay if there was a breakdown. However, through the WSP Process, the WSP Team and the entire community realized their approach was not sustainable if they are to consistently monitor and track the water safety requirements for their boreholes. This situation has led to a rethink of the billing system in the operations of the boreholes.
Now that we are aware, let’s keep improving
This project seeks to "create an adaptable participatory model to standardized Water System Quality Control in rural, semi-Urban and small towns in Ghana". The participatory community engagement has created a sense of ownership among stakeholders in each community. The communities have embraced WSP as a communal approach to water safety management, which requires the full participation of all stakeholders. This component of WSP process is critical for the building of the necessary social networks and support for the implementation of WSP across the country. This process could also unearth overlooked or unknown community resources necessary for the delivery of safely managed water for all in rural Ghana.
Now that we are aware, let’s keep improving – perhaps WSP provides the antidote to meeting the SDG 6 targets.