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Rainwater harvesting in the peri-urban areas

of Accra: status and prospects

Anna Lundgren and Hanna Åkerberg


Associate Professor Jan-Erik Gustafsson


Dr. Nandita Singh

Department of Land and Water Resources Engineering,
Royal Institute of Technology
Stockholm, Sweden


Dr. John E. Koku

Department of Geography and Resources Development,
University of Ghana, Legon, Accra, Ghana

Stockholm 2006

Cover photo – Waterfall area in the Ho District, 2006, Anna Lundgren.

TRITA – LWR Master Thesis

ISSN 1651-064X
We would like to thank SIDA, for the scholarship we received through the Linneus-Palme
foundation, for giving us the opportunity to travel to Ghana to conduct this Master’s Thesis.
We also would like to thank our head supervisors Nandita Singh and Jan-Erik Gustafsson, at
the Department of Land and Water Resources Engineering at the Royal Technical College of
Stockholm, for their dedication and for supporting us throughout the work with valuable and
useful advice. From the University of Ghana we would especially like to thank Dr. John E.
Koku at the Department of Geography and Resources Development who spent numerous
hours helping us with the thesis. Besides those we would also like to thank Marshall Kala,
Vida Puplampu, Afia Acheampong, Berit Balfors, Prof. Gunnar Jacks, Johnny Nyametso and
several more persons without whose help the conduction of the thesis would have never been


Water is vital to every human community and is an essential resource for economic
development, agricultural productivity, industrial growth and above all human well-being.
The availability of a clean, safe and secure water source has been and will always be a major
concern for human populations. Access to adequate fresh water is in this area scarce, yet
crucial for the survival of the inhabitants. The appropriateness of rainwater harvesting as a
possible and inexpensive alternative to more traditional water resources is discussed by
scientists and researchers all over the world. Rainwater harvesting appears to be a promising
alternative for supplying fresh water in the face of increasing water scarcity and escalating
water demand in Ghana. The main objective with this study is to see if there is possible to
implement or develop already existing Domestic Rainwater Harvesting (DRWH) in the peri-
urban areas of Accra in a social, economical and technical aspect. The primary source of
information has been data collected through a questionnaire survey performed in Abokobi,
Adjako, Medie and Pokuase, all four located in the Greater Accra Metropolitan Area, and
interviews with three different stakeholders in the water sector. The secondary source has
been data collected from relevant literature (articles, books etc.). Finally the data collected
have been analysed through the software SPSS – Statistical Programme for Social Science
and the Microsoft software Excel. The main conclusions are that the peri-urban areas of Accra
are appropriate for DRWH, but only as a complementary source of water supply, and there is
today an existing conflict between the stakeholders in charge and the consumers. This
technique of collecting water is not considered safe enough from the side of the institution in
the water sector and therefore they do not put any money into it meanwhile the people use
rainwater when available and in many cases prefer it comparing to other existing water

Keywords: Domestic rainwater harvesting (DRWH), alternative water source, Ghana,

sustainable water management.

Table of contents

ABSTRACT ...................................................................................................................................................... - 3 -
GLOSSARY AND ABBREVIATIONS .................................................................................................................... - 5 -
1. INTRODUCTION ............................................................................................................................................ - 6 -
1.1 Background..........................................................................................................................................- 6 -
1.2 Aims of the study..................................................................................................................................- 9 -
1.3 Objectives ............................................................................................................................................- 9 -
1.4 Methodology ......................................................................................................................................- 10 -
1.5 Limitations.........................................................................................................................................- 11 -
2.1 Climate ..............................................................................................................................................- 13 -
2.2 Hydrography......................................................................................................................................- 13 -
2.3 Water management – stakeholders, institutions and government......................................................- 14 -
2.3.1 The development of the water sector of Ghana ...........................................................................................- 19 -
2.3.2 Regional Planning and Water Management in GAMA ...............................................................................- 22 -
3. RAINWATER HARVESTING (RWH) ............................................................................................................ - 25 -
3.1 Introduction to Domestic Roof Water Harvesting (DRWH) ..............................................................- 25 -
3.2 Harvested Rainwater Quality vs. Health Issues ................................................................................- 33 -
3.3 Results of water sampling and analysis.............................................................................................- 37 -
3.4 Opinions of local stakeholders on DRWH.........................................................................................- 37 -
3.5 Existing DRWH techniques in the peri-urban areas of Accra ...........................................................- 38 -
3.5.1 Results of the questionnaire survey .............................................................................................................- 38 -
4. ECONOMIC VIABILITY – COST BENEFIT ANALYSIS ..................................................................................... - 44 -
5. GENDER DIMENSIONS IN DRWH ............................................................................................................... - 46 -
6. SOCIAL AND TECHNICAL ACCEPTABILITY AND LIVELIHOOD ISSUES ........................................................... - 49 -
6.1 Technical and social assessments......................................................................................................- 49 -
6.2 Livelihood benefits.............................................................................................................................- 51 -
7. INDIGENOUS KNOWLEDGE AND THE IMPORTANCE OF PUBLIC PARTICIPATION ........................................... - 52 -
7.1 Indigenous knowledge (IK)................................................................................................................- 52 -
7.1.1 Public participation – knowledge, education, training.................................................................................- 52 -
8. CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS .................................................................................................. - 54 -
8.1 Conclusions .......................................................................................................................................- 54 -
8.2 Hypothesis .........................................................................................................................................- 57 -
8.3 Recommendations..............................................................................................................................- 58 -
REFERENCES ................................................................................................................................................. - 60 -
APPENDIX 1................................................................................................................................................... - 64 -
APPENDIX 2................................................................................................................................................... - 65 -
APPENDIX 3................................................................................................................................................... - 66 -
APPENDIX 4................................................................................................................................................... - 67 -
APPENDIX 5................................................................................................................................................... - 68 -
APPENDIX 6................................................................................................................................................... - 74 -

Glossary and abbreviations

CWSA - Community Water and Sanitation Agency

DA - District Assemblies
DO - dissolved oxygen
DRWH - Domestic rainwater harvesting
Formal DRWH - where at least 400 litres storage tank is installed.
Informal DRWH - where minimal but permanent storage is employed.
Opportunist DRWH - where no permanent equipment is employed.
EPA - Environmental Protection Agency
ESA - External Support Agency
FCs - Faecal Coliforms. Bacteria originated from the faeces of
humans and warm-blooded animals in addition found in soils
and other natural sources.
GAMA - Greater Accra Metropolitan Area
GoG - Government of Ghana
GWCL - Ghana Water Company Limited
IK - Indigenous knowledge
IWRM - Integrated Water Resources Management
MDG - Millennium Development Goal
MES - Ministry of Environment and Science
MLGRD - Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development
MOH - Ministry of Health
MWH - Ministry of Works and Housing
NGO - Non Governmental Organisation
NTU - Nephelometric Turbidity Units
pH - Potential of Hydrogen: the logarithm of the reciprocal of
hydrogen-ion concentration in gram atoms per litre.
PRSP - Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper
PURC - Public Utility Regulatory Commission
RWH - Rainwater harvesting
SIDA - Sweden International Development Agency
SPSS - Statistical Programme for Social Science
TOC - Total organic concentration
Total N - total amount of nitrogen
Total P - total amount of phosphor
UN - United Nations
WATSAN - Water and Sanitation Agencies
WHO - World Health Organisation
WRC - Water Resources Commission
WRI - Water Research Institute
WSDB - Water and Sanitation Development Boards

1. Introduction

1.1 Background
The water situation in many developing countries is grim and water scarcity is recognized as
one of the root causes of poverty. Currently, more than one billion people globally do not
have access to adequate volumes of clean drinking water 1 . Water is the key factor in changing
the fundamental conditions for the existence and development of the poor areas. A supply of
water, which is easily available, potable and affordable, is also a prerequisite to good hygiene
and sanitation and hence central to the general welfare of a household and its members.
Several different factors are related to insufficient water supply; for example divisions in
wealth, class and socio-economic status, correlated with the degree of planning and provision
of adequate infrastructure. In the northern parts of Ghana there is one dry and one wet season
per year, and in the south and southwest parts of the country four separate seasons occur. As a
result availability, quantity and quality of water are subject to severe variations.

Figure 1. Residential areas in the Greater Accra Metropolitan Area (Yankson et. al, 2004).

The Greater Accra Metropolitan Area (GAMA) (see Figure 1) ranks as the largest
metropolitan area in Ghana with a population that is steadily growing. Population growth
impacts water demand in several ways. The demand of water for drinking and sanitation
purposes increases proportionally with population growth. Among the more serious
environmental problems in the GAMA area are waste accumulation and lack of adequate and
safe water supply. There will also be exponential growth in the demand of water to assimilate
pollution of water bodies in the city and in the peri-urban fringes. The accumulation of waste

Brett Martinson, Thomas (2003)

and the disposal problem has led to surface water bodies being the receptacles of such waste,
leading to the pollution and their gradual extinction. Furthermore, economic conditions and
poverty rates are two important parameters that can significantly impact water use practises
and patterns. Economic growth increases the demand for a wide variety of environmental
services related to water.

Poor Low Food Excessive Uprooting

education income insecurity reclamation straws

Backward culture Low and unstable Mono-structure Environment

level productivity agriculture deterioration

Land Water scarcity Soil erosion and vegetation

degradation deterioration

Water Water resources

insecurity deterioration

Figure 2. Flow chart of vicious circle of water, land and environment (Zhu, Qiang, 2003).

Poor households in this area typically experience severe health problems, for example:
inadequate potable water supply, unsanitary conditions, insect infestations, poor waste
disposal, crowding and shelter poverty 2 . Those environmental problems generate the greatest
immediate health impact in terms of infectious and communicable diseases; among the more
common ones we find malaria, upper respiratory tract infection, diarrhoea and skin diseases 3 .
As shown in Figure 2 water is the most important part in the vicious circle created in many
parts of underdeveloped countries, including Ghana. Several of these environmental problems
could be mitigated with an adequate water supply, combined with policy changes and proper

In this context water scarcity is not described as the absence of available water, but the lack of
sufficient amounts of clean and safe water. Water scarceness is a problem that does not

Songsore (2002)
Songsore (2002)

equally affect a population as a whole, but rather tends to affect more profoundly the most
vulnerable. Vulnerability can be defined as the result of a combination of social, political and
economical factors. In order to mitigate the problems of livelihood and wellbeing that water
scarcity (in the context of clean water) might be the cause of, research on supplementary
water resources is required.

Rainwater harvesting can possibly be one of the solutions for the most vulnerable segment of
society in terms of water supply. Past experiences show that rainwater harvesting techniques
is an innovative approach for the integrated and sustainable development of the poorer
areas, and where it is viable, it can be considered realistic to mainstream rainwater harvesting
in the integrated water resources management 4 . Rainwater collection can be thought of as
involving a system whose components are identified as catchment surfaces, conveyance
systems and storage tanks. Moreover, most components in this system must have associated
means of protection against such hazards as contamination of water and mosquito breeding.
Rainwater harvesting is an appropriate technology for GAMA since rain is relatively
abundant in the region, despite the fact that it is not well distributed over time. When rain is
adequately harvested, it can be sufficient to fulfil the needs of households during critical
periods of drought. A storage tank with the capacity to hold 16 000 litres can provide a good
complementary supply to other available water sources for the consumption of a family with
five individuals during a period of 10 to 12 months 5 . It would contribute with 8 to 10 litres
per person per day, which is half of the recommended ideal per capita consumption per day
(20 to 25 litres/day/person) 6 . The availability of water through a cistern also liberates women
and children from walking long distances to fetch water. Furthermore, access to harvested
rainwater protects the family members against illnesses related to waterborne diseases through
consumption of contaminated surface water.

The aim of this study is to contribute to the preservation, access to and management of water
as a human right and a requirement of every citizen. One significant part is to especially stress
the importance of education as the basis for all actions. The specific objectives are as shown
in section 1.3 to study and evaluate the situation in the peri-urban areas of Accra in terms of
water scarcity and the appropriateness of possible implementation of domestic rainwater

Zhu, Qiang (2003)
Branco, Suassuna, Vainsencher (2005)
Mensah (1998)

1.2 Aims of the study
This study aims to examine the status of the water supply situation in the peri-urban areas of
Accra, the extent of rainwater use and if these areas really are suitable for the implementation
of formal (or informal) domestic rainwater harvesting (DRWH)?

1.3 Objectives
i. To evaluate the appropriateness of domestic rainwater harvesting techniques in the
peri-urban areas of Accra. - How does DRWH fit in with existing patterns and what
are the preferences of water collection and use in the community?
ii. To evaluate what socio-economic and technical factors influence the adoption and
sustained use of DRWH systems at the household level?

The objectives will be reached trough studying the following topics:

• The different domestic rainwater harvesting (DRWH) – techniques.

• The current structure of stakeholders and institutions operating in the water sector.
• The water resource situation in Greater Accra Metropolitan Area (GAMA).
• Examine existing domestic rainwater harvesting techniques in the areas of Abokobi,
Adjako, Medie and Pokuase.
o Is the implementation of DRWH technically feasible in these areas?
o What are the prerequisites (available materials, existing constructions and
climate) for successful implementation of DRWH?
o What type of maintenance is feasible and necessary to sustain a required
minimum level of water quality?
o How effective are the current DRWH-systems?

• Examine the importance of public participation in water management of the

o How much information and to what extent are the inhabitants in these areas
involved in the present water management?

• Assess what opportunities of limiting the burden of women in the provision of water
supply through DRWH - To what extent do gender roles influence the adoption and
sustained use of DRWH systems at the household level?
• Suggest strategies for ensuring sustainable water supply through domestic rainwater

1.4 Methodology
Overall methods:
The overall research method is based on an interdisciplinary and integrated approach divided
into two main interactive phases. A literature review and a case study including fieldwork in
Accra, Ghana. Secondary sources consist of literature studies of published material and data
from scientific journals in the area of interest. Primary sources include data collected through
an interview schedule, using a formal questionnaire as the main research instrument. The
interviews comprised in total 80 respondents in an equal amount of households in the areas of
Abokobi, Adjako, Medie and Pokuase in the peri-urban areas of Accra. These sites were
selected due to the high amount of households there, which use the DRWH-technique in an
informal or formal way. The interviews were assisted by two persons with knowledge of the
local language and customs. The questionnaire survey was constructed with aim to answer the
under objectives stated in section 1.3. The interviewed households were selected randomly
but only if they were already using rainwater as part of the household water supply. The
collected data were revised and analysed through the computer based Statistical Programme
for Social Science (SPSS) and the results are presented in section 3.5.

In addition, relevant local and national water agency professionals were interviewed.
Interviews were carried out at Water Aid which is a NGO working in Ghana with financial
and technical support through local organisations to implement projects within the water and
sanitation area. Furthermore, the Community Water and Sanitation Agency (CWSA) who are
responsible for the supply of water and sanitation issues in the rural areas of Ghana was
visited. The final interview was carried out at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
who regulates and enforces environmental quality laws, as well as policies and regulations
relating to the control of pollution of water resources. The CWSA and the Environmental
Protection Agency (EPA) were both chosen due to recommendations from our supervisor Dr.
John Koku from the University of Ghana. Subsequently it was Mrs Muhammed at CWSA
who recommended us to visit Water Aid.

Water sampling:
All water samples were put in pre-washed polyethene bottles. Prior to sampling the bottles
were washed with the water to be sampled. Five samples were collected in total and analysed
for negative ions, positive ions, conductivity and alkalinity. The results can be found in
section 3.3.

Questionnaire survey:
The existing domestic rainwater harvesting techniques in the peri-urban areas of Accra were
examined through a sample selection and data collection. To effectively implement a new
water source in a sustainable way requires not only knowledge of existing water sources but
also information of consumption habits and strategies of the affected persons in their everyday
situations. In order to examine existing DRWH techniques and the overall opinion on
rainwater in the peri-urban areas of Accra data was collected through an interview schedule,
using a formal questionnaire as the main research instrument. Additionally, market visits and
direct observations were conducted in all four locations.

In-depth interviews were performed at four different communities in the peri-urban areas of
Accra, where DRWH is frequently used; Abokobi, Adjako, Pokuase and Medie.

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• 20 questionnaires were distributed at each location.
• 80 respondents were interviewed in total, preferably female since the women often
have the overall responsibility for the water supply of the household.

For the complete set of questions answered see Appendix 5. Some of the questions in the
survey turned out to be superfluous and irrelevant. For example question number 12 where
time spent daily fetching water was asked; no one could estimate this since the answer
depends largely on season, number of household members present, queuing time etc. Question
number 16 about maintenance of the DRWH-system was also beside the point since these
chores are more or less ignored and considered unnecessary by the majority of the
respondents. Question number 20 concerned invested money on the DRWH-system could
only be answered by very few since most of the systems were constructed by members of the
household with readily available materials. We also asked if the interviewees would
recommend DRWH to other household which was completely unnecessary since nearly
everyone already practises formal or informal rainwater harvesting.

1.5 Limitations
The limitations of this research can be described as numerous. First of all, the time constraints
and the ineffectiveness with which things are dealt with in Ghana pose severe problems to the
progress of research. Also, the limited amount of available resources such as financial assets
and technical equipment gave us serious problems throughout the field work and the
subsequent evaluation of collected data.

Water sampling:
The water samples were fetched in small plastic bottles with a volume of 50 ml. The small
water volumes may have affected the result of the analysis, since the samples may not have
been representative for the complete water volume. The volume has also been a limiting
factor in terms of possible number of analysis done, since the bottles were so small no pH-
study has been carried out. The samples were kept at a temperature above 30° C. This,
combined with the fact that nearly 30 days passed before the samples were analysed may have
affected the quality of the result.

Further research:
Further research within the water quality area is absolutely necessary given the present poor
knowledge and interest in appropriate measures taken towards improved quality in harvested
rainwater. Additionally, more emphasis should be put on investigation of the institutional
network to identify which organisation has the ultimate responsibility for water management
in the peri-urban areas of Accra. It would also be interesting to conduct a complete economic
evaluation of the possibilities to provide materials and parts for the implementation of
sustainable DRWH-system. What different alternatives are available? What organisation or
institute could contribute with economic aid such as subsidies for the most destitute
inhabitants? Another area of interest could be focus group discussions to pinpoint the views
and interests of the inhabitants of the specific study area since the importance of public
participation cannot be emphasized enough.

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2. Ghana
Ghana is situated in West
Africa bordering the Gulf of
Guinea, in between Burkina
Faso, Togo and Côte d’Ivoire
(see Figure 3). It was the
first sub-Saharan country in
old colonial Africa to gain its
independence in 1957. It is
formed from the merger of
the British colony of the
Gold Coast and the Togoland
trust territory. The population
of Ghana increased over the
period 1990 to 2000 from
15,5 million to 19,8 million.
Population density is
currently 90 inhabitants/km2
nationwide 7 . Projections
indicate that the population is
likely to reach 27 millions by
2010, and 33,7 millions by
the year 2020. The
population can be described
as a young: the 2004 census,
as described in Table 1,
showed that the life
expectancy of the population
Figure 3. A map over Ghana (Boateng, 02/11/2002) is 54 years.

Key Country Characteristics:

Table 1. Key Country Characteristics (The World Bank Group, 2005).

Year 2004
Population 21,1 millions
Average annual growth of population 1,8%
Poverty rate 40%
Life expectancy 54 years
Infant mortality 59‰
Literacy (age 15+) 54%
GDP 8,6 US$ billions

Aquastat - FAO (2005)

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2.1 Climate
The climate in Ghana is defined as
tropical basically due to the proximity
to equator and the absence of high
altitude areas. The warm and humid
climate of the country has a mean
annual temperature between 26 and
29 °C. The movement and interaction
of the dry tropical continental air
mass, also called the Harmattan wind,
which blows from the northeast
across the Sahara, and the opposing
tropical maritime equatorial system
heavily influence and give rise to
variations in the key elements of
temperature, rainfall, and humidity
that govern the climate. The cycle of
the seasons follows the movement of
the sun back and forth across the
equator. To its north, two distinct
seasons occur. The harmattan season
from November to late March, is
followed by a wet period that reaches
Figure 4. Annual rainfall (FAO, 2004). its peak in late August or September. To the
south and southwest four separate seasons
occur. Heavy rains fall from about April through late June. After a relatively short dry period
in August, another rainy season begins in September and lasts through November, before the
longer harmattan season sets in to complete the cycle. 8 As shown in Figure 4, rainfall in
Ghana generally decreases from south to north. The wettest area is the extreme southwest
where annual rainfall is over 2 000 mm. The driest areas are in the extreme north and in the
area around Accra where the annual rainfalls are less than 1 000 mm.

2.2 Hydrography
Surface water resources:
Ghana is comparatively well endowed with surface water resources, but there is high
irregularity in the amount of available water within the year and over several years. The Volta
Lake covers approximately 8 482 km2. About 70% of the total land area of Ghana is drained
by the Volta River system through a number of smaller rivers and streams flowing directly
into the sea. These rivers are utilised for abstraction of drinking water, fishing plus for
agricultural and industrial purposes. The total annual runoff for the country is 54,4 billion m3
of which 38,3 billion m3 is accounted for by the Volta River. Even though plenty of water is
available, the surface water bodies in Ghana generally experience high levels of pollution,
particularly where they are located near human settlements, industrial (including mining)
estates and agricultural activities.

U.S Library of Congress (2005)

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Groundwater resources: 9
Groundwater occurs primarily in the following formations:
• The Voltaian formation which has little or no primary porosity and hence groundwater
occurrence is primarily related to the development of secondary porosity caused by
fracturing, shearing, jointing and weathering. The groundwater yields in the Voltaian
formation seldom exceed 6 m3/h.
• The Cenozoic and Mesozoic sediments take place mainly in the extreme south-eastern
and western parts of the country. Three aquifers occur in this formation:
o The first aquifer is unconfined and is situated in the Recent Sand very close to
the coast. It contains meteoric water and is between 2 and 4 m deep.
o The intermediate aquifer is either confined or semi-confined and occurs
primarily in the Red Continental Deposits of sand clay and gravel with depth
variations from 6 to 120 m.
o The third aquifer is formed in the limestone and its depth varies between 120
and 300 m. The groundwater in this aquifer is fresh and arises under artesian
conditions. The average yield in this aquifer is approximately 184 m3/h.

Water use:
The main consumptive water uses in Ghana are for industrial, irrigation and domestic
purposes. In the year 2000, circa 652 million m3 were withdrawn for irrigation (66%), 235
million m3 for domestic purposes (24%) and 95 million m3 for the industry (10%), giving an
overall water withdrawal of 982 million m3. Current water use for hydroelectricity generation
something that occurs only at the Akosombo Dam, which is non-consumptive water use, is 37
843 km3/yr. The main water supply sources in the country are surface water bodies and
groundwater. Groundwater is generally drawn from boreholes in most rural areas. In 2000,
95% of the withdrawal for urban supply was from surface water and the remaining 5% from
groundwater. Declining groundwater levels have been observed in the rural areas of the Upper
Regions where over 2 000 boreholes have been drilled since the mid-1970s to provide potable
water to communities 10 .

2.3 Water management – stakeholders, institutions and government

Numerous attempts to reform the water sector has been an ongoing project since Ghana
gained its independence in 1957. These efforts have failed mainly because of economical
reasons. Hence, a large proportion of the Ghanaian population still lacks access to adequate
quantities of safe water (21% of the total population in 2004) 11 . The current reformation of
the water sector was initiated in the nineties as part of Ghana’s poverty reduction strategy 12 .
Its goal is to reach a society where the whole population has access to basic social services
such as health care, potable drinking water, decent housing, security from crime and violence,
and the ability to participate in decisions that affect their own lives. The water reform includes
the creation of a new water sector policy, re-management of the sector agencies and
administration, delegation of responsibilities to districts and communities and a higher degree
of the involvement of the private sector. The stakeholders that are involved 13 in the water
Aquastat - FAO (2005)
Aquastat - FAO (2005)
UNSD (2006)
ACP-EU Water Facility (2005)
ACP-EU Water Facility (2005)

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sector and their responsibilities can be found below. Figure 5 gives a brief visual overview of
the stakeholders at national, regional and district level.

Stakeholders at national and regional level:

The Ministry of Works and Housing (MWH) is in charge of creation of policies in the water
sector and coordination between them. Other responsibility areas for the MWH are to seek
funding from external support agencies, monitor the water activities regarding supply and
sanitation sector, and advising the cabinet on water and sanitation issues. A Water Directorate
was set up in 2004 14 within the MWH. Its responsibilities are to coordinate the water sector
policy and develop an updated overall water sector policy.

The Ministry of Environment and Science (MES) was established in 1994 when the former
Ministries of Environment, Science and Technology were merged. Its goal is to mitigate
negative impacts on the environment, due to the growth and development of the nation,
through formulating policies where they include appropriate science and technology for a
sustainable environment in Ghana.

The Ministry of Health (MOH) is responsible for improving the health of the population of
Ghana. Its part in water issues is health education in water related hygiene; they have for
example employees working in the Regional and District Water and Sanitation Teams

The Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development (MLGRD) is responsible for
supervision of the District Assemblies, District Water and Sanitation Teams and District
Environmental Health Units, which operate under the District Assemblies.

The Water Resources Commission (WRC) is the main institution involved in regulation and
management of the water bodies in Ghana. This institution was formed in 1996 when the
Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM, see section 2.3.1) guidelines were
implemented with support from several international donors (the Canadian international
development agency (CIDA), the Danish international development assistance (DANIDA),
the British department for international development (DFID), the German technical
cooperation (GTZ), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the World Bank).
Prior to this date, the management of the country’s water resources was fragmented among
various institutions with no clear policy deciding who was in control. Additionally, the
commission grants water rights for abstraction and wastewater discharges. The WRC consists
of technical representatives from all the main stakeholders that work with the development
and the use of the water resources of the country (i.e. Hydrological Services, Water Supply,
Irrigation Development, Water Research, and Environmental Protection).

The Ghana Water Company Limited (GWCL) is the result of the reformation of the urban
department of the Ghana Water and Sewerage Corporation (GWSC) as one of many steps for
introducing the private sector to the management and operation of urban water supply
systems. The GWCL exercises management over water sources that are abstracted for

Danida (2003)

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treatment and subsequent distribution to consumers in the urban areas. At present the GWCL
controls approximately 80 different water schemes in Ghana 15 .

The Community Water and Sanitation Agency (CWSA) was set up in 1994 by an Act of
Parliament from the former rural department of the GWSC. The CWSA is responsible for
water supply and sanitation to rural areas of Ghana, including small towns, basically where
the GWCL do not supply the communities with piped water 16 . The CWSA has a Regional
Water Supply and Sanitation Team in each of Ghana’s 10 regions, all of them are coordinated
from the Accra headquarter. Up to now these regional teams have focused more on water
supply than on sanitation.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulates and enforces environmental quality
laws, as well as policies and regulations relating to control of pollution of water resources 17 .
The agency for example maintains and enforces standards for wastewater discharge into water
bodies. It also ensures, through the concept of Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) that
negative impact of development projects are reduced through the monitoring of the
companies’ mitigation plans. They are also responsible for water quality monitoring. They
work in close alliance with the WRC on all water related issues.

The Water Research Institute (WRI) was formed in 1996 and has mandate to conduct research
into water and water related resources. The institute generates and provides scientific
information, strategies and services to the development, utilization and management of
Ghana’s water resources. Among other things the WRI carry out investiagations on
groundwater in terms of availability, quality and quantity. It also does research on
hydrometerological and hydrological data for the planning of irrigation and rainwater
harvesting techniques etc.

The Public Utility Regulatory Commission (PURC) is an independent body established in

1997 to regulate and supervise the provision of utility services. The main function of the
commission is to inspect and agree on tariffs for supply of the different utility services (water,
electricity, gas) in the urban areas. The aim of the PURC is to guarantee the best interests for
the consumers and at the same time maintain the balance between tariff levels and investment,
operation and maintenance costs of the utility services that will encourage private sector
participation in provision of these services.

The External Support Agencies (ESAs) finance different aspects of the project management
cycle as well as related technical assistance. The ESAs include donors as well as NGOs. The
financing does not always consists of economical funds, some of the ESAs provide for
example education and assistance concerning management either during parts or under the
whole lifecycle of a project (for example well construction). The main ESAs within the water
supply sector in Ghana are the World Bank, the EC Delegation, the Danish international
development assistance DANIDA, the French development agency AFD, the German
International Development Bank KfW, the Canadian international development agency
CIDA, the World Vision, Water Aid and Action Aid.

ACP-EU Water Facility (2005)
Muhammed Andani (2006)
The public affairs unit of Ministry of environment and science (2005)

- 16 -
Stakeholders at district level:
The Water and Sanitation Development Boards (WSDBs) and the Water and Sanitation
Agencies (WATSANs) are responsible for control and maintenance of the water and
sanitation facilities in small towns (with 3 000 to 20 000 inhabitants) and small villages
(below 3 000 inhabitants) respectively. They organize the hygiene and environmental
education. The WSDBs/WATSANs receive their mandate from the District Assemblies
(DAs). The WSDBs and the WATSANs charge a tariff which is regulated to some extent by
the DAs. The tariff collected should cover the operation and management costs and also allow
the WSDB/WATSAN to save some money for future projects; upgrading, reparations or
extension of service level. Some of the WSDBs/WATSANs may contract the private sector
for repair and maintenance and/or to operate the system on their behalf. The
WSDB/WATSAN is made up of a chairman, a treasurer, a secretary, and a women leader,
who is in charge of water point cleanliness and is the caretaker of the facility.

Private operators and operation staff of the WSDB/WATSAN are the ones carrying out the
day to day work (operation and maintenance) of the water supply system. This includes
financial management (billing and fee collection), regular reporting to the
WSDBs/WATSANs and the DAs, management of staff and vendors, preparing plans and
budget for approval and internal monitoring.

District Assemblies (DAs) are owners of the water supply system and responsible for
monitoring the sanitation and the WATSAN Committee operating within their district. The
DAs as well agree to fees, larger system extensions, budgets, work plans and periodic reports
proposed by the WATSAN Committees.

Communities/consumers are the main beneficiaries of water and sanitation utilities. Their
responsibilities are connected with the utilization of the water and sanitation facilities. The
majority of the obligations that are laid upon the citizens are associated with using the
facilities properly, with other words not to be careless when handling it. Below are a number
of their commitments listed:
− Pay for the operation and maintenance fees.
− Use the facilities carefully, as well keep the surroundings clean.
− Keep the environment of the water and sanitation facilities clean, and use the facilities
with awareness.
− Maintain water containers clean and ensure safe transport and storage of the water.
− Sustain a clean and hygienic home environment.

- 17 -
Institutional Network at National and Regional Level

External Support
M. of Env, Science Ministry of Works
Agencies (ESAs)
& Techn. (MEST) & Housing (MWH)

Environm. Water &

Protection Resource
Agency (EPA) Institute (WRI)

Water Resource

Urban Rural
Ghana Water Com. Water &
sector Company Limited Sanitation Agency sector

Water &

Institutional Network at District Level


Private Local
operators of WATSANs /


Figure 5. Network over the institutional network in the water sector of Ghana (Mensah, 1998).

- 18 -
2.3.1 The development of the water sector of Ghana
In 1988, the Government of Ghana (GoG) began to decentralize the water sector in order to
hand over certain economic, administrative and development responsibilities from the central
government to the district assemblies. In the 1993/4 the Government of Ghana began to
separate rural and urban water services in line with the World Bank-backed policy to
segregate the potentially profitable urban water supply systems from the unprofitable rural
water systems. The same policy also shifted responsibility for sanitation and wastewater
management to the impoverished local governments.

The water sector of Ghana is currently going through a reform including three main areas:
1. Urban Water Supply and Sanitation,
2. Rural Water Supply and Sanitation,
3. Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM).

Urban water sector development:

The restructuring of the urban water sector began in 1994 and the reform process has been
realized in three phases 18 :

• In phase one, the responsibility for the rural water sector was taken from the Ghana
Water and Sewerage Corporation and given to the newly formed Community Water
Sanitation Agency that was created to facilitate the development, operation and
maintenance of the water supply systems in the communities with help from the
District Assemblies.

• During phase two, the regulatory institutions were identified and their responsibilities
clarified (see section 2.3 for further details):

– The Public Utility Regulatory Commission (PURC) – In charge of regulation

of tariffs and water supply operational performance.
– The Water Resource Commission (WRC) – In charge of regulation and
management of water resources.
– The Ghana Standards Board (GSB) – In charge of development of Drinking
Water Standards.
– The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) – In charge of environmental
regulation of water supply operations.

• The third part of the restructuring process is still going on. The GoG wants to establish
private sector participation in the water supply area in order to enhance the efficiency
in the water supply system. The private sector’s part in the water supply will be
operation and maintenance of the urban water system, during a limited time period.
These private participates will be monitored by the GWCL who are responsible for
urban water distribution. The GWCL will continue to have the responsibility for
planning future capital investments in this sector.

WSRS (2005)

- 19 -
Rural water sector development:
From the beginning of the nineties a big difference has emerged in how the rural water sector
is governed. Around fifteen years ago the rural water management was primarily based on the
central government and external support agencies that were responsible for planning,
construction and maintenance of the rural water supplies. Today the role of central
governance has been reduced and changed from controlling the planning, construction and
maintenance to facilitating others to carry out these responsibilities. Hence, the private sector,
district administrations and communities has emerged as an important group of actors with
main the responsibility for development of the rural water supplies.

The CWSA has, since 1994 when it was set up in an act of parliament, emerging from the
former rural department of the GWSC, the overall responsibility for the rural water supply.
They supervise the local governments and communities that today manage their own water
facilities. In the restructuring process of the administration, the government has withdrawn
from drilling boreholes and today the CWSA contracts private firms for borehole siting,
construction and supervision. The involvement of the private sector in the water supply
process range from drilling, latrine construction and hand-pump repair to community
mobilisation. Larger national NGOs are contracted to provide training and support to enable
local NGOs to take on their new responsibilities.

In the new rural water sector policy the responsibility for the operation and maintenance of
the water provision has been transferred from the government to the communities 19 . It also
includes paying for preservation and reparation if needed. This means that the individual
community should act for improvements of the water supply system if something does not
work, rather then wait for the government to do the work. With the help of a numerous ESAs
(CIDA, KfW, DANIDA, etc.) the Government of Ghana’s projects on restructuring the
responsibility CWSA helped convert more than two thousand existing hand pumps to
community-managed maintenance.

Elements of the new rural water sector policy:

− Administrative re-organisation. The major element in this re-organisation was the

World Bank-supported Community Water and Sanitation Project, managed by the
CWSA to implement the new policy in 26 districts (out of a total of 110 districts
− Delegation of responsibility. Through the project, the district assemblies were in
charge of processing and prioritizing community applications for water supplies,
awarding contracts for hand-dug wells and latrine construction, and running the latrine
subsidy programme.
− Private-sector involvement. The final element of the strategy was private-sector
provision of goods and services to an unprecedented extent.

Integrated Water Resource Management (IWRM) 20 :

During the Regional Conference on Water and Sustainable Development in Africa held in
Accra 2002, during which the activities within the water sector in Africa was reviewed, it was

The World Bank (2002)
Dungumaro, Madulu (2003)

- 20 -
stated that: “Actions should be undertaken to increase public awareness and strengthen the
political will needed for sustainable development and management of water resources. The
building of human and institutional capacities is crucial for the implementation of IWRM.
There is an urgent need to establish or strengthen institutions for research and information
sharing.” 21

Generally, IWRM is concerned with the management, demand and supply of water resources.
IWRM has been widely recognised as a powerful and successful approach to ensure
sustainable water resource management. The technique is to a great extent dominated by the
nature and degree of users and how they can possibly be solved, but also upon the interactions
between water resource users and stakeholders. The ultimate aim of IWRM is to gain
sustainable use of water resources mainly through multi-disciplinary and inter-disciplinary

Continuing water scarcity, in the context of both lack of adequate water sources and physical
absence of water, something that is experienced in most sub-Saharan countries including
Ghana, necessitates the adoption of IWRM approaches. Human populations respond
differently to environmental changes, including changes on water resources accessibility.
Hence, there are area specific water related problems and areas specific solutions to these
problems. In order to achieve effective water resource management it is therefore crucial to
strengthen local community involvement in identifying the problems that affect them and find
strategies to solve them. Experiences and knowledge of local people is a strong weapon in
solving local environmental problems. Another of the main reasons for ensuring
community/public participation is to reduce conflicts and to help projects to reach its intended
objectives. The involvement of local communities in water management projects does not
only ensure democracy but also acceptability, sustainability and support for the project.

What have been done according to the Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP)?
The Ministry of Works and Housing initiated in cooperation with the World Bank in 1995 the
Water Resources Management Study to identify the major limitations of the Ghanaian water
sector. As a result of the study, institutional water reforms have been introduced, extending
from the international to the local level 22 .

According to the Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper Annual Progress Report (PRSP) of
Ghana 23 the projects performed by the DAs regarding Water and Sanitation since the last
report includes:
-1290 new boreholes
- 115 renewed boreholes
- 61 new hand-dug wells
- 65 small community/town pipe systems

Sanitation investments were used to provide safe liquid and solid waste management, toilet
facilities for schools, incinerators and refuse containers. Altogether DAs constructed 436
toilets and 45 incinerators across the country. Sixty-nine boreholes were made, but additional

Mwanza (2003)
van Eding et al. (2002)
IMF (2004)

- 21 -
ones are about to be constructed by the CWSA during a programme to eradicate guinea-

Looking on the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) 7 which concerns the environmental
sustainability and where one of the targets is “to reduce and half the proportion of people
without access to safe drinking water by 2015” 24 Ghana is on the right way. Data shows that
all the ten regions had an increase in the percentage of households with access to safe water
(see Figure 6). The PRSP report states that if the progress continues in the same way Ghana
have a good chance to fulfil the MDG 7.

Access to Water


National Greater Accra

Figure 6. Increase in percentage of the population having access to water (Source: IMF, 2004)

2.3.2 Regional Planning and Water Management in GAMA

Urban growth in sub-Saharan Africa, including Ghana, commonly happens in an unplanned
manner creating extensive low-density development and uneconomic use of environmental
resources. Most urban areas in the region are faced with deteriorating environmental
conditions and a weak public sector not able to offer adequate services. The rural-urban fringe
is very important and becomes a zone of interaction where urban and rural forces meet. The
area is characterized by mixed land uses, where rural activities and mode of life are in rapid
retreat and many forms of urban land use are being established.

The Ga people founded Accra as a fishing village in the 16th century, but after being chosen
by the British as the seat of their administration in the late 19th century the city began to grow
rapidly. By 1984, the Greater Accra Metropolitan Area (GAMA) had a population of nearly
one million and it is currently approaching two millions 25 . The stagnation of the economy in
the 1970s and early 1980s resulted in a breakdown of service provision and deterioration of
the existing infrastructure. Construction activities have boomed since the early 1980s,

IMF (2004)
Yankson, Gough (1999)

- 22 -
particularly in the peri-urban parts of Accra. Areas of land, which two decades ago was used
for agricultural purposes, have now been covered with physical structures 26 .

Ghana does not have a strong tradition of physical planning nor an effective urban
environmental management planning. GAMA has developed in a disorderly manner creating
a fragmented urban structure and an uncontrolled urban development pattern. GAMA
comprises three administrative districts: the Accra Metropolitan Area, the Tema District and
the Ga District. Residential development in these areas has occurred in a haphazard manner
with barely sufficient infrastructure to support it. The zones are covered with a huge number
of houses and sheds at differing stages of construction, the completion of which is often
affected by the lack of financial means. Much of the peri-urban Accra lies within the Ga
District Assembly’s responsibility, the organisation that is in charge of the overall
development of the district including the provision of environmental services at the local
level. The Ga District Assembly is currently doing very little in terms of the provision of
services such as water, roads, drainage, waste disposal and electricity. No master plan has
been developed for the district and the structure plan for GAMA does not include a clear
policy to guide the development of the peri-urban area27 . The status of the water supply in the
area does not match the water demand for the range of sanitary, religious, domestic and
industrial activities which is correlated with the growing population. The main source of
water supply in central urban areas is pipe-borne water, whilst streams, boreholes and hand-
dug wells are found mainly at the fringes of the peri-urban areas. Inhabitants often dump their
untreated and toxic effluents and domestic waste directly into surface water bodies while a
large sector of peri-urban population still depends on natural water bodies for domestic
supply. Many of the boreholes are subject to fluoride pollution and natural streams are almost
extinct through pollution by industrial, agricultural and municipal waste. The pH-value,
alkalinity and DO (dissolved oxygen) – levels, total water hardness and bacteria infection are
such that the water is sometimes entirely unfit for human use.

In the past, inhabitants of the indigenous villages surrounding Accra relied on streams and
ponds for their supply of water. Due to increasing urbanisation, these natural water sources
have either become contaminated or have dried up. In theory, the peri-urban areas of Accra
should be supplied by piped water, but in practise this supply is generally poor and
inadequate. The pipelines are often too small in diameter to convey the amount of water
demanded. Even where the pipes are of an adequate size the demand for water often exceeds
the supply. The increased demand often results in a pressure so low that the water sometimes
does not flow at all; hence, some of the peri-urban areas are only served water one day a week
and others not at all 28 . This have resulted in the vast majority of the households in the GAMA
area no longer having access to a free supply of water, but are forced to pay for their water,
usually by the bucket. The poorer parts of the population, who relies entirely on natural water
sources run high risks of contracting illnesses as the sources often are polluted.

The residents of peri-urban Accra have become increasingly aware that the environmental
problems they are facing are not being adequately dealt with by the local state authorities. In
the former indigenous villages, Town Development Communities, comprised of
representatives of the chiefs and their elders, youth groups and women’s groups have
Benneh, Agyepong, Allotey (1990)
Yankson, Gough (1999)
Yankson, Gough (1999)

- 23 -
traditionally been responsible for the environmental management in the community. Their
success in maintaining the environment was variable and usually dependent on how actively
they manage to organise the local residents. In every community where piped water is not
available a Water and Sanitation (WATSAN) Committee must be formed. The WATSAN is
typically in charge of control and maintenance of the water and sanitation facilities as well as
organization of hygiene and environmental education.

The water supply, or rather lack of one, is the most acute problem for many residents of peri-
urban Accra. The demand of water is also aggravated during the dry season due to several
1. The drought situation causes amplified use of water.
2. Water sources that supplement piped water are dry.
3. The production of dust that goes together with drought creates a situation where a lot
of water is needed to maintain environmental sanitation.
4. Treated water is at some places used for irrigation.

Key conclusions of section 2.3: Water Management

The responsibility for service provision is shared between national level agencies and the
local district assembly. The exact distribution of their responsibilities is not perfectly clear
though. There is lack of coordination between the involved departments and all of them suffer
from insufficient financial resources. The peri-urban area of Accra has consistently been
neglected by planners and aid agencies alike with severe consequences for the environment
and its residents. The extent of the problem varies between areas in the urban fringe but is
shared by new and old inhabitants alike. However, those who end up paying the highest price
for their water are the poorest households, who buy water by the bucket.

- 24 -
3. Rainwater Harvesting (RWH)

Rainwater harvesting (RWH) does not constitute a new technology. Small dams and runoff
control means can be traced back to early history. The first rainwater harvesting techniques
are thought to have originated in Iraq more than 5000 years ago 29 . DRWH is a common
technology used as well in semi-arid and temperate parts around the globe. The technique is
recognized as an effective and viable way to enhance the domestic water supply at a
comparatively low cost. The systems normally used in developed countries are in general
bigger and more elaborate when compared with small-scale constructions commonly found in
the third world. Domestically collected rainwater is gaining popularity in Ghana. One factor
of the increasing use of rainwater is probably the development of corrugated iron roofing and
rectangular houses replacing the old, traditional circular thatched house, something that
strongly affects the convenience and appropriateness of rainwater harvesting systems.

Generally, RWH is the technology used for collecting and storing rainwater from rooftops, the
land surface, steep slopes, road surfaces or rock catchments using simple techniques such as
pots, tanks or cisterns as well as more complex systems such as underground check dams. The
procedure is based on collecting the rainwater immediately it falls before large evaporation
losses occur.

Dry spells are common in Ghana, even during the long rainy season. RWH can mitigate the
risk of intra-seasonal dry spells by bridging the gaps between rainfall events. The poor quality
of some groundwater, the depletion of groundwater resources, high tap fees, and the
flexibility of rainwater harvesting systems provides excellent reasons to harvest rainwater for
domestic use.

Rainwater is primarily valued for its purity and softness. Rainwater has nearly neutral pH and
is virtually free from disinfection by-products, salts, minerals and other man-made or natural
contaminants. The water commonly used for domestic purposes has often made its way to the
watershed, through a reservoir and a public drinking water treatment plant and finally all the
way through a distribution system before reaching the household. Being the universal solvent,
water absorbs contaminants and minerals on its way, which sometimes gives the water
undesired properties.

3.1 Introduction to Domestic Roof Water Harvesting (DRWH)

The term DRWH describes a broad range of techniques which collect rainfall runoff for
different end-uses by linking a runoff-producing area with a separate runoff-receiving area.
The rainwater can be collected and stored from rooftops, land surfaces or rock catchments.

Mbilinyi, Tumbo, Mahoo, Senkondo, Hatibu (2005)

- 25 -
Catchment Conveyance Storage Delivery

Filtering Treatment Filtering

Figure 7. Process diagram of domestic rainwater harvesting system (DTU).

Commonly used systems are, as shown in Figure 7, constructed mainly of three principal
• Catchment area.
• Delivery system: gravity fed (most common) or pumped to the end-use. Gutters
and downspouts channel water from the roof to the tanks.
• One or more storage tanks (cisterns).
Additionally, leaf screens and roof washers are often used by householders to remove
contaminants and debris:
• First-flush diverters discharge the first dirty amount of rainwater collected.
• Leaf screens and roof washers are components which remove debris and dust
from the captured rainwater before it goes to the tank.
• Treatment/purification: filters and other methods to make the water safe to drink.

Three different types of DRWH exist, and will subsequently be referred to:
• Opportunist DRWH – where no permanent equipment is employed.
• Informal DRWH – where minimal but permanent storage is employed.
• Formal DRWH – where at least 400 litres storage tank is installed.

Regions where domestic roof water harvesting is an attractive option include:

• Where groundwater is difficult to secure or inappropriate for human purposes.
• Where the main alternatives are surface water sources.
• Where management of shared point sources has proved unsuitable.
• Where the fetching of water is a particular burden on household members.

Where piped water is laid into households, rainwater tanks are not likely to be considered, but
where water is distributed via public standpipes, tanks can offer advantages in terms of
convenience and individual control.

Catchment areas
Rooftop catchments: Rainwater can be collected in vessels at the edge of the roof, which is
the very basic form of this technology. The rainwater can also be collected in gutters, which
drain to the collection vessel through pipes, and finally the rainwater enters containers where
particles can settle before the water is conveyed to the storage container for domestic use. The
amount and quality of the collected water is to some extent determined by the size of the area
and type of roofing material. Roof catchment areas need to be cleaned on a regular basis to
remove dust, leaves and bird droppings, which may deteriorate the quality of the water.

- 26 -
Roof Materials: Rainwater may be collected from any kind of roof but with different results in
terms of water quality. The quality of the captured water is function of roof texture; the
smoother the better, different run-off coefficients are shown in Table 2. Tiled or metal roofs
are most convenient to use, (metal roofs get very hot and hence sterilize themselves) and may
give the cleanest water, but it is perfectly possible to use roofs made of palm leaf or grass
thatch. Caution is advised in many texts regarding thatched roofs, which are said to harbour
sources of contamination. Galvanized corrugated iron, aluminium or asbestos cement sheets,
tiles and slates are definitely to be preferred above thatched roofs. For potable systems is plain
galvanized roof or metal roof with epoxy or latex paint recommended 30 . The only common
type of roof which is definitely not appropriate is a roof with lead flashings, or painted with a
lead-based paint 31 . Roofs with metallic paint or other coatings are not recommended since
they may impart taste and colour to the collected water.

• Metal is commonly used, particularly a 55% aluminium and 45% zinc alloy in coated
sheet steel.
• Clay/Concrete tiles are easily available but very porous which may lead to up to 10%
water loss due to the texture.
• Composite/asphalt shingle: Due to possible leaching of toxins, shingles are not
appropriate for potable systems.
• Slate has an ideal smoothness but can be very expensive.

Table 2. Characteristics of roof types (DTU, 2003).

Type Runoff Notes

Sheet metal > 0.9 • Excellent quality water. Surface is smooth
and high temperatures help to sterilise
Tile (glazed and unglazed) 0.6 – 0.9 • Good quality water from glazed tiles.
• Unglazed tiles can harbour mould.
• Contamination can exist in tile joins.
Asbestos 0.8 – 0.9 • New sheets give good quality water.
• No evidence of carcinogenic effects by
• Slightly porous so older roofs can harbour
moulds and moss.
Organic (thatched) 0.2 • Poor quality water.
• Little first flush effect.
• High turbidity due to dissolved organic
material which does not settle.

Dr. Hari, Krishna(2005)
Pacey, Cullis (1986)

- 27 -
Collection devices
Storage tanks are usually the most expensive part in a DRWH-system and may be located
above or below the ground. To minimise contamination from humans, animals or the
environment adequate enclosure need to be applied. A tight cover in order to prevent algal
growth and the breeding of mosquitoes is also a prerequisite.

Rainfall water containers: Battery tanks made

of concrete, pottery, concrete or polyethylene
are considered most suitable. An advantage of
concrete reservoirs (see Figure 8) is their
ability to decrease the corrosiveness of
rainwater by allowing the dissolution of
calcium carbonate from the walls, which
makes them a popular alternative. Bamboo
reinforced tanks have been tried but were
quickly attacked by termites, bacteria and
fungus. The bamboo tanks usually have a large
storage capacity (ca. 1000 to 2000 litres), are
quite inexpensive and easy to clean. Between
1991 and 1993 ten thousands of these types of
tanks were produced in Asia. The programme
was a huge success due to several different
reasons: the technology met a real need; it was
affordable and invited community
participation 32 . The tank most commonly used
in Ghana is the blue plastic barrel with a
Figure 8. A concrete tank with metal lid storage capacity of approximately 350 to 400
(Photo, Lundgren, 060225). litres.

Storage tank siting: The storage tank should be placed as close as possible to supply and
demand points, in order to minimise the distance the collected water must be conveyed. The
tank should also, if possible, be protected from direct sunlight since this may deteriorate the
water quality, and should be placed on stable ground since they tend to become very heavy. In
some areas sand or pea gravel over well-compacted soil may be sufficient for a small tank.
Otherwise a concrete pad should be constructed. The tank must also be positioned so that run-
off will not undermine or erode the place where it is sited.

One way to maximize the operation of the rainwater harvesting system is to have two tanks.
One stands on the ground and collects water directly from the roof to provide water for
drinking and cooking. The other is an excavated tank filled by overflow from the first tank as
well as by runoff water from hard ground near the house; this tank may provide water for
irrigation, as well as water for washing and laundry.

When constructing formal DRWH (where at least 400 litres storage tank is installed) the
choice of container system will depend on a number of technical and economic
considerations, such as available space; local traditions for water storage; cost of purchasing

Zhu, Qiang (2003)

- 28 -
new tank; cost of materials and labour for construction; locally available materials and skills;
ground conditions; preferred type of DRWH-system and whether the system will provide total
or partial water supply 33 .

Conveyance systems
Conveyance systems are required to transfer the collected rainwater to the storage tanks. This
is usually accomplished by connections to one or more pipes from the rooftop gutters to the
collection device. In tropical areas, the high intensity of rainfall mean that gutters must be
larger than in temperate regions if they are not to overflow. In general, gutters with a cross-
sectional area of 200 cm2 (and a diameter of 16 cm) will be able to cope with the all but the
heaviest rain 34 . Another problem is simply the weight of the gutter when running full with
water. Gutters will need to be well-supported so that they cannot sag or be pulled away from
their supports. Guttering seems to be a difficulty for many householders. Where there are
practical obstacles to installing conventional gutters, one option may be to device ways of
collecting water from roofs without them. Another constraint could be that the installation of
gutters would be a job for the man in the household, and it is usually women who are in
charge of the water. If rainwater tanks were promoted as improvements to the appearance and
structure of the house rather than simple a means of saving time spent carrying water, they
might appeal more strongly to men.

Gutters/Down spouts: The most commonly used material is half-round vinyl, PVC, seamless
aluminium or galvanized steel pipes. For potable water systems gutters made of lead cannot
be used. The slightly acidic quality of rain would dissolve the lead and contaminate the water
supply. The flow performance of gutters varies along its length resulting in a spatially varying
flow; however for a long gutter it can be approximated by the Manning formula 35 shown in
appendix 1.

First flush diverters: When it first starts to rain, dirt and debris from the rooftop and gutters
will be washed into the pipe, clean water can only be collected some time later. The first flush
diverter routes the first flow of water from the catchment surface away from the storage tank.
Dust, leaves, blooms, twigs, insect bodies, animal faeces, pesticides and other airborne
residues may have accumulated on the roof and is usually washed away within the first period
of time during rainfall. To solve this problem a down-pipe flap is commonly used. With the
flap, it is possible to direct the flow of water, so only the later rainfall is diverted into the
storage tank. The huge drawback of this system is that it needs continuous surveillance and
manual operation of the flap. Opinions vary on the volume of water to divert but factors to be
considered are the number of precedent dry days, amount of debris, rainfall intensity and roof
surface material.

Overflow/bypass-systems: In order to safely fill the tank it is necessary to make sure that
excess water can overflow and that blockage in the pipes or dirt in the water do not cause
damage or contamination of the water supply.

Pump: can be used if it is considered necessary and economically feasible.

ITDG (29/03/2005)
Pacey, Cullis (1986)
DTU – Domestic roofwater harvesting research programme

- 29 -
Treatment and disinfection equipment
Leaf screens: A series of filters, both before and after entrance of the storage tank, have to be
installed to remove debris and ensure high quality water. Leaf screens must be regularly
cleaned to be effective otherwise they may become clogged and built-up debris can harbour
bacteria. For potable water systems treatment, beyond the leaf screen, it is necessary to
remove sediment and disease-causing pathogens. This can be achieved through filtration and
disinfection processes. Cartridge filters, UV-light and ozone, membrane filtration (reverse
osmosis) and chlorination are some of the commonly used methods.

The amount of rainfall (monthly distribution) is generally the most important factor when
sizing a DRWH-system. Most rainfall occurs seasonally; annual rainfall is not evenly
distributed throughout the year in Ghana. Rainwater harvesting is practical only when the
volume and frequency of rainfall and size of the catchment surface can generate sufficient
water for the intended purpose. The basic rule is: “the volume of water that can be captured
and stored (supply) must equal or exceed the volume of water used (demand)” 36 .

The main question asked is “How big should the storage tank or cistern be?” This breaks
down into three problems:
• Matching the capacity of the tank to the area of the roof.
• Matching the capacity of the tank to the quantities of water required by its users.
• Choosing a tank size that is appropriate in terms of costs, resources and construction

Several other factors must also be taken into account when a rainwater tank should be
• The length of any dry spells.
• Rainwater supply (local precipitation).
• The expected amount of rainfall.
• Catchment surface area.
• Aesthetics.
• Personal preferences.
• Cost.
• Availability of materials.
• Employment opportunities.
• Organization of technical assistance.
• Design tolerance for bad workmanship.
• Possible supply of components from a central depot.
• Hydrology as a check on maximum capacities.

The starting point is data for average monthly rainfall and measurements of the roof from
which the rain is to be collected and its length and horizontal width. The volume of water (in
litres) likely to be collected each month is then found by multiplying the average monthly
rainfall by the horizontal area covered by the roof (in square metres) and then multiplying
with 0,8. The latter figure is the runoff coefficient, and accounts for water losses which occur

Dr. Hari, Krishna (2005)

- 30 -
through first-flush, splash-out, overshoot, leaks and evaporation, assuming any particular type
of roof. After the storage tanks are full, rainwater can be lost as overflow and if the flow-
through capacity of a filter type is exceeded spillage may occur. Most installers assume an
efficiency of 75 to 90% 37 . However, there are limitations of the importance of hydrological
analysis. Tanks in low-income countries are almost always smaller than the hydrological
optimum. Thus, hydrology only provides an upper limit on the choice of tank capacities and
other criteria are more significant.

It is unlikely that any household would draw exactly the same ratio from the tank every day of
the year. It is realistic to think of people using their tanks according to a “rapid depletion
method”. This predicts that members of the household take all the water they require from the
rainwater tank for as long as it contains water and then turn to an alternative source 38 . This
illustrates the paradoxal choice which often has to be made between a large tank capable of
meeting rationed rate of consumption over a whole year, and a small tank capable of
providing for greater consumption on a rapid depletion basis.

Specification of maintenance
The benefits from owning a DRWH system are strongly affected by the way it is managed,
since the value of dry-season water is often a significant multiple of the value of wet-season
water. Undisciplined management of a system (which is normal during the first years of
ownership) often sacrifices dry-season delivery through wet- season “extravagance”.

To collect good quality water from a rooftop catchment several maintenance procedures need
to be conducted on a regular basis 39 :
• Regularly cleaning roof, washers and tanks.
• Purging the first-flush water.
• Maintaining pumps, filtering systems and disinfection equipment.
• Test water (rainwater used for drinking purposes should be tested, at a minimum for
• Monitor tank levels.

Taps should be placed at least 10 cm above the base of the of the rainwater storage tank, this
allows any debris entering the tank to settle on the bottom where it generally will not affect
the quality of the water, provided it remains undisturbed. It is nearly always a good idea to
paint exposed water tanks white in order to reflect the sun’s heat, keep the water cool and
reduce evaporation.

Key conclusions of section 3.1: Rainwater Harvesting

Major advantages:
• Rainwater is free of charge; the only cost is for collection and use.
• No need for complex and expensive distribution systems.
• Deliver water directly to the household, relieving the burden of carrying water,
especially for women and children.

Pacey, Cullis (1986)
Pacey, Cullis (1986)
Dr. Hari, Krishna (2005)

- 31 -
• Rainwater can provide a water source where groundwater is insufficient, unavailable
or unacceptable.
• High quality water can be collected from well managed rooftop catchments.
• The softness of rainwater helps prevent scale on appliances.
• Rainwater is sodium-free.
• The technique reduces flow to storm water drains and reduces non-point source
pollution and lessen the impact on soil erosion.
• The independence of the DRWH systems makes them suitable for scattered
• Rainwater systems are decentralized and independent of topography and geology.
• Cost effective (use of local materials and labours during implementation).
• Rainwater harvesting techniques are generally simple to install and to operate. Rainfall
collection systems are cost effective – especially if the initial investment does not
include the cost of roofing materials and operation and maintenance costs are almost
• Very robust against risks of unexpected change.
• Can be implemented quickly and modularly.

Major disadvantages:
Rainwater harvesting is a niche technology and is usually only considered when all other
options have been eliminated. The problems come under four main categories:
1. High cost – because of a narrow view of quality.
2. Uncertain quality
3. Difficulty in implementation
4. Lack of knowledge

• It is not suited to be used as a stand-alone water supply solution (at least not in the
GAMA) - another source of water must be available.
• The supply is limited.
• It is based on a finite volume of water that can be depleted if not well-managed.
• Uncertainty of rainfall patterns; the inter-annual variability in the rainfall patterns are
quite significant in this area and can pose serious limitations on the amount of water
that can be captured.
• The skills and components needed to create a DRWH system are absent in many
• There is ignorance of DRWH techniques amongst relevant professionals.
• Inadequate roofing (in terms of quality and area) poses severe constraints on
implementation. Most rainwater programmes do not tackle major problems of repair
and construction of roofs, but install tanks only where roofs are judged adequate as
catchment surfaces.
• Severe diseconomies of scale – water is drawn and replenished more often with a
small system; the installed cost per litre of storage capacity of large systems being
lower than that of small systems.
• High initial cost of materials, especially if the roof needs to be replaced or repaired.
• It is a poor candidate for community supply.

- 32 -
• The water is usually lacking in mineral salts (including fluoride and calcium salts)
whose presence in other water supplies is regarded as beneficial in appropriate

3.2 Harvested Rainwater Quality vs. Health Issues

Biological, physical and chemical agents in the human environment cause or contribute to
millions of premature deaths and to the ill health and disablement of hundreds of millions.
Such disease agents are mostly carried in water (or in the air) and are some of the main
sources of infection in West Africa. Water borne diseases, also known as “dirty water
diseases” are a result of using water contaminated by human, animal or chemical wastes.
Theses diseases cause an estimated worldwide 12 million deaths a year 40 . Most of the victims
are children in developing countries. Polluted water is the source of viral hepatitis, cholera,
leptospirosis, typhoid fever, amoebiasis, schistosomiasis, dracunculiasis, echinococcosis,
malaria and onchocerciasis. Of diseases directly linked to water pollution, diarrhoeal
infections, intestinal worms and typhoid are outstanding in Ghana 41 .

Since DRWH is classified as individual water harvesting systems there are no public health
regulations for constructing and maintenance the system or for testing the quality of the
collected water. As a result, the water quality of most systems is not known and usually varies
greatly from system to system. Currently, common health concerns for rainwater quality in
developing countries are mainly related to bacteria, particularly E. Coli and to aesthetic
properties, such as colour, taste, smell and hardness 42 . Drinking domestically collected roof
water can have direct health concerns due to biological and chemical contamination and
indirect health issues due to disease causing insect vector breeding in the tanks.
Contamination of rainwater systems has been linked with a number of human infections and
chemical intoxication 43 . Debate sometimes arises as to whether rainwater tanks should be
promoted for drinking water if freedom from contamination cannot be assured. Although
rainwater can provide clean, safe and reliable water as long as the collection systems are
properly managed more attention should be paid to quality variations of harvested rainwater
since it is often collected and stored using existing structures not especially constructed for
the purpose.

Water quality due to different roof catchments is a function of the type of roof material,
climatic conditions and the surrounding environment (air pollution). The following factors
affect the quality of the collected water:

• pH (acidity/alkalinity). Rainwater acquires slight acidity (pH of around 5,7) as it

dissolves carbon dioxide and nitrogen in the atmosphere.
• Particulate matter – smoke, dust, soot suspended in the air. The deposition of
different pollutants from the atmosphere on the roof surfaces during a dry period
significantly influences the run-off water quality from a roof catchment system. The
longer the dry period in between rainfall events, the greater the amount of pollutants

Buor (2004)
Buor (2004)
Zhu, Zhang, Hart, Liu, Chen (2004)
Ariyananda Tanuja (2003)

- 33 -
deposited on the roof surface. Airborne dust, particularly during the dry, windy
harmattan period, contains high levels of metals, which can be toxic to plants, animals
and humans. Some of these metals, especially trace metals, are bioavailable and can be
accumulated in the tissues of living organisms 44 . The marine contribution to rainwater
chemistry in GAMA is very low and the bulk chemistry is derived from terrestrial
aerosols and soil suspension in the atmosphere 45 . The suspended air particulates
dissolve in rainwater, changing its overall composition. Total Dissolved Solids (TDS)
in rainwater, originating from particulate matter suspended in the atmosphere usually
range from 2 mg/l to 20 mg/l 46 .
• Chemical compounds – fertilizers, pesticides.
• Catchment surface – bacteria, moulds, algae, faecal matter, other organic matter.
• Maintenance of storage tanks - insect breeding. Conditions in the storage tank or
cistern are more critical than conditions on the roof 47 . If a tank is completely covered,
and if organic debris is prevented from entering the water by means of suitable strainer
or filter, any bacteria or parasites carried by water flowing into the tank will tend to
die off. Thus water drawn from tanks several days after the last rainfall will usually be
of better bacteriological quality than fresh rainwater.
• Rainfall intensity. The wash-out process occurs faster for the roof surface with
increased rainfall intensity. This in turn reduces the first-flush volume that needs to be
diverted and water can be stored after shorter “cleansing period”.

Biological risks:
The bacteriological quality of rainwater collected from land surface or ground catchments are
generally poor. From properly managed rooftop catchments, equipped with storage tanks with
good covers and taps, water with relatively high quality can be collected though. This water
is typically suitable for drinking and commonly meets the drinking water standards of WHO
(World Health Organisation). Contrary to popular beliefs, rainwater quality often improves
with extended storage as bacteria and pathogens gradually die off. It takes an average of 3,5 to
4 days to achieve a 90% reduction in E. Coli numbers, if no fresh contamination occurs 48 .
Larger tanks generally record more zero readings than smaller ones in terms of E. Coli levels,
as die-off is allowed to continue for a longer period of time. The bacteriological quality of the
water harvested from rooftop catchments, with proper storage tanks can definitively be clean
enough for drinking, as long as the rooftop is clean, impervious, and made of non-toxic
materials. The roof should also if possible be located away from overhanging trees since birds
and other animals may defecate on the roof. Accounts of serious illness linked to rainwater
supplies are few, suggesting that rainwater harvesting technologies are effective sources of
water supply for many household purposes.

Risks due to Chemical and Physical quality:

Physical and chemical quality of drinking water directly affects the acceptability to
consumers. High level of turbidity can protect micro-organisms from the effect of
disinfection, stimulate the growth of bacteria and give rise to significant chlorine demand.
Effective disinfection requires that turbidity is less than 5 NTU (Nephelometric Turbidity

Pelig-Ba, Parker, Price (2001)
Pelig-Ba, Parker, Price (2001)
Dr. Hari, Krishna (2005)
Thomas, Greene (1993)
Yaziz, Gunting, Sapari, Ghazali (1989)

- 34 -
Units); ideally mean turbidity should be below 1 NTU 49 . Initial pH is usually high in the
tanks; it gradually decreases during the rainy season and increase again after the rain stops.
The alkalinity is reduced during the rainy season when water inside the tank is diluted and
increases again during the dry season.

Risks from vector borne diseases:

Since malaria, dengue and filariasis is prevalent in both rural and urban sites in Ghana the risk
of mosquitoes breeding in the rainwater tank is of great concern. Earlier research has
indicated that well-screened water collected from rooftop catchments, stored in darkened
tanks has a low nutrition level – too low to permit mosquito larvae to complete their
development to adult form. The most important health precautions include ensuring that
gutters do not contain depressions in which water is left standing, and fitting a fine gauze on
all openings to the tanks, such as overflow pipes.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) Drinking Water Quality Guidelines:

Drinking water supplied by a public water system is regulated and monitored for many
contaminants to ensure compliance with drinking water standards. However, private water
supplies are not regulated in many jurisdictions. The most recent edition of WHO guidelines
for drinking water quality is not intended to serve as standards themselves; instead, the
guidelines provide a basis on which individual countries can develop standards or regulations
in the context of appropriate environmental, social economic and cultural conditions.
Therefore, national standards are expected to differ significantly from the guidelines50 . Table
3 offers some examples of percentages of risk grades due to the WHO for both urban and
rural water sources.

Table 3. Percentage of samples at WHO risk grades (WHO, 2006).

Risk category Roofwater Other rural Other urban

water sources* water sources**
Zero risk (0 FCs per 100 ml) 15% 8% 88%
Low risk (1 - 10 FCs per 100 ml) 36% 40% 10%
Medium risk (11 - 100 FCs per 100 ml) 37% 40% 1%
High risk (101 - 1000 FCs per 100 ml) 12% 13% 1%
* Other rural water sources include distributed groundwater, protected springs and shallow wells.
**Other urban water sources are treated standpipes.

WHO Drinking water guidelines 51

• Total N and P – can promote algal growth in rainwater cisterns.
Total N: 10 mg/l
Total P: 2 mg/l
• pH: 6,5 – 8,5 for drinking water
• Pathogenic organisms; the most widely used indicator is the coliform group in which
faecal coliforms (FCs) is a common intestinal organism. Coliform bacteria originate
from the faeces of humans and warm-blooded animals in addition to be found in soils

Ariyananda Tanuja (2003)
Zhu, Zhang, Hart, Liu, Chen (2004)
Zhu, Zhang, Hart, Liu, Chen (2004)

- 35 -
and other natural sources. As rainwater overflows into the cistern, the occurrence of
suspended solid sedimentation in the stored water body can reduce pathogenic
organisms since particulates offer a hiding place for bacteria and organisms.
10 FCs /100 ml
• Total organic concentration (TOC): The organic compound contents in rainwater
collected right after raining are more complex than are long-period stored water
because of self-purification mechanisms, especially biodegradation, which strongly
decompose some components. A large proportion of organic contaminants found in
harvested rainwater are associated with various sources of contamination. Organic
compounds are introduced into the atmosphere as a result of evaporation from land
surfaces, combustion of fossil fuels and emissions from industrial plants. These
substances may be transported in the atmosphere for long distances and can pollute the
rainfall in areas remote from the source of the pollution. Rainwater also can dissolve
and wash away any spilled petrol, pesticides and other chemicals from the catchment
TOC – 0,2 mg/l

Self-purification processes
Given a long duration, self-purification mechanisms take place in the storage tank. In
particular, sedimentation, adsorption and biodegradation play a crucial role in improving the
quality of the harvested rainwater. Most organic substances in water are biodegraded to
varying extents. Parts of organic compounds adsorbed on the suspended solids slowly fall to
the bottom of the cisterns, forming sediments, which can be removed from the water body.
Consequently, the quality of rainwater stored in a tank is improved with time. To successfully
control the organic contamination of harvested rainwater, fuel spills and leakage near
rainwater catchment systems must be prevented. Laws on air pollution resulting from organic
evaporation should be propagated and strictly adhered to. Public education about the cautious
use of petrol, pesticides and fertilizers in rainwater harvesting areas should also receive
particular importance.

Key conclusions of section 3.2: Harvested Rainwater Quality vs. Health Issues
The presence of a DRWH system within a compound usually encourages households to use
more water, both in the wet and the beginning of the dry season. This is due to the proximity
of the water supply, the storage capacity of the tank and the abundance of water during the
rainy season. A more abundant use of water gives rise to improved health conditions and
decreases the risk of water borne diseases. So, far no major health risks correlated with the
consumption of rainwater have been identified but particular caution in terms of monitoring
the quality of the harvested rainwater should be of major concern.

Many problems still remain when it comes to water quality issues:

• Identification and judgement of contaminants.
• Water purification processes and evaluation of the freshness of the harvested water.
• Education and information on effective management and maintenance of the rainwater
harvesting system.

- 36 -
3.3 Results of water sampling and analysis
Water sampling was performed at five different households during the field work in GAMA.
The performed analyses of the water samples are measurements on conductivity, alkalinity
and measurements on anions and cations, followed by balance calculations to check the
accuracy of the measured ions. The results are only indicative. The analysis was not complete,
only some anions (Cl-, NO3-, SO42-) and some cations (NA+, K+, Ca2+, Mg2+) have been
examined. No analysis has been performed on the biological and organic contents of the water
samples. To evaluate if the results of the water sample analysis make the water appropriate for
human consumption or not, further examination in terms of bacteriological content will be
needed. The results from the water sampling analysis are clearly shown in Appendix 6.

3.4 Opinions of local stakeholders on DRWH

During the fieldwork three different interviews were held with local agencies operating in the
water sector. The CWSA (Community Water and Sanitation Agency) is responsible for water
supply and sanitation in rural areas of Ghana, including small towns. The interviewee was an
environmental engineer with focus on water and sanitation and due to her the CWSA does not
promote the usage of DRWH since it is considered an insecure and insufficient source of
water. The second interview was held at Water Aid, a NGO working with local NGOs in the
water sector with technical and educational support. Their opinions on rainwater coincide to a
large extent with the CWSA - DRWH is not considered a viable way to support households
with potable domestic water. The third and last interview was held at the EPA (Envirenmental
Protection Agency) that regulates and enforces environmental quality laws relating to control
of pollution of water resources. The overall attitude of this agency is that DRWH is a
perfectly feasible solution, at least as a complement to other available water resources at
household level. For the complete set of questions and answers see Appendix 2, 3 and 4.

- 37 -
3.5 Existing DRWH techniques in the peri-urban areas of Accra

3.5.1 Results of the questionnaire survey

Figure 9. The tapstand with the adjacent rainwater tank in Adjako. (Photo Lundgren, 060225).

Study area 1: Adjako (part of Abokobi, Ga East)

Half of the inhabitants of Abokobi answered yes to the question: Are you ever short of water?
Still, 75% considers the water supply situation satisfying in Adjako and the majority has
received information of the WATSAN Committee operating in the area. This area has access
to boreholes but the groundwater is very saline due to saltwater intrusion. The boreholes were
constructed in 1975 and financed by Swiss Presbyterian missioners (Zimmermann). The taps
are connected to a big rainwater harvesting system at a community house (also financed by
the Swiss) and the rainwater is used to dilute the very salty groundwater to make it viable for
household purposes (see Figure 9). The RWH system is very straightforward, even though the
tank is huge. It has a simple filter in order to remove major debris but that is the only type of
purification process applied.

The families are generally large in Adjako and span from 5 to 15 members, and the main form
of employment is petty trading. Those that can afford it go to the boreholes twice a day to
collect water for which they pay 300 cedis for a bucket of 20 litres, or they can buy it straight
from the water vendor who operates regularly in the area. The water is typically collected in
small containers (buckets) and the task is performed mainly by the children. Some people are
so poor though that they cannot afford to buy water and rely heavily on DRWH. Many of the
roofs are made of aluminium (80%), slate, and only a few roofs are thatched. Even along the
thatched roofs rainwater is collected, although probably of questionable quality. Almost every
house has gutters along parts of the roofs and some sort of collection tanks, mainly rubber
barrels and concrete cisterns with storage capacity ranging from 20 to 500 litres. The tanks are

- 38 -
usually small and the water is often used directly (the water is stored for maximum one week).
People use the rainwater for washing, bathing, cooking and drinking. The majority of the
inhabitants of Adjako leaves the water for some time to allow the dirt to settle, but apart from
that no other filter or purification method is generally applied. Maintenance of the DRWH
system is thoroughly neglected even though the dirty first flush is recognized by some as a
disadvantage. The general opinion on rainwater is that is it very tasty and an overall good
source of water since it is free of charge.

Site Characteristics: Adjako

o Location Abokobi, Ga East
o Main forms of employment Petty traders
o Roofing materials in the community Corrugated iron
o Piped water supplies No
o Private water vendors Yes, at least occasionally
o Public tapstand Yes, through a borehole
o Natural water sources (free of charge) Rainwater
o Experience of informal rainwater harvesting Yes, almost every household

Study area 2: Abokobi, main village, Ga East

The main village of Abokobi always has access to piped water. Despite this fact, rainwater
harvesting is used by the majority of the houses, but primarily as a supplementary water
source. The houses are more advanced compared to Adjako and the roofs are typically made
of slate and corrugated iron. It is common to collect the rainwater in an outdoor cistern,
without a lid and then to subsequently transfer the water to an indoor barrel equipped with a
lid. To the question “Do you use any type of filter/ purification method?” 63% said that they
did. Approximately one third (26%) of the respondents allow the suspended dirt in the water
to settle during some time (time period varies from household to household) before the water
is used. The second most common purification method applied (16%) was to let the water
pass through a sieve before using it. Furthermore, 5% of the households being interviewed
added Kamfer (small white balls) to the water in order to purify it and prevent insect breeding.
Additionally, net, first flush diversion and boiling the water before utilization are recognized
as effective purification methods. “There is no reason to purify it” or “It’s a gift from God”
was the most common answer of the respondents who does not use any type of filter or
purification method. 68% of the interviewees use the rainwater for drinking purposes and the
overall opinion is that collected rainwater is preferred since the taste and odour of rainwater is
considered better when compared with piped water. All of the households answered that they
thought the water supply situation in the community is good, apart from occasions when the
electricity is off.

Site Characteristics: Abokobi

o Location Abokobi, Ga East
o Main forms of employment Labourers
o Roofing materials in the community Slate, corrugated iron
o Piped water supplies Yes
o Private water vendors No
o Public tapstand Yes, but very saline
o Natural water sources (free of charge) Rainwater
o Experience of informal rainwater harvesting Yes, almost every household

- 39 -
Study area 3: Pokuase (part of Amasaman, Ga West)
The situation in Pokuase is very grim. No piped water is available and the inhabitants rely on
surface water (streams) often supplied through water vendors, and DRWH. Some private
boreholes are scattered through the area but the groundwater is very saline. The water vendors
go by trucks across the road heading towards Kumasi. This is a very big and busy road, at
times impossible to cross by foot, and hence many residents rely on the water vendors to meet
their daily need for water. Some days the vendors do not show up and some days the poorest
inhabitants do not have enough money to buy water from them. In Pokuase people have to
pay 350 000 cedis for a big polytank and 1 000 cedis per bucket. The surface water from the
streams is heavily contaminated, yet this water is used for both bathing and drinking.

Adequate quantities of good quality water per capita is obviously impossible to withdraw,
which gives serious health problems and rise water borne diseases such as bilharzia, cholera
and skin ulcers due to parasites. Some households only have access to DRWH and during the
dry season these households experience constant water shortage. During the rainy season
rainwater is preferred due to its taste and its freedom from contamination. Rainwater is
preferred during the dry season as well but the storage tanks are typically so small (they rarely
exceed 500 litres) that the rainwater lasts for maximum two weeks. The implemented DRWH
in this village tend to be opportunist DRWH-systems. With few exceptions no household has
proper gutters or have access to a permanent rainwater tank. Instead they collect the rainwater
in buckets, barrels, pots or whatever containers are available when the rain starts.
Approximately 90% of the respondents use the rainwater for drinking purposes and 100% use
it for cooking, washing and bathing. The general opinion is that rainwater is an overall good
source of water, free of charge and has very good taste. More than one third of the
respondents do not recognise any disadvantages when it comes to rainwater while some have
experienced the development of mosquito larvae and that the first flush usually is dirty and
needs to be diverted. Except for first flush diversion and some time allowed for the dirt
suspended in the water to settle, no other filter or purification methods are generally adapted.

To the question “Are you ever short of water?” 71,4% answered yes and as much as 76,2% of
the inhabitants in Pokuase are not satisfied with the water situation in the community. Many
of them would like to see the implementation of stand pipes whereas others simply require a
general improvement of the accessibility and quality of the water in the community. The
presence of a WATSAN Committee is much debated; 33% says yes there is a WATSAN
Committee and we regularly receive information from them and 67% claims there is no
WATSAN Committee in this community.

Site Characteristics: Pokuase

o Location Amasaman, Ga West
o Main forms of employment Petty traders
o Roofing materials in the community Slate, corrugated iron
o Piped water supplies No
o Private water vendors Yes, at times
o Public tapstand No
o Natural water sources (free of charge) Surface water, rainwater
o Experience of informal rainwater harvesting Yes, almost every household

- 40 -
Study area 4: Medie (part of Amasaman, Ga
Groundwater which is available through wells
is very saline, and only some of the households
visited have access to private wells (see Figure
10). This village used to have piped water but
during the maintenance of the main road the
pipes were unfortunately destroyed. Due to a
land dispute there is currently no spokesman
who can complain about the water supply
situation to the local WATSAN committee, a
committee whom 80% of the population in
Medie has never heard of or received
information from.

Water is generally fetched by the women

several times per day in buckets (34 litres
storage capacity). The inhabitants of Medie that
cannot afford to buy water from boreholes have
to use the nearby stream. Contaminated surface
water gives them skin ulcers and the suffering
Figure 10. A woman beside her private well, due to water shortage during the dry season is
selling water to other inhabitants of the village great. Some 80% of the respondents admit that
(Photo Lundgren, 060225). at times they are short of water and 70% thinks
that the current water supply situation in the community is not satisfying. They would like to
see in immediate reconstruction of the former pipelines and an overall improvement of the
accessibility and quality of water.

Practically every household in Medie collects rainwater. Rainwater is recognized as a very

good source of water and is used for washing and bathing as well as for drinking and cooking.
The rainwater is collected mainly from corrugated iron roofs and stored in small containers,
usually barrels with storage capacity ranging from 200 to 800 litres. The main form of
purification method used is merely to let the water settle for some time. Nets and sieves are
used in some households but besides these two very basic forms of purification methods no
further need for improvement of water quality is perceived.

Site Characteristics: Medie

o Location Amasaman, Ga West
o Main forms of employment Petty traders
o Roofing materials in the community Slate, corrugated iron, thatched
o Piped water supplies No
o Private water vendors Yes, at times
o Public tapstand Yes
o Natural water sources (free of charge) Surface water, rainwater
o Experience of informal rainwater harvesting Yes, almost every household

- 41 -
Key conclusions of section 3.5.1 Questionnaire survey
Many households with a hard roof perform opportunist and informal DRWH. When it rains
the people who practise opportunist DRWH use whatever containers they have at hand to
collect roof run-off. These containers have a capacity approximately ranging from 2 to 30
litres and include buckets, bowls, sauce pans, kettles etc. The yield of opportunist DRWH
rarely exceeds 40 litres on a typical rainy day due to the absence of proper guttering and the
limited water storage facilities52 . The majority of the roofs in these areas is made of
corrugated iron (aluminium) and provides ideal conditions for DRWH to be performed.
Where informal DRWH is implemented the guttering, means of storage and of subsequent
water abstraction is not very satisfactory. Open tops of cisterns and an overall ignorant
approach towards water quality give rise to rapid deterioration of the water. 71% of the
households apply some kind of filtration/purification method, out of which letting the water
settle before using it is the most frequent; 29% (see Figure 11).

Use of filter / purification method The second most utilized method is

letting the water pass through a sieve
80 (13%) and the third most common way of
enhancing the quality of the rainwater is
60 adding some sort of chemical that inhibits
50 the breeding of mosquito larvae in the
water (6%). Out of the 29% not using any

28,75 type of purification method are the most
20 common reasons that they do not use the
10 rainwater for drinking/cooking purposes
0 or they do not think there is any need for
Yes No it. Despite the poor water harvesting
conditions and the way the rainwater is
Figure 11. Percentage of interviewed that use any kind subsequently treated and stored few health
of purification method (Field data, 2006).
hazards linked to the consumption of
rainwater are documented. Almost all of the respondents use the accumulated rainwater for
drinking and cooking as well as for washing and bathing, and find this to be an excellent
source of water. With few exceptions no
direct objections towards this water source Likes about harvested rainwater
are recognised and the interest and No likes
appreciation of domestic roof water Good quality 3%
harvesting is great (see Figure 12). 3%
Gift from God
20% of the respondents did not have any 4%

idea about the storage capacity of their Free of charge Very tasty
rainwater tank. The remaining 80% could 8% 32%
only give us roughly estimated figures on Good for washing
the storage capacity of their rainwater tank.
Out of those who actually could make an
assessment of the storage capacity
approximately 80% had capacity less than Several advantages
one cubic metre (30 to 800 litres). 20% Good source of
Thomas, Kiggundu (2004)
Figure 12. What the users likes about the rainwater
(Field data, 2006).

- 42 -
25% of the households have access to a permanent concrete cistern for rainwater storage with
capacity varying from 300 to 20 000 litres. This means the period of time during which the
water will supply the household also varies greatly (1 day to 4 months) but overall the stored
rainwater is used rapidly in the households in GAMA (within a week) and is by no means able
to bridge water shortages during dry spells.

Out of our interviews made in 80 households in the four different villages (Abokobi, Adjako,
Medie and Pokuase) almost 75% answered that it is the women and/or children that are the
ones responsible for fetching water. Meanwhile, it was in only 6% of the households the sole
responsibility of the men (see
Re sponsible for fe tching wate r Figure 13). Out of the 80
households we found 35% out
Not applicable of which nobody in the
10% household had the responsibility
W omen for maintenance (cleaning,
25% repairing, etc.) of the DRWH
and 26% of the respondents
admit that this is the
responsibility of women.

All DRWH systems that we

W omen and/or Children have seen are financed through
Children 33% household money (or more
16% commonly: not financed at all
since opportunist DRWH is
Figure 13. Responsibility for fetching water in the household conducted).
(Field data, 2006).

- 43 -
4. Economic viability – Cost benefit analysis

Groundwater is in general much favoured for its freedom from contamination, but in the more
arid parts of the world, potable or abundant groundwater is not always available. In all such
areas, rainwater collection is frequently the “least cost” form of water supply, mainly because
of the high costs of alternative water sources. Even where this cannot be claimed, it may be
easier to mobilize household capital for a domestic rainwater tank than to secure large-scale
investments in public supplies. Moreover, in some regions around the world generally well-
endowed with low-cost supplies, rainwater collection may fill a gap in existing provision,
especially during dry spells.

The overall question boils down to:

• Can DRWH produce and supply water at a cost lower than that of a conventional
water source?
Furthermore two “affordability” questions are dominant. The first question views DRWH
through the eyes of the householder:
• Is the benefit to a household, of installing a DRWH system worth the cost?
The second question views DRWH through the eyes of a water provider:
• Can, for a specific site, the inclusion of DRWH in a water plan result in lower costs
than if it is excluded?

The cost per capita of installing DRWH is in general higher than of supplying the household
from more traditional water sources53 . In justifying DRWH it is therefore essential to take
into account the extra convenience it offers over available point sources. This is usually done
by estimating a value on the time no longer spent on fetching water or queuing for it. The size
of this time can be assessed through:
1. Using householders approximation of time saved as a result of owning a DRWH
2. Applications of an assumed walking speed of 2,4 km/h to the reported distance to and
from the alternative point sources and its multiplication of the estimated number of
trips made per day (including time spent queuing) 54 .

Small incomes, together with limited access to credit facilities, mean that household expenses
is under stress and purchase of essentials such as food and medicine, and the payment of
school fees are more important than long-term investments, such as the installation of a
DRWH-system. The high capital cost, or the expectation of high cost, coupled with a lack of
information about low cost alternatives, is one of the major factors inhibiting a shift from
opportunist DRWH to informal or formal DRWH. Like many other forms of water supply,
DRWH is capital rather than operations intensive. Regular maintenance and operating costs
are almost negligible but the first cost of the hardware is the major investment. Many
households in Ghana have invested in impervious roofs, an essential prerequisite for installing
DRWH systems, and already practise informal rainwater harvesting. One advantage for the
household in collecting rainwater from its roof is that the roof is already paid for, and so
additional investments are limited to gutters and tanks. Such investments may be more than

Kumar Dinesh (2004)
DTU - Domestic Roofwater Harvesting Research Programme

- 44 -
people can afford, however, and even when storage tanks have been obtained, gutters may be
attached only to one side of the building, or sometimes only to short lengths of the roof. Even
though the advantages of DRWH is proven to be plenty the financial benefits, while obvious,
can be difficult to measure. It is overall not recommended to finance construction of the
DRWH system with utility cost savings.

Overall, the interest in permanent DRWH seems to be high but the absence of affordable
systems is a constraint on their widespread use. At household level there is a dilemma
between tank capacity, durability, quality of water and cost considerations. A minimum size
for a tank (of around 2000 litres) is necessary to make any significant impact on a household’s
water fetching behaviour 55 . One way to check how realistic a proposed DRWH design might
be is to enquire about the cost of building a house in the locality concerned. If materials
needed for the DRWH system cost more than 10 or 15% of what is needed to buy materials
for a house, the system is probably too expensive 56 . Commonly suggested in poor areas, with
housing unsuitable for DRWH, is to promote a communal rainwater system using the roof of
some large public building as catchment area, such as a school or a church. Alternatively,
where people cannot afford their own cisterns, but their house roofs are suitable for rainwater
collection, shared tanks is a possibility.

The payback time of a DRWH system is highly variable, being dominated by the distance to
and cost of alternative water sources. Large tanks give a longer payback time than medium or
small ones, and payback is of course best where fetching distances plus queuing times are
high. The smallest tanks are naturally also the cheapest; however the economics of a system
containing a small tank are disadvantaged by the fixed cost of guttering and by their inability
to supply any water at certain times during the year (the dry season) when its value per litre is
highest. Due to Pacey and Cullis the smaller sizes of rainwater tanks require about the same
level of investment as the construction of a pit latrine. It would be unrealistic to compare the
benefits, but it might be possible to argue that if families can afford one they can afford the
other – or that similar level of financial support will be needed by those who can pay for

Key conclusions of section 4: Economic viability – Cost benefit analysis

Part of the problem with the implementation of formal or informal DRWH is that water
providers tend to think in terms of complete solutions i.e. that all water needs should be met
by one source. In low-income countries this is hardly ever the case. Householders tend to use
three or four sources depending on demand and availability. This means that water providers
and NGO’s operating in the water sector have to be flexible and open to new and innovative
approaches of organising the local water supply. The overall interest and indigenous
knowledge in households on DRWH provides a good starting point. Taking a general view of
costs and methods of payment, strategies likely to be helpful include use of low-cost, local
material wherever possible; bulk purchasing (e.g. of cement) as a means of negotiating lower
prices; credit or saving schemes to make payment easier; and of course, outright subsidies.
DRWH is installed household by household, maintained by that household and generally
benefits only that household. This makes its funding or subsidy problematic for “community
based” agencies, governments and private water suppliers.

Pacey, Cullis (1986)
Pacey, Cullis (1986)

- 45 -
5. Gender dimensions in DRWH

The Universal Declaration on Human Rights affirms the principle of inadmissibility of

discrimination and proclaims “that all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and
rights and that everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth therein, without
distinction of any kind, including distinction of sex” 57 .

Internationally the crucial role of women in water resource management and therefore the
need for their participation in water programmes have been recognised since long. Women are
the main users and managers of water resources therefore are their involvement essential in
ensuring successful water management. A plan of action was adopted at the United Nations
(UN) Conference on Women in Mexico 1975. The plan stated that improved water supplies,
sewerage disposal and other sanitation measures should be provided both to improve the
health conditions of families and to reduce the burden of fetching water, which falls mainly
on women and children. The role of women in the water and sanitation sector is
unquestionable given the fact that women are responsible for fetching water and maintaining a
healthy environment for children. The UN Conferences on Women that were held in Nairobi,
Kenya in 1985 and in Beijing in 1995 continued fostering women participation in water and
sanitation programmes with emphasis on gender mainstreaming. According to the UN
Economic and Social Council, mainstreaming a gender perspective is the process of assessing
the implications for women and men of any planned action including legislation, policies and
programmes, in all areas and at all levels 58 . The ultimate goal of mainstreaming is to achieve
gender equality.

In Ghana the family system is patrilineal, and the extended family system predominates.
Large family sizes increase the water need, hence the burden of water supply. In the event of
water scarcity, women would traditionally give priority to their husbands. Thus, women are
more likely to suffer the consequences of water scarcity.

In several areas of the third world, including Ghana, culture dictates that the women take on
most of the domestic roles. Tasks and responsibilities within the household are allocated
between its members based on custom and tradition, age, sex, social status, education and
ethnicity. While women take major decisions in the domestic sphere, family level decisions
may be dominated by men. Among the more educated couples, the women enjoy some
autonomy, and participate to a greater extent in family decisions. Husbands with higher
education are also more likely to support their wives in domestic services 59 . Women’s
domestic responsibilities include reproduction, taking care of the children and the home,
including sweeping and scrubbing, washing of dishes and clothing and preparation of food.
Women are also responsible for fetching water (see Figure 14), with varying assistance from
other household members, depending on the season and location of water source.

Manase, Ndamba, Makoni (2003)
Manase, Ndamba, Makoni (2003)
Buor (2004)

- 46 -
Figure 14. Women carrying water (Photo Lundgren, 060225).

Collecting water is typically time consuming, occurs daily and fragments people’s time since
sometimes several journeys has to be made each day. The task is physically demanding,
particularly on the return journey, and becomes even more burdensome during the dry season
when water is sometimes collected from more distant sources. The time spent on fetching
water imposes a serious strain on health, especially if it involves sacrificing sleeping hours.
The workload of collecting water may vary by economic status of the household. Richer
households often have staff fetching water for them. They may also be able to afford user fees
associated with convenient water sources such as a household tap. In poorer households are
not only the workload of collecting water inescapable but in the circumstances when fees are
unavoidable they may consume an important part of the household income.

Some of the factors that influence how burdensome the activity of collecting water is on
household members include:

• Household size and composition: per capita consumption falls as household size
• Diet and drinking habits of the household.
• Activities carried out at the home (sanitation, washing, bathing, cultural practices,
• Distance to water source: the amount of water used per capita does not vary much up
to a critical limit from the home (around 1,5 km); thereafter it drops to minimum
volume typical for the area.

- 47 -
• The terrain from the home to the water source.
• Size of the collection container: smaller containers are associated with smaller per
capita use.
• Storage capacity at the household: the greater the storage capacity, the greater the
volume collected per day.
• Age and health of the carrier: the elderly and sick often find it difficult to collect water
and usually carry smaller quantities.

Women play a central role in deciding which source of water to use, how much to collect and
how to cope during periods of water shortage. The decision to install a hard roof or a DRWH
system would be undertaken by men but the women would have the overall responsibility for
the system once it is installed. This is since women in general have the main responsibility for
household water management, a statement clearly showed in the results from the
questionnaire survey conducted as a part of this study. Women become empowered through
DRWH especially if they have the opportunity to use their extra time on income generating
activities or if they are able to participate in community activities and meetings. Water
availability has a direct impact on women’s health, education, employment, income and
empowerment. Given the great impact that water need has on the development of women,
their involvement in water management programmes in both rural and urban areas is crucial.

The gender differences in controlling resources and decision-making can pose substantial
obstacles to the process of implementing DRWH systems. Men may need to be convinced that
reducing women’s workload through improving water collection in the home should be
priority expenditure. Men and women will often see the benefits of rainwater collection
differently, and neither may value the particular advantages which planners imagine to be

- 48 -
6. Social and technical acceptability and livelihood issues

Water needs have serious social effects in urban and peri-urban environments in developing
countries, especially where population concentration put a severe strain on available
resources. As population grows the quantity of water use per capita decreases. Significant
increase in the metropolitan population is due to high fertility, lower mortality, plus cultural,
administrative, industrial, commercial and migratory factors.

6.1 Technical and social assessments

To design a DRWH-system, the economic, social and cultural aspects of the location should
be taken into consideration with emphasis on the utilization of locally available labourers and
indigenous building materials. The essence of appropriate technology is that equipment and
techniques should be relevant to local resources and needs, to feasible patterns of local
organisation, and to the local environment. The design of rainwater tanks and conveyance
systems require detailed analysis. Information is needed about rainfall patterns, existing water
sources, availability of materials, housing and roof types, and the people’s means of
livelihood. The development of appropriate technology for rainwater collection cannot be
achieved by the simple process of collecting information and using it to formulate an
optimum design. It is also necessary to think in terms of an innovative dialogue in which
information, opinion and innovation come from users of the systems as well as designers.
Techniques may need modification to suit local conditions and input from local informants
should not be underestimated.

The response and initiative to adopt DRWH systems are based on the following community
characteristics: Socio-economic composition of the community – the relative wealth of
households influences their ability to meet the costs of installing DRWH systems.
• Roofing and housing characteristics – the proportion of houses with hard roofs and
gutters, and their quality.
• Satisfaction with present water sources – accessibility and quality.
• Previous exposure to informal/formal DRWH systems – lack of familiarity may
impose a problem to the implementation.

Before taking the decision to install DRWH at a specific location several factors need to be
taken into account. The local situation must be thoroughly examined in terms of technical and
social assessment and the different steps in the process are shown in the decision tree (see
Figure 15).

- 49 -
Technical Assessment

Can rainwater
meet a perceived
need of the No
yes no project
households in the
Does rainwater
conflict with Re-design
other needs of project
the community?
yes Prioritize needs



yes Is water the top priority?

Inventory of materials, Detailed choice of

skills, tools and technology to fit the local
resources resources base and to
match a feasible technical
assistance programme.

Planning technical
assistance to fill gaps in
availability of materials,
skills and to remove
constraints on application
of chosen technology.

Figure 15. "Decision tree" representing successive phases in the planning of a rainwater collection project
(Mbilinyi, Tumbo, Mahoo, Senkondo, Hatibu (2005)).

- 50 -
6.2 Livelihood benefits
It is important to examine connections between rainwater collection and livelihoods. There is
obviously a strong correlation between livelihoods and the implementation of DRWH.
Particularly the increased health standard coupled with an overall improvement of numerous
livelihood factors can easily be recognized.

The way the collection of rainwater is introduced and how the subsequent utilisation of the
system is managed greatly affects the household. Water managers need to be aware of that an
ill-designed project might lead to increased inequalities, or may actually worsen livelihoods
for the poorest groups in the society.

Main livelihood benefits include:

• Money saved not having to purchase water.
• Money earned selling water – for example to neighbours.
• Time saved for other purposes – when no there is no need to spend time fetching
• Improvements in the quality of life.
• Improved health and hygiene.
• Exposure to new technologies and skills.
• Improved household status.
• Improved safety for household members.

Main livelihood drawbacks include:

• It is important to recognize that one person’s time constraint is sometimes another’s
employment opportunity. Some people gain their livelihoods as water vendors or well-
diggers and may be thrown out of work when people acquire water tanks.
• Where tanks collecting rainwater from roofs are proposed, families with thatched
roofs may not be catered for, and families without permanent homes cannot be served.
• Even when equipment is subsidized, it may still be too expensive for the very poor,
and only better-off families will then benefit from the subsidy.

Key conclusions of section 6.2: Livelihood benefits

• Market benefits (time saved for remunerative work).
• Home production benefits (cooking, child care, etc).
• Non-economic and social benefits (individual control, modernization, etc).

- 51 -
7. Indigenous knowledge and the importance of public participation

7.1 Indigenous knowledge (IK)

Rainfalls in semi-arid areas are typically highly variable. The majority amount of the
precipitation is commonly received in one or a few high intensity storms. People, who rely
completely or partially on rainwater for their survival, have as a result developed knowledge
and techniques to harvest rainwater. These techniques are usually compatible with the local
lifestyle, social systems and authorities; hence, these systems have been sustainable for
centuries. To develop efficient and long-term functioning DRWH systems it is crucial to take
into account of, and learn from, what local people already know. An awareness of traditional
techniques might suggest how modern equipment could be used to build on existing practises
rather than replacing or displacing them. The successful implementation of DRWH is based
on how well the connection between professionalism and the problems experienced and
perceived by the majority of the population is made – not merely to study and instruct them
but to listen and learn from them.

The social assessment on IK is concerned with collecting information on:

• Existing rainwater catchment practises.
• Opinions of local people about the usefulness and quality of water collected from
• Opinions as to whether shared or individually owned rainwater tanks would be best.
• Views of people interested in acquiring rainwater cisterns – how much money they
wish to expend.
• Inventory of local skills, materials and experience. The importance of this is that if one
can devise rainwater collection equipment based on materials which people know how
to use, it will be easier and cheaper to build and maintain.

7.1.1 Public participation – knowledge, education, training

Experts on water supply, local residents and government officials may all have different
opinions about what should be the goal of a water management project. A survey of housing
conditions can be a good starting point for dialogue with local people about their most urgent
needs. What people say they want may differ completely from what the professionals think
they need. Engineers and planners have responsibility to consider whether their goals in
promoting a special technique are compatible with the needs and values of the people they
seek to help. The poorest people may see their most urgent needs in terms of food and
housing, not water and health. Then domestic rainwater collection, as an immediate aim, may
have to be postponed and initiating a housing improvement programme might be more

Participation by ordinary people in planning and implementing projects is absolutely

necessary. Comments of local people should always be sought, both as a check on the social
appropriateness of the project and as means to obtain practical information about the local
environment, including water sources, building materials, local skills etc. Rainwater
harvesting cisterns with simple form can often be assembled with readily available materials

- 52 -
by owner-builders with a basic understanding of plumbing and construction skills. It is also
essential to discuss projects completely so that people can see what obligations would be
placed on them by the introduction of a new water source. If carefully collected, rainwater is
relatively safe for domestic use but problems may arise if the roofs become heavily
contaminated (pollutants from the atmosphere or animal droppings) or the water is stored in
an inappropriate way. Hence, participants involved in rainwater harvesting schemes must be
made fully aware of the health consequences of the microbiological, organic and mineral
contamination in the run-off water they are collecting and to take appropriate measures to
avoid storing contaminated water in their systems. Local people can be easily trained to
implement basic technologies to create proper conditions for the natural purification of stored

Inhabitants of semi-arid regions need to be exposed to new ways and alternatives about how
to better deal with scarcity of water. The local population should be able to participate and
influence the planning and implementation of public policies devoted to promote the
sustainable development of the region, with special focus on raising the consciousness of the
population in regards to their rights as citizens. The family as a group, not the head of the
household, should preferably be addressed as the beneficiary unit and participation is
therefore not limited to the male head only. By having access to harvested rainwater the poor
population is also freed from the dependency on the local elite, who have historically
controlled the distribution of water. The provision of water, together with the consciousness-
raising process is an important step to stop that dependency.

- 53 -
8. Conclusions and recommendations

8.1 Conclusions
The importance of interdisciplinary and integrated approaches is extremely apparent in this
study on domestic rainwater harvesting. Decision makers, local NGOs, water managers and
the indigenous population, every single one of them must be involved at all levels during the
implementation of formal or informal rainwater harvesting. The most important phase is
obviously the pre-assessment of the study site where both technical and social evaluation play
huge parts in the decision-making process. The technical assessment should principally be
seeking answers to the question: “Is a rainwater collection project technically feasible in this
area?” While the social assessment seeks to know whether there would be active support for
such a project from local people.

Four major questions must be thoroughly scrutinized before installing formal or informal
1. How much water can be captured using roof water harvesting techniques in different
types of housing and typical rainfall years: what are the hydrological (and physical)
opportunities for roof water harvesting?
2. To what extent can this technique be adopted in the area of interest: what are the
constraints in adopting this system in the area of interest, if water is available?
3. How far DRWH systems are economically viable and what are the considerations
involved in economic evaluation of DRWH systems?
4. To what extent should the expected quality of the harvested rainwater be allowed to
influence the design of the system? What will the water be used for?

The successive profitability and achievement of the DRWH-system depends largely on the
different criteria chosen at the stage of implementation but also on the prerequisites and the
skill of the household in system maintenance.

In the vast majority of the studied sites rainwater harvesting is already established but not
functioning in a satisfactory way. Here, organized assessment, monitoring and evaluation are
important elements together with continuous information and education at all levels. When
trying to evaluate at what level an already implemented DRWH system is functioning a
couple of questions are of major importance:
− Is the system being fully used?
− Is the system achieving its intended benefits for health or livelihoods?
− What are the prerequisites and how could implementation of more formal rainwater
harvesting be acquired?

Many rainwater tanks are not reaching their intended effect on improving the local water
situation. Instead of being used to provide emergency water in the dry season, tanks are being
fully used in the rainy season and are often empty long before the critical period of water
scarcity towards the end of the dry season. This is partly due to the fact that most of the
rainwater tanks are too small to last longer than on average one week. Another reason is that
the poor storage facilities and the subsequent mistreatment of the collected rainwater often
allows rapid deterioration and hence makes the water unsuitable for human purposes. Figure

- 54 -
16 clearly shows some of this; the rainwater collection tanks are small and have no lids to
cover them and the guttering is only partially completed due to lack of money and lack of
readily available material.

Figure 16. Women outside their house discussing their DRWH-system (Photo, Åkerberg, 060225).

To harvest rainwater of good quality for human consumption, householders are encouraged to
use one of the various alternatives for roof washing, and the collection or disposal of the first
flush of rainwater from roofs since the it picks up most of the dirt, debris, bird droppings and
contaminants that is accumulated on the roof and in the gutters during dry periods. Many of
the respondents of the questionnaire survey did not recognize these as important parts of the
regular maintenance of the DRWH system. Again the significance of information and
education, particularly on how water quality is linked with health hazards, becomes very

For rainwater collection to spread and eventually reach the threshold of popularization an
innovative dialogue is absolutely necessary. This requires patience and long-term
commitment. It is not something that experts flown in from overseas can contribute greatly
with. Local persons with roots in the area and interest in and knowledge of the subject are far
more important. The crossing of thresholds of popularization also depends on the interactions
between individuals and local organisations which generate enthusiasm and stimulate ideas as
well as interactions between householders and builders who construct tanks and between
commercial and public sectors in the economy.

Whilst there is still much to do in refining designs for rainwater harvesting systems,
particularly in reducing costs, it is clear that a good range of technical options already exists.
The constraints which limit their use are not strongly related to limitations in the technology –
the problem is more commonly due to inadequate organization and absence of technical

- 55 -
8.1.1 Opportunities for Domestic Roofwater Harvesting in the peri-urban
areas of Accra.
Hydrological opportunities for roofwater harvesting in the peri-urban areas of Accra:
Rainfall prediction is identified as a major element when installing and sizing a DRWH-
system. It has been shown that rainfall occurrence and deviations from the long-term
predictions can be associated with variations of the sea surface temperatures (SST). The
oceans are a source of moisture input and with associated latent heat influences, atmospheric
structure and processes. Hence, proximity to the ocean gives great uncertainty to rainfall
predictions. Significant positive correlation has been found between the SST of the Atlantic
and rainfall patterns in Ghana 60 . To successfully implement a system that domestically
collects rainwater a series of rainfall measurements and data is required:

• Daily rainfall measurements.

• Estimates of average and minimum monthly and annual rainfall (year-to-year
variations in rainfall and rainy days).
• Measurements of rainfall intensity (and runoff) in individual storms (magnitude of
• Number of rainy days.
• Estimates of total runoff.
• Measurements of evaporation rates and soil moisture.

Annual rainfall in Accra varies from 700 to 1000 mm and rainfall is lower on the coast than it
is a short distance inland. As a consequence of the lower amount of rainfall and less clouds
Accra is rather sunnier than many other places on this coast; hours of sunshine average about
five a day during the rainy season and as much as seven to eight hours during the drier
months. In general there are two rainy seasons in the whole coastal plain, with the principal
reaching its maximum in May and June and the subsidiary in October. In the southern parts of
Ghana, where Accra is situated, June tends to be wettest month with an average monthly
rainfall value between 152 and 254 mm. Rain is rarely prolonged over any part of the country
and the average duration of rainfall is between 2 and 3 hours. Rain persisting for over 12
hours is very uncommon. In the dry months, precipitation is likely to fall less than 10 hours in
a month and in the wet seasons the average total duration of rain is only about 30 to 40 hours
per month. Variations in intensity of rainfall are considerable and rates of 203 mm per hour
may be reached and even exceeded for short periods 61 .

There clearly are limits on the scope of DRWH imposed by hydrological factors. Roof water
harvesting does not ensure domestic water security to households neither in rural nor in urban
environments in semi-arid areas and can only supplement other water supply systems. In the
peri-urban areas of Accra DRWH can at best be a complementary source and the communities
will have to rely on public water supply schemes for meeting a lion’s share of their domestic

Adiku, Stone (1995)
Ghana metrological Services department (2002)

- 56 -
Overall factors not contributing to the possible successful implementation of DRWH in this
• The skills and components needed to create a fully functioning DRWH system are
absent in many locations.
• The disproportionate high cost of DRWH components and systems, especially gutters
and containers big enough to store water for a longer period of time.
• There is ignorance of DRWH techniques amongst relevant professionals.
• The limited availability of roofing of suitable type and adequate area per capita.

Given the present mild encouragement of DRWH by water authorities in Ghana and the very
slowly accumulating local experience, improvements of DRWH systems may be expected to
grow at a very slow pace. To further complicate the successful implementation of DRWH the
numerous institutions and NGOs operating in the water sector experience problems and
disagreement on how water management should be conducted in the studied area. With so
many different actors problems obviously arise and progress on alternative water sources,
such as DRWH, are retarded.

8.2 Hypothesis
Rainwater harvesting is of great importance in the socio-economic development of areas
where water sources are scarce or where groundwater and surface water are limited or
polluted. Properly conducted rainwater harvesting not only effectively lessens water resources
scarcity, minimize soil erosion and flooding damage but also have few negative
environmental impacts.

The focus of this thesis boils down to one question: Are the peri-urban areas of Accra really
suitable for the implementation of formal (or informal) DRWH? The rainfall patterns show
relatively low erratic precipitation, generally too small for formal DRWH to be considered.
The capacity of roof harvesting systems to offer sufficient volumes of water during periods of
scarcity is thus highly questionable. As single water source roof water harvesting cannot to a
great extent contribute to meeting the gap between demand and need. The limitations of
DRWH are much discussed in Kumar Dinesh (2004). Dinesh states that: “DRWH can only
help augment the basic water supplies where public water distribution systems are already in
place and that too marginally.” DRWH systems also score low when it comes to terms of cost
of production per unit volume of water, mostly due to the inconsistent high cost of DRWH
components and systems. The absence of proper gutters or sufficient areas of run-off
producing roofs in many of the studied locations constitute further obstacles to the
implementation of formal or informal DRWH. Due to Dinesh this makes DRWH best suited
to the higher or middle-income groups and cannot have any role in meeting the survival needs
of the more destitute parts of the population.

Some hypothesis that guided this study has been vindicated, whilst others have been
invalidated. While local authorities and NGOs operating with water management in the area
does not seem to appreciate the promotion of rainwater harvesting at all, the inhabitants of the
studied sites show an overall positive approach towards this water source and the majority
prefers rainwater when compared with other available water sources. Domestic rainwater
harvesting is widely acknowledged in the peri-urban areas of Accra; it is even more
widespread than we believed it would be before starting the survey. This indicates a great
interest in the technique and its sustainability as a useful and appropriate source of water,

- 57 -
whether supplementary or not. There is obviously much to ask for in terms of consciousness
of water quality and management of the run-off area and collection device but with the aid of
local WATSAN committees raised awareness can easily be achieved. Another major problem
with this technique is as already mentioned the disproportionate high initial cost, which means
that numerous households simply cannot afford the investment of proper roofs or gutters. This
is a huge obstacle towards the implementation of formal or informal DRWH but a problem
that can without doubt be solved with government subsidies or the more straightforward
process of involving an NGO in the production or purchase processes. The overall goal of
anyone operating in the water management area should be to offer DRWH systems of sensible
cost and adequate quality readily available for households to purchase.

8.3 Recommendations
The recommendations are directed to all national and local NGOs as well as the planning
institutions working with the national and local water sector in urban, peri-urban and rural
parts of Ghana.

To simply describe water scarcity as an environmental problem rather than a social or

institutional one is part of a common misrepresentation. Environmental problems are usually
regarded as calling for technical solutions, which is principally what the developed countries
have to offer. But a more fundamental issue is the way in which policies and government
agencies are weakened and unable to sustain regulations. Rainwater harvesting can be an
excellent technique to mitigate water scarcity, especially if it is complemented by appropriate
institutional innovation. Policies aimed at promoting DRWH should be carefully designed and
implemented, and be supported by appropriate legal and institutional framework. In coastal
areas like Accra, where acute shortage of freshwater may occur, due to inadequate treatment
systems, and the groundwater is saline due to saltwater intrusion, desalinisation as a
mitigation measure, financed by the government, may occasionally prove to be a better
alternative compared with DRWH. But the importance and convenience of domestically
collected rainwater must not be ignored though and the one mitigation investment should not
exclude another. As long as it rains the local population will harvest rainwater, hence it would
be better to promote and educate instead of neglect this water source in order for the people to
receive the best possible water they can from their DRWH-systems.

In the future more interdisciplinary approaches will be necessary in the scientific investigation
of water management, especially if the focus should be the possible implementation of formal
or informal DWRH. In the search for sustainable solutions it is essential to combine
hydrological, climatological, economical and anthropological findings. To address the
perennial water shortage and concomitant repercussions on health and to ensure gender equity
in the burden of accessing water for domestic use, the following recommendations to promote
DRWH technologies emerge:

• Work through the local community structures.

• Know the community and its inhabitants.
• Understand and take account of gender roles.
• Raise awareness of technology and water quality through education and information.
• Establish demonstration DRWH systems.
• Reach out to vulnerable groups - empower weaker members of the community.

- 58 -
• Ensure that the contribution of free unskilled labour.
• Ensure that local materials are readily available.
• Arrange economic subsidiaries through credit or micro-finance.
• Provide full grants for severely labour-stressed households.
• Develop skills base in community with a group of independent and well-known
persons that may assist with information and knowledge.
• Develop household skills, especially concerning maintenance of the DRHW-system.
• Maximise the effective usage of the system through information and education.
• Provide prompt technical backup when needed.
• Encourage household members to make productive use of the time saved.

- 59 -

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- 60 -
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- 62 -
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Oral references

Muhammed Andani Safuratu (Water and Sanitation Engineer) in the Community Water &
Sanitation Agency (CWSA) headquarter, interview performed on the 6th of February 2006,
Accra (Ghana).

Mr Johnny Nyametso in the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) interview performed on

the 9th of February 2006, Accra (Ghana).

Joyce Lena Danquah (Programme Officer) in the Water Aid Ghana Accra office, interview
performed on the 14th of February 2006, Accra (Ghana).

- 63 -
Appendix 1
The Manning Formula:


Q = flow in channel (m3 s-1)

A = cross-sectional area (m2)

V = velocity of flow in channel (m s-1)

n = Manning roughness coefficient (usually between 0.01 and 0.015 for gutters)

P = Wetted perimeter (m)

R = Hydraulic radius (m) ( )

S = Slope

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Appendix 2
Interview with Mrs Safuratu Muhammed Andani
Msc. (DIC) Environmental Engineering (Water & Sanitation Engineer)
At the Community Water & Sanitation Agency, Greater Accra region, 6th of February

1. What does CWSA do?

Answer: We are responsible for the supply of water and sanitation issues in the rural areas of
Ghana, basically where Ghana Water Company Limited (GWCL) do not supply the
communities with piped water.

2. What is your opinion on rainwater harvesting, and how do you think it can be
implemented in the Greater Accra Metropolitan Area?

Answer: The rainfall patterns in GAMA are not enough frequent or plentiful enough for RWH
to be considered. It would not be cost – effective because of the large storage tanks required
and who would finance it?

3. Do you know of a local place, close to Accra, where RWH is implemented and

Answer: No, but not too far away is the Danfa-clinic where they do have RWH but it is not
very effective.

4. Do you know where we can find further information about RHW in the peri-urban
areas of Accra?

Answer: I am not sure but try going to the Water Aid Agency and maybe they can help you.

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Appendix 3

Interview with Mr Johnny Nyametso

At the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Greater Accra region, 9th of February

i. Do you know if RWH-techniques are commonly implemented in GAMA?

Answer: Kind of common in the area, almost every household has it. Even households
without proper gutters and cisterns do sometimes have DRWH– they find ways to collect the
rainwater, through other collection devises.

ii. We have been told that in GAMA it does not rain enough to use DRWH, is that your
opinion to?

Answer: At least it rains enough so the collected water can be used as a complement for
household demands.

iii. What is the general opinion about DRWH?

Answer: Very good if it can be implemented. Government has recently, through media,
encouraged the use of DRWH-techniques. Groundwaters in GAMA are salty due to saltwater
intrusion. People mix water from boreholes with rainwater to make it more suited for human

iv. Do you know any areas with DRWH-techniques that could be of interest for us to

Answer: Districts that may be interesting for a comparative study:

• Abokobi (Ga East)
• Amasaman (Ga West)

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Appendix 4

Interview with Joyce Lena Danquah

Programme Officer at the Water Aid Ghana, Greater Accra region, 14th of February 2006.

1. What does Water Aid do?

Answer: We give financial and technical support through local organisations to implement
projects within the water and sanitation area. There is a national framework on water and
sanitation in Ghana. At district level we cooperate with local NGO’s according to these
regulations. We focus on poor and deprived communities in the rural and the peri-urban areas.

2. What type of water sources do you promote?

Answer: Hand dug wells and boreholes where hand dug wells are not feasible.

3. What is your opinion on RWH and why don’t you promote this technology?

Answer: RWH does not give enough “safe” water. It can only be used as a supplement to
ordinary household water sources. There is a health hazard because even if you tell people
that this water is not good enough to drink they might still drink it. RWH is very common in
the peri-urban areas of Accra even though the qualities of roofs and gutters are at many places
very poor. RWH can be very expensive to implement, sometimes even more expensive than
the cost of a hand dug well (even with appropriate purification methods if necessary).

4. Where would you recommend us to go to get further information on RHW in the peri-
urban areas of Accra?

Answer: To the World Vision.

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Appendix 5





Q1. Name of Community………...…………………………………………………..

Q2. Sex.
(i) Male □
(ii) Female □

Q3. Age……………………………..

Q4. Educational Level.

(i) None □
(i) Primary □
(ii) Secondary □
(iii) Post-Secondary □ (specify)…………………………………………

Q5. Occupation………………………………………………………………………………

Q6. Average Monthly Income (person)…………………………….cedis.

Q7. Marital status.

(i) Unmarried □
(ii) Divorced □
(iii) Widowed □
(iv) Married □

a) How many persons live in the household?........................................................................

b) How many of them are:

(i) Children (0-14)………
(ii) Adults (15-60)………..
(iii) Seniors (60+)………..

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a) Which of the under listed sources of water do you have in your community?
(i) Piped water □
(ii) River/stream □ (specify distance)……………………….
(iii) Boreholes (pump) □ (specify distance)……………….………
(iv) Open Well □ (specify distance).………………………
(v) DRWH □
(vi) Private vendor □

b) Which of the water sources named in Q9(a) do you prefer or use most often?
(i) During the wet season? (specify)………………………………….
(ii) During the dry season? (specify)…………………………………

a) What type of container do you use when you fetch water?
(i) Bucket □ specify volume……………….litres.
(ii) Barrel □ specify volume……………….litres.
(iii) Other □ specify volume……………….litres.

b) How many buckets/barrels do you usually fetch per day?......................................

Q11. Who is responsible for fetching water in the household?.................................................


Q12. Time spent daily on water fetching:

a) During regular flow/wet season……………………………..hours.

b) During scarcity periods/dry season………………………….hours.

Q13. Are you ever short of water?

(i) Yes □
(ii) No □


Q14. Why did you decide to use DRWH?.................................................................................


a) Is the DRWH-system working in a satisfying way?
(i) Yes □
(ii) No □
(iii) No opinion □

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b) If not, why?.......................................................................................................................
a) Who is responsible for the maintenance of the DRWH?..................................................

b) How many hours per month does the maintenance take?.......................................

Q17. What do you use the rainwater for?

(i) Drinking □
(ii) Cooking □
(iii) Washing □
(iv) Bathing □
(v) Other □ (specify)………………………

Q18. What do you like and dislike about DRWH?

Likes Dislikes

Q19. How did you finance your DRWH-system?

(i) Household money □
(ii) Household money/ subsidies □ (specify)....................................................
(iii) Subsidies only □ (specify)....................................................

Q20. How much did the DRWH system approximately cost?.........................................cedis.

Q21. What type of roof do you have?

(i) Corrugated iron □
(ii) Thatched □
(iii) Slate □
(iv) Other □ (specify)…………………………………………

Q22. What type of cistern do you use?

(i) Bucket □
(ii) Barrel □
(iii) Concrete-cistern □
(iv) Other □ (specify)…………………………………………

a) What is the storage capacity of your tank?......................................................................

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b) Have your tank ever been completely full?
(i) Yes □
(ii) No □

c) If yes, for how long could the tank serve the household with water?...............................

a) Do you use any type of filter/purification method?
(iii) Yes □
(iv) No □

b) If yes, what type?..............................................................................................................

c) If no, why not?..................................................................................................................

Q25. Do you have any suggestions towards further improvement of your DRWH-system?

a) Would you recommend DRWH systems to other households?
(i) Yes □
(ii) No □

b) Why?............................................................


a) Is there any WATSAN committee in this community?
(i) Yes □
(ii) No □

b) If yes, do you receive information and/or organisation of water and sanitation

management in your community?
(i) Yes □
(ii) No □

c) What do you think about the water supply situation in your community?
(i) Good □
(ii) Bad □
(iii) No opinion □

d) If bad, do you have any suggestions towards further improvement?...............................


e) Have you ever been involved in the water and sanitation planning in your community?

- 71 -
(i) Yes □
(ii) No □

- 72 -

a) Are there any diseases associated with water consumption in this community?
(i) Yes □
(ii) No □

b) If yes, name (describe) any of the diseases you know of………………………………..


c) How would you describe your general health status (frequency of illness)?
(i) once in two weeks □
(ii) once a month □
(iii) once in 3 months □
(iv) rarely □

d) How would you describe your health status during water scarcity (frequency of
(i) once in two weeks □
(ii) once a month □
(iii) once in 3 months □
(iv) rarely □

- 73 -
Appendix 6

Water Samples
1 2 3 4 5

Conductivity (µS/cm) 654 118 15,6 72,7 141

Alkalinity (mekv/l) 0,589 1,058 0,054 0,284 0,280

HCO3 (mg/l) 35,93 64,54 3,29 17,32 17,08
pH - - - - -

Cl- (mg/l) 106,95 1,47 0,83 4,61 37,23
mekv/l 3,017 0,041 0,023 0,130 1,050
NO3 (mg/l) 3,90 2,37 1,25 1,16 1,50
mekv/l 0,063 0,038 0,020 0,019 0,024
SO4 (mg/l) 13,41 2,55 1,19 9,70 1,33
mekv/l 0,279 0,053 0,025 0,202 0,028
SUM (anions)
3,948 1,191 0,122 0,635 1,382

Dilution factor 5 1 1 1 1
NA+ (mg/l) 8,78 1,15 0,76 2,88 12,34
Tot Na 43,9 1,15 0,76 2,88 12,34
mekv/l 1,909 0,050 0,033 0,125 0,537
K (mg/l) 0,62 0,56 0,20 1,49 0,41
Tot K 3,1 0,56 0,2 1,49 0,41
mekv/l 0,079 0,014 0,005 0,038 0,011
Ca (mg/l) 2,6 11,36 1,62 3,54 2,28
Tot Ca 13 11,36 1,62 3,54 2,28
mekv/l 0,65 0,568 0,081 0,177 0,114
Mg2+ 1,51 0,43 0,41 1,1 0,49
Tot Mg 7,55 0,43 0,41 1,1 0,49
mekv/l 0,621 0,035 0,034 0,090 0,040
SUM (cations)
3,259 0,668 0,153 0,431 0,701

(cations-anions) -0,689 -0,523 0,031 -0,204 -0,681

Sample 1: the conductivity is incorrect

Sample 2: one or a couple of cations are missing
Sample 3: almost correct
Sample 4: one or a couple of cations are missing
Sample 5: one or a couple of cations are missing

- 74 -
Location of water samples:

Sample nr. Date Description

1 25/2 Abokobi. Tap stand groundwater + rain

2 25/2 Abokobi. Permanent domestic rainwater.

3 4/3 Pokuase. Water has been allowed to settle

in a tank for over three weeks.

4 5/3 Medie. Water has been allowed to settle in

a tank for over two weeks. No treatment.

5 5/3 Medie. Water has been stored in a

container with a lid for three days.

- 75 -