Ghana Water Company Limited
HISTORY OF WATER SUPPLY IN GHANA
Ghana Water Company Limited was established on 1st July 1999, following the conversion of Ghana Water and Sewerage Corporation into a state-owned limited liability company under the Statutory Corporations (Conversion to Companies) Act 461 of 1993 as amended by LI 1648.
The first public water supply system in Ghana, then Gold Coast, was established in Accra just before World War I. Other systems were built exclusively for other urban areas among them the colonial capital of Cape Coast, Winneba and Kumasi in the1920s.
During this period, the water supply systems were managed by the Hydraulic Division of Public Works Department. With time the responsibilities of the Hydraulic Division were widened to include the planning and development of water supply systems in other parts of the country.
In 1948, the Department of Rural Water Development was established to engage in the development and management of rural water supply through the drilling of bore holes and construction of wells for rural communities.
After Ghana’s independence in 1957, a Water Supply Division, with headquarters in Kumasi, was set up under the Ministry of Works and Housing with responsibilities for both urban and rural water supplies.
During the dry season of 1959, there was severe water shortage in the country. Following this crisis, an agreement was signed between the Government of Ghana and the World Health Organisation for a study to be conducted into water sector development of the country.
The study focused on technical engineering, establishment of a national water and sewerage authority and financing methods. Furthermore the study recommended the preparation of a Master Plan for water supply and sewerage services in Accra-Tema covering the twenty-year period 1960 to 1980.
In line with the recommendations of the WHO, the Ghana Water and Sewerage Corporation (GWSC), was established in 1965 under an Act of Parliament (Act 310) as a legal public utility entity. GWSC was to be responsible for:
• Water supply and sanitation in rural as well as urban areas.
• The conduct of research on water and sewerage as well as the making of engineering surveys and plans.
• The construction and operation of water and sewerage works,
• The setting of standards and prices and collection of revenues.
DECLINE IN EFFICIENCY OF GWSC:
By the late 1970s and early 1980s, the operational efficiency of GWSC had declined to very low levels mainly as a result of deteriorating pipe connections and pumping systems. A World Bank report in 1998 states that: “The water supply systems in Ghana deteriorated rapidly during the economic crises of the 1970´s and early 1980´s when Government’s ability to adequately operate and maintain essential services was severely constrained.”
GWSC largely experienced operational difficulties because of inadequate funding. From its inception, GWSC depended solely on government subvention to meet both operational and development costs. However, the annual government subvention was not adequate to meet the operational and development needs of the Corporation over the period. In addition, the annual subvention was either often not released on time or in most cases not released at all before the end of the budgetary year.
GWSC therefore met its operating costs at a level constrained by unavailability or inadequacy of funds. The lack of funds to meet operational costs resulted in the poor state of existing infrastructure especially the distribution systems.
Before 1957, there were 35 pipe-borne water supply systems in the country. In a bid to promote rapid national development after Ghana’s Independence, the government launched a crash programme for urban water expansion and accelerated rural development. As a result, by 1979 there were 194 pipe-borne and 2,500 hand pumped borehole systems in the country. By 1984, additional 3000 boreholes had been drilled and fitted with hand pumps. However by the late 1980’s and early 1990, 33% of the water supply systems had deteriorated greatly or completely broken down due to inadequate funding to carry out maintenance and rehabilitation.
INTERVENTIONS TO IMPROVE EFFICIENCY:
To reverse the decline in water supply services, various sector reforms and improvement projects were undertaken in 1970, 1981 and 1988 by the World Bank, IDA, donor countries and other external support agencies such as Austrian Government, Italian Government, Nordic Development Fund, the African Development Bank, CIDA, DFID, KfW, GTZ, OECF, ECGD and CFD/ADF.
Though some gains were derived from these interventions, their general impact on service delivery was very disappointing. Due to the failure of these interventions to achieve the needed results, several efforts were made to improve efficiency within the water supply sector in Ghana especially during the era of the Economic Recovery Programme from 1983 to 1993.
During this period, loans and grants were sought from the World Bank and other donors for rehabilitation and expansion programmes, training of personnel and procurement of transport and maintenance equipment.
In 1986, subvention for operations and maintenance was withdrawn although funding for development programmes continued. User fees for water supply were increased and subsidies on water tariffs were gradually removed for GWSC to achieve self-financing. The government at that time approved a formula for annual tariff adjustments to enable the Corporation generate sufficient funds to cover all annual recurrent costs as well as attain some capacity to undertake development projects.
For political reasons, this tariff formula was not applied and, over the years, irregular tariff increases were always below cost recovery levels resulting in heavy corporate deficit financing and ineffective service delivery.
WATER SECTOR REFORMS IN GHANA:
In 1987, a “Five-Year Rehabilitation and Development Plan” for the sector was prepared which resulted in the launching of the Water Sector Restructuring Project (WSRP). Multilateral and bilateral donors contributed $140 million to support the implementation of the WSRP.
The WSRP was aimed at reducing unaccounted for water, rationalisation of the workforce, hiring of professionals and training of staff. A strong focus of the WSRP was also on improved management and increased efficiency through organisational change of the water sector. Accordingly, a number of reforms within the Ghanaian water sector were initiated in the early 1990s.
As a first step, responsibilities for sanitation and small town water supply were decentralized and moved from Ghana Water and Sewerage Corporation to the District Assemblies in 1993.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was established in 1994 to ensure that water operations would not cause any harm to the environment.
The Water Resources Commission (WRC) was founded in 1996 to be in charge of overall regulation and management of water resources utilization.
In 1997, the Public Utilities Regulatory Commission (PURC) came into being with the purpose of setting tariffs and quality standards for the operation of public utilities.
Community Water and Sanitation Agency (CWSA) was established in 1998 to be responsible for management of rural water supply systems, hygiene education and provision of sanitary facilities. After the establishment of CWSA, 120 water supply systems serving small towns and rural communities were transferred to the District Assemblies and Communities to manage under the community-ownership and management scheme.
Finally, pursuant to the Statutory Corporations (Conversion to Companies) Act 461 of 1993 as amended by LI 1648, on 1st July 1999, GWSC was converted into a 100% state owned limited liability, Ghana Water Company Limited, with the responsibility for urban water supply only.