On World Water Day, USAID and Safe Water Network partnership brought to life Aveme residents’ dreams for clean drinking water
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“You have brought us life — that is water — and there is no way to express our thanks but to say thank you,” spoke the Aveme traditional leader Togbe Afari-Koto. It was World Water Day, and the traditional leader represented not only the 300+ schoolchildren, community elders, queen mothers, opinion leaders and other participants who joined him in celebrating the launch of the community’s new surface water kiosk. Togbe Afari-Koto also represented his entire community, more than 4,000 residents in need of improved water access, who from that day on, would have it.
The surface water kiosk – a slow sand filtration system developed by Safe Water Network – was provided to the Aveme community with support from USAID, the Conrad H. Hilton Foundation, and CSR Development.
That morning, the partners and community leaders cut the ribbon to officially hand over the facility, and schoolchildren and community members clamored to get a taste of the clear, pure water that poured from the facilities’ faucets. Community members danced to the beat of drums and saxophone as they sang praise for the new water facility.
It was a stark contrast from the traditional water sources that had been available to community members in the past. In its baseline survey of the community, the USAID-funded Ghana WASH Project found the most improved water sources were boreholes, but the salty taste of the water and its inability to lather well meant most residents chose not to patronize these sources. Instead, community members regularly fetched water from the Lake Volta; few (less than 10 percent) practiced rainwater harvesting. None of the community’s schools had access to improved water facilities, whether for drinking or for cleaning purposes. Given the community’s reliance on the lake, it marked an opportunity for a water treatment intervention that could source water from this major water body and provide safe water for drinking.
From Raw Water to Safe Water
The water facility sources water from the nearby Lake Volta. Water is pumped directly from the lake to the main facility, where it goes through an intense, yet simple, treatment process. Six immense polytanks stand out at the main center in Aveme: The raw water goes first to two polytanks situated highest, then it is pumped into two lower polytanks filled with sand and treated with chlorine. It is at this stage that the water is treated and filtered for community consumption. Once the treatment process is complete, the water is pumped into two remaining polytanks; it is from here that the now potable water feeds into the faucets for community access.
Safe Water Network’s modular slow sand filtration system is locally accessible with a short timeframe for construction; the technology it harnesses also allows low operating costs for a community like Aveme. It’s an open-source technology that uses sand filtration to treat raw water and produce potable water that’s safe for consumption.
The facility has the capacity to produce 50,000 liters of treated water per day for the people of the Aveme and surrounding communities.
Next Steps: Ensuring Sustainability
“I’m sure you share my happiness in bringing this project into fruition,” Charles Nimako, Safe Water Network’s Director for Africa Initiatives, said to the community members.
“Schoolchildren,” Nimako said to the youngsters in attendance, many of whom sported blue t-shirts promoting safe water, “the training we’ve given you, it’s time to put it into use,” he said. “Demonstrate the information you learned to your classmates, to your parents…in time, we want to see that the incidence of water-borne disease goes down.”
Kurt Soderland, CEO of Safe Water Network, echoed similar sentiments. “Children, we ask you to look at this safe water station and tell yourselves that you will be proud users and custodians of this project for many years to come,” he said. “You will start drinking the water today; in time, some of you will be operators of the system, and, in time, your children will drink safe water from this system.”
“Remember,” Soderland concluded, “you’re part of a world community that wants to see you drink safe water,” he said.
Amanda Gimble, Senior Vice President of Strategy and Partnerships for Safe Water Network, spoke of her excitement to see the organization’s impacts in action: When she and her team members came to Aveme over a year ago to first assess the appropriateness of this intervention, she said, “we’d talked to the Assemblymen about the fact that there was no safe water,” she described.
People were using water from the lake, from boreholes, from hand-dug wells, she continued. “We really wanted to find communities that would embrace the idea, that would ensure there would be sustainability…coming here a year later and seeing this,” she said, pausing to look at the finished water treatment facility, “it’s the work that we and our partners have done; the community has come together. They have pride. So I am very, very optimistic about the future,” she smiled. “It’s very, very satisfying.”
The main facility is also connected to two separate vantage points, one closer to the lakefront and another at the nearby primary school, to provide wide coverage in water access across the community.
Promoting Partnerships on World Water Day, and Every Day
Working with the Ghana WASH Project, Safe Water Network will work closely with community leadership to establish community ownership and management. The pay-as-you-fetch system will provide cash flows that can be used to cover operating expenses, required repairs, and to extend the piping system in the future, if the community chooses to do so. USAID and the Safe Water Network also look forward to breaking ground on a similar water treatment facility in the community of Akateng, located in Ghana’s Eastern Region.
USAID has also partnered with other market-oriented organizations, such as the Coca-Cola Africa Foundation, to provide surface water kiosks in Greater Accra and Volta Regions, using technology from WaterHealth International. Through these and other partnerships, USAID and the Ghana WASH Project have successfully expanded improved water access to more than 44,000 individuals across Ghana, through the provision of not just surface water kiosks but also new and repaired boreholes and hand-dug wells.
Learn more about the Ghana WASH Project’s Partnerships:
Learn more about Safe Water’s initiatives in Ghana: