AL-HAJJ VIEW POINT: TIME TO HARVEST RAINWATER IS HERE
Notwithstanding the perceived abundance of water in Ghana, the production and utilization for consumption and non-consumptive uses is not at optimal level. The world experiences inadequate water supply in various parts particularly during the dry season. This situation calls for the efficient and effective management of available water resources.
Despite numerous achievements over the past two decades, an estimated one billion of the world's population still lack access to safe drinking water. The world has been confronted with acute water shortage problems for a long time. Many people in several parts of the world still rely on unprotected streams, rivers, lakes, pools dug-outs and impoundment reservoirs for their domestic water needs. These unsafe sources often serve as drinking places for animals as well as health hazards posed by this situation are endless and far-reaching.
In various parts of the world, rainwater harvesting has achieved a great level of success as a viable technology option for making water available for both consumptive and non-consumptive uses.
In Northeastern Brazil, rain water harvesting as a means of empowerment for people in the dry rural areas of the country is also a traditional technology applicable in India. In Germany, it is an essential element for future urban building construction as demonstrated by Berlin's newest development-the Daimler Chrysler Complex. Rainwater harvesting has boosted the rural economy and contributed to a high percentage of safe water coverage in Thailand and provides water for the survival of five million people in China. The technology has also given a new social and economic role to women in Central Kenya and made a formerly dry and dusty region green again. Similar efforts to capture rains are ongoing in Uganda, Ethiopia and Zambia.
Here in Ghana persistent water shortages are part of life even in both rural and urban areas. During acute periods, workers scramble for water for long hours before going to work, resulting in the loss of significant and productive man-hours. School children also waste precious study hours looking for water. Ministries, departments and agencies as well as health and educational institutions often face serious sanitation problems because of lack of water while residents of newly developed estates and residential areas also cry for water.
Yet Ghana enjoys substantial rainfall for most parts of the year. With limited treated water resources on one hand and the increasing demand for water on the other, various stakeholders have emphasized the need to look again at rainwater harvesting and also make more efficient use of water.
All over the country, rainwater harvesting is used in households for drinking, cooking, bathing and cleaning among others. It is also used in institutions like schools, community and religious centres to satisfy some of their water needs.
The technology is also used in agriculture to improve yields substantially, and without rains, Ghana usually goes hungry.
Areas where rainwater can be most useful include the rapidly growing peri-urban communities, where the conventional water supply approaches seem to have the greatest challenges and where residents are mostly willing to improvise their own coping strategies through self-supply.
Even though some private individuals and organizations are engaged in rainwater harvesting in Ghana, the practice is not formalized or institutionalized with clear guidelines and procedures in the country.
To harness this potential, the National Water Policy makes reference to the development of appropriate legislation and strategies and the provision of incentives to make rainwater harvesting a viable option to supplement household and institutional water requirements.
It is therefore welcome news that the Ministry of Water Resources, Works and Housing has started a process of developing a Rainwater Harvesting Strategy to guide the water sector in the planning, development and management of rainwater harvesting in Ghana.
The AL-HAJJ hopes that all water sector experts will contribute to government's efforts and make the strategy the best with adequate tools to turn the storm into a useful poverty reduction mechanism, as well as health and economic resource.