S.B. Akuffo, Environmental Consultant writing for Accra Mail "Competitive bidding for private sector participation in the distribution of water under the Water Sector Reforms will be opened to public by the end of March this year, Mr. Emmanuel Nkrumah... has revealed." (Daily Graphic 23/1/03).
If this bid opening involves distribution of water in the Accra Tema Metropolis, then the question to ask is where is the water that is to be distributed? From all indications Mr. Nkrumah and his Water Sector Reform team wish to take the citizens of the Metropolis on just another 'wild goose chase'.
The facts of the matter are that water demand in Accra Tema Metropolis has for a long time outstripped water production by over 100 million gallons a day. For this reason water is officially being rationed seriously in the metropolis except in very few places. So which water is to be distributed by the private sector?
Water production from the Kpong plant, remains as it was in the mid sixties, when the plant was built i.e. at 40-45 million gallons per day (mgd).
From the Weija Water Works, water production has increased from about 13mgd in 1975 to 30-35mgd as at now. Bringing a total production in the Metropolis to 75-80mgd. This production falls far short of the 200mgd projected for the present population in the metropolis.
One would therefore have thought that with such a serious water production problem on GWCL's hands, the starting point for the water sector reform would be water production and not water distribution.
Figures sometimes quoted for water production from the Weija plant are so misleading that I wish to invite Mr. Nkrumah "the water engineer" to challenge the figures I have mentioned above, i.e. 30-35mgd. for Weija and 40-45mgd for Kpong.
The designer of the Weija Dam stated that at the depth of 15 metres at the intake in 1975 the maximum yield from the dam for water supply purposes was 45 mgd. The dam is now less than 8 metres deep, so the yield should be far less now. In October 2001 when the President commissioned the Weija treatment plant extension, strange figures of 82 mgd and 90 mgd were quoted as additional production and the existing production figures at Weija (see Ghanaian Times of 19/10/02). I certainly do not know where these figures came from. But rising directly from these false figures being bandied around by GWCL is the impression being created by both GWCL and the Water Sector Reform Secretariat that there is enough water in the system to be distributed by an efficient private sector investor. There is no such water. All the talk about connecting Weija to Accra East to supply the east, and looking for investors to deliver a surplus 7mgd water siting at Weija to Kasoa and its environs are all false claims.
It is pertinent to remind ourselves that the Ghana Water Company constructed several overhead tanks at places like Tantra Hills, John Teye Memorial School, Accra Girls Secondary School, Lashibi and other places some years ago at great cost to the nation, ostensibly to improve the water supply situation, but these tanks have been white elephants in the communities where they stand.
Almost all these overhead tanks have not received a drop of water since construction. One wonders what engineering knowledge informed the construction of these overhead tanks? Is it not the same knowledge from the same stock of engineers that is urging the government to engage private investors to put the cart before the horse by investing in water distribution where there is no water to distribute?
I would like to at the stage to urge Government to ask Mr. Nkrumah and his team at the Water Sector Restructuring Secretariat (WSRS) to sign performance bonds with the people of Ghana, that if they succeed in sending us on another "wild goose chase" wasting the country's scarce resources in a fruitless pursuit of laying empty pipelines to distribute non-existent water, they should be taken to the fast track court for causing financial loss to the state. Already, there are too many empty pipelines in the metropolis. The lucky areas receive water only once or twice a week through them, some areas, no supply at all.
This time around, some of us who are professionals in the area, are going to watch proceedings of GWCL and the WSRS with eagle eyes and would be reporting to the good people of the country appropriately.