Today is World Water Day

March 28, 2017
Source: Ama Kudom-Agyemang l l Ghana
Today is World Water Day

Today, Wednesday March 22nd, 2017, is World Water Day and this year’s celebration is focused on drawing the public’s attention to the potential of waste water as a resource to be cherished, and not a residue to be discarded. Waste water also known as sewage is water that has been used in homes and businesses, and is no longer wanted and therefore disposed of. It is primarily made up of human waste or faecal sludge, laundry wastes, oils and chemical effluent from homes, industries, commercial businesses and institutions.

Because of its’ composition, waste water is highly pollutant and its haphazard disposal impacts negatively on the environment and human health. According to the FAO, discharged untreated waste water are likely to contain pathogenic organisms similar to those in the original human excreta.  Such pathogens include millions of bacteria, viruses, protozoa and helminths or parasitic worms. These infect humans and the environment by contaminating the soil, water bodies and crops, causing complex health problems. 

Aside polluting fresh water sources and impacting the food chain, improper discharge of waste water is a major contributor to insanitary environments that breeds killer but preventable diseases such as diarrhea. Global Facts on Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH), compiled by the US based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), indicate that an estimated 801,000 children under five years die from diarrhea each year, mostly in developing countries. This amounts to 11% of the 7.6 million deaths of children under the age of five and means that about 2,200 children are dying every day as a result of diarrheal diseases.

Additionally, worldwide, millions of people are infected with neglected tropical diseases (NTDs), many of which are water and/or hygiene-related, such as Guinea Worm Disease, Buruli Ulcer, Trachoma, which is a form of blindness that is preventable, and Schistosomiasis also known as bilharzia or snail fever. All of these are worm related diseases most often found in places with unsafe drinking water, poor sanitation, and insufficient hygiene practices.

The Global Facts on WASH say, “After years of infection, the Schistosoma parasite can also damage the liver, intestine, lungs, and bladder. Rarely, eggs are found in the brain or spinal cord and can cause seizures, paralysis, or spinal cord inflammation.”

From the look of things, improper disposal of waste water should not be encouraged in any human settlement, be it urban, peri-urban or rural. However, the reality is that most waste water produced globally remains untreated causing widespread water pollution, especially in developing countries including Ghana. 


A global estimate by UNDP and UN-Habitat is that 90% of all waste water generated is released into the environment untreated. In many developing countries the bulk of domestic and industrial waste water is discharged without any treatment or after primary treatment only.  Currently, Ghana as a country lacks adequate waste water treatment systems and majority of households and communities nationwide lack basic sanitary facilities. 


The good news is that this problematic waste need not be a burden. It can actually become a source of livelihood enhancement, job creation and income generation avenue. And this is the reason for the theme: “Water and Waste Water,” for this year’s World Water Day celebration with a focus to create an in the global community awareness of the need to see, treat and value waste water as a valuable resource. The Day was instituted in 1992 by the United Nations, to draw global attention to the importance of water as a vital resource to life. Each annual event highlights a specific aspect of freshwater.

This year’s theme, provides an important opportunity for people to learn more about wastewater as a valuable resource in the circular economy and understand that its safe management is an efficient investment in the health of humans and ecosystems.  The celebration also highlights the need for proper collection and safe, nuisance-free disposal of waste water to be legally recognized as a necessity in any urbanized, industrialized society and even in local communities.


In Ghana, the objectives for the celebration are to raise public awareness about the interdependence between water and waste water in the quest for sustainable development; and educate the public on the importance of considering waste water as a valuable resource that requires safe management for generating energy and clean water for irrigation among other things.


In view of the magnitude of waste water disposal and management in Ghana and the urgent need for an intensive public education the subject, the National Planning Committee, decided that the celebration will be a media campaign. The aim is to expose the journalists and media persons to the status of waste water management as the country celebrates its 60th anniversary, its associated health and environmental risks, efforts being made at different levels to address the situation and how stakeholders are responding to these measures.


The Media Campaign was launched at a “Meet the Press,” session in Accra on Thursday March 9th, 2017. Representatives of some water related institutions delivered statements calling for immediate measures to properly manage the nation’s waste water.


Speakers included the Director of Water Quality at the Ghana Water Company Limited, Mrs. Margaret McCauley, Technical Director of Community Water and Sanitation Agency, Emmanuel Gaze and the Country Director of WaterAid Ghana, Dr. Mohammed Abdul-Nashiru. They agreed on the need for expedited action on the nation’s treatment and management of the nation’s waste water “to avert a calamity waiting to happen.” 


Dr. Kwabena Nyarko of the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Kumasi briefed the journalists on the National Drinking Water Quality management Framework (NDWQMF), developed to drive the management of drinking water quality in Ghana. While,

Mr. Samuel Obiri of the Water Research Institute gave an overview of the effects of waste water disposal on aquatic biodiversity.


The Executive Secretary of the Water Resources Commission, Benjamin Ampomah, who was Chairman for the event, stressed that “there is actually nothing like waste water, it is a valuable resource for re-use…”


As part of the media campaign, a press tour of the first ever Fortifier or Organic Fertilizer Producing Plant at Borteyman, near Nungua Farms was organized on Friday March 10th, 2017. Fortifier is a pathogen-free, faecal sludge organic based fertilizer. The Plant is aimed at boosting the country’s liquid and solid waste management efforts, by addressing the problem of dumping or dislodging of liquid waste in water bodies and open drains, and at inappropriate open places that pose public health risks, and affect the quality of freshwater resources.

The Plant’s establishment is a Public Private Partnership (PPP) arrangement of the International Water Management Institute (IWMI), Tema Metropolitan Assembly (TMA), Jekora Ventures Limited and Trends, a WASH related NGO. It is funded by Bill and Miranda Gates Foundation, Grand Challenges Canada and DFID.

To further commemorate World Water Day, the Planning Committee interacted with pupils and students of St. John’s Primary and Junior High Schools, who are members of the Junior Graphic Fan Club in Accra. The team talked to them about the essence of the theme for this year’s World Water Day.

The climax of the Day’s celebration is a tour of the waste water treatment facility mounted to generate biogas and treated water for lawn irrigation at the premises of Head office of the Action Chapel Church in Accra.

Other activities to mark the Day include special media briefing sessions, which will be held later in the month.

Credit: UNICEF Ghana