Water crisis looms in Ashanti Region

Members of the Commission together with GWCL staff inspecting the Owabi Dam, at Owabi Headworks

The Public Utilities Regulatory Commission (PURC) has warned that Kumasi and its environs risk facing a major water crisis soon if no immediate efforts are made to halt the massive encroachment of the Owabi and Barikese dams.

The Commission noted that, in the interim, the alarming rate of intrusion around these two major facilities which provide water for supply to most parts of the region could cause an upward review of water tariffs.

This is among other factors attributed to siltation of the two dams along with the illegal activities of estate developers and farmers within the catchment areas of the facilities. This development means the Ghana Water Company Limited (GWCL) has to use more chemicals to treat water before supplying it for domestic use, thus increasing the cost of production.

For instance, the Owabi Dam had a depth of 21 feet but has now been reduced to only 6 feet as a result of sand-winning and other construction works close to the facility. This has led to large deposits of sediment into the dam anytime it rains.

According to GWCL, the development has initiated a decision to immediately dredge the dam – at a cost to the state. A feasibility study for the dredging work is said to have already been carried out, and is now awaiting approval for work to start.

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Also, the Barikese Dam – constructed in the 1960s with an installed storage capacity of 30 million gallons of water – now produces an average of 24 million gallons of water daily, which is even based on demand.

The facility is also being threatened by farming activities, including the illegal felling of trees meant to protect the river and the dam.

The Acting Manager, Production-GWCL, Mr. Charles Tulashie, said over 200 people, for example, have been arrested in the past for their illegal activities close to the Barikese Dam – but the activities continue unabated.

He said if the catchment areas of the facilities can be categorised as a security zone with the military stationed within the security enclave, it will curb the current challenges with encroachers.

Mr. Tulashie said the installed capacity could be significantly affected – to 15 million gallons within the next 5 to 10 years – if steps are not taken to protect the facility now.

The Executive Secretary of the PURC, Mrs. Mami Dufie Ofori, said the situation demands active collaboration among all the enforcement agencies and stakeholders to find solutions for the challenges confronting GCWL at the various facilities.

This is also “because it is adding a lot of cost to the already high cost of operation and losses,” she stated.

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She observed that the recent tariff adjustment was based on an independent assessment by the Commission on the existing systems, and subsequently it approved the increase in water tariff.

Mrs. Dufie Ofori, who was visiting the GWCL facilities in the region together with other members of the Commission as part of scheduled field visits to observe operations of the utility providers at first-hand, hinted that if the cost of production is reduced the water tariff will be also reduced.

She explained that the visit has exposed the Commission to the strides being made by GWCL, as well as challenges to their operations.

A member of the Commission and chair of the Technical Committee of the PURC, Mr. Ishmael Edjekumhene, also expressed concern over the selfish gains of a few individuals who are compromising water security for the Kumasi metropolis

He said the critical state of the two facilities, in addition to other harmful practices done to water-bodies in the country, could lead to the importation of water for use in the near-future.

“This cannot be allowed to go on. Let us all come on board and fight this menace, and ensure that the right things are done,” he said.

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