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Management of small towns water supply, Ghana

Clifford Abdallah Braimah, June 2010 Thesis Abstract:

Delivering improved water services in small towns in low-income countries encompasses particular challenges. Often considered too large to be effectively „community managed‟, small towns may also be too small, with too limited economies, to benefit from utility style professionalism and economies of scale. The most recent paradigm, that financially sustainable water services will be best achieved through the „Demand Responsive Approach‟, has been complemented in Ghana, the focus of this study, through the development of a variety of management models, community, local government, national utility and private providers, to deliver DRA.

Taking advantage of this unusual situation, in having a wide range of different functioning models in one country at the same time, this research has sought to investigate these management models with respect to effectiveness, equity, financial sustainability and efficiency of services delivery. However, the context in which all of these models operate relates to consumers‟ effective demand, key to delivering a demand responsive approach. A second objective, necessary to validate any results relating to management models, has therefore been to investigate households‟ actual demand for improved and alternative sources of water.

Data for the research was gathered from examples of the four management models in use in Ghana, from eight small towns spread across the length and breadth of the country. The methodology incorporated key-informant interviews, user observations, household surveys and an analysis of relevant documents of operators and policy makers. The fieldwork was undertaken in two separate periods, designed to ensure that any effects of dry and wet season variations, which influence water supply delivery as well as demand, were adequately captured.

The research found that none of the management models in use in small towns in Ghana could be considered to be significantly more effective than any other; overall, households demonstrated a limited demand for water supply with even this demand distributed among a number of sources, both formal, improved and alternative, traditional sources; this demand was not so much a function of affordability, rather a clear choice as to where to use limited resources – mobile phone access absorbing three times the amount spent on water.

Whilst certain management characteristics were found to make a difference, leadership in particular, no one model was able to influence the overarching water source effect, that is the cost of formal supply (surface water costing approximately three times more than ground water), relative to access to alternative, „free‟ supplies in the context of limited overall demand for water.

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