Project Case Study
Supporting the regulation of Ghana’s water system
Improving access to clean water in Ghana
Access to clean water in Ghana has historically favoured the urban population. It was estimated in 2000 that more than half the total population, did not have access to an improved water source. Improving access for poorer people has been a key objective of the Government of Ghana.
Water sector regulation in Ghana is controlled by the Public Utilities Regulatory Commission. During the 1990s, however, this body was underdeveloped, without the capacity or appropriate legal, financial and organisational frameworks to effectively manage the country’s water supply. Neither was it well enough informed about the sector’s problems.
We were contracted between 1999 and 2009 by the Commission and the Department for International Development to design a new approach that would take into account private sector participation in the sector.
This assistance was twofold. Firstly, our team assisted in its reorganisation. We developed a suitable legal framework and financial regulation regime, ensured the Commission’s financial independence by securing a levy, and developed an appropriate organisational structure and HR regime, with an easy complaints procedure. We also provided on the job training, local and international workshops, training programmes and international study tours to build staff capacity.
Second, our team worked to improve knowledge of the sector by conducting a pricing review and developing a new tariff structure. We then undertook a major survey to understand the key priorities and issues of Ghana’s poor surrounding water.
The survey revealed that the poor paid on average four times the amount the rich did for water, but its key finding was that the majority of poor in Ghana did not have access to treated water. This forces women and children to travel long distances to collect water, missing school and opportunities for employment, and risking health issues. Consequently, we developed a regulatory social policy which was implemented with top priority.
Our restructuring of the Commission has led to it becoming one of the most developed utility regulators in sub-saharan Africa, and it is now itself a subject of study tours from other African countries. Our social study and policy have enabled cost-effective projects to support the rural poor, millions of dollars of donor funding have been better targeted at poverty relief, and accessible water has been provided for thousands.