The Ghana Statistical Service (GSS), in partnership with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), has unveilled the Population and Housing Census 2021 report on water – revealing a significant transformation in the primary source of household drinking water across the country.
In a stark contrast to data from the 2010 census, sachet-water has transitioned from a secondary choice to become the dominant source for most households.
In 2010, various forms of pipe-borne water comprised 46.5 percent of households’ primary drinking water sources. However, in 2021, sachet-water emerged as the leader – representing 37.4 percent of the market and surpassing all other sources. Notably, apart from sachet and bottled water, the use of all other water sources dwindled during this period.
The surge in sachet-water usage is indeed remarkable. Between 2010 and 2021, the percentage of households relying on sachet water for their drinking-water requirements multiplied by more than fourfold. In rural areas, the use of pipe-borne water increased from 23.8 percent in 2010 to 28.8 percent in 2021, while in urban areas the percentage plummeted by nearly half during the same timeframe.
Sachet-water has emerged as the primary drinking water source in regions such as Central, Greater Accra, Volta, Eastern and Ashanti, while boreholes, pumps or tube-wells remain the prevalent sources in other areas.
Access to clean and safe drinking water is a pivotal component of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) outlined by the United Nations. As a signatory to the SDGs, Ghana has aligned its national policies and initiatives with the international agenda, considering access to clean water and sanitation as fundamental human rights essential for overall well-being, productivity and health.
The report’s objective is to evaluate Ghana’s water status in light of these international goals, regional policies and national initiatives. A comparative analysis of census data from 2010 and 2021 is utilised to gauge Ghana’s compliance with these guidelines and identify areas requiring further attention.
Region-specific observations include a decrease in the use of pipe-borne water as the primary source of drinking water in eight regions; namely Western, Central, Greater Accra, Volta, Eastern, Ashanti, Ahafo and Bono. In contrast, eight other regions including Western North, Bono East, Oti, Northern, Savannah, North East, Upper East and Upper West experienced an increase between 2010 and 2021.
In 2021, surface water use as the primary source of drinking water by households increased in seven regions; with notable increases in Savannah (27.2 percent), Northern (18.9 percent), Bono East (14.7 percent), North East (12.1 percent), Western North (13.2 percent), Oti (10 percent) and Ahafo (7.5 percent).
The Western Region witnessed a substantial rise, with a 39.2 percentage point increase in households primarily using sachet-water between 2010 and 2021. Effia Kwesimintsim recorded the most substantial percentage point increase at 63.6 percent, reflecting a general trend of growth across all districts.
Significant differences between urban and rural areas were noted. In 2021, the percentage of urban households using sachet-water as their primary drinking water source was 2.5 times higher than that of rural households.
The Central Region experienced increases in the percentage of households primarily using sachet-water across all districts. Assin Fosu stood out with the highest increase of 40.1 percent. Notably, sachet-water use increased by 7.5 times in rural areas between 2010 and 2021, while in urban areas it increased by 4.5 times. The percentage of urban households utilising sachet-water was 2.6 times higher than rural households during the same period.
All districts in the Greater Accra Region witnessed an increase in the percentage of households using sachet-water as their primary source of drinking water. The Tema Metropolitan Assembly led with a significant increase of 33.2 percent. This increase was evident in both urban and rural areas, with increases of 44.1 and 25.7 percent respectively.
In Volta Region, the percentage of households relying on sachet-water as their primary drinking water source increased by 5.6 times between 2010 and 2021, with South Tongu district experiencing the most substantial rise of 25.4 times. The use of sachet-water in rural homes increased by 8.2 times, while in urban households it increased by 4.3 times.
The Eastern Region saw a remarkable 31.5 percentage point increase in sachet-water use as the primary drinking water source between 2010 and 2021. This increase was observed across all districts, both urban and rural, except for Birim Central where the percentage of rural areas in 2010 (4.5 percent) was slightly higher than in 2021 (3.7 percent).
The Western North Region experienced a 7.8 percent increase in households primarily using sachet-water between 2010 and 2021, with urban families showing a more substantial increase of 33.6 percent compared to rural households (8.2 percent).
In the Ahafo Region, the percentage of households relying on sachet water as their primary source of drinking water increased by 17.0 percent between 2010 and 2021, with Tano North district witnessing a remarkable 36.7 percent rise. In 2021, there were nearly four times (3.8) as many urban households consuming sachet-water as rural households.
Similar trends were observed in the Bono Region, with a 20.4 percent increase in households primarily using sachet-water between 2010 and 2021. In 2021, there were nearly five times (4.6) as many urban households consuming sachet-water as rural households.
The Bono East Region saw a 5.4-times increase in the number of families using sachet-water as their primary source of drinking water between 2010 and 2021, with Pru East district experiencing the most substantial percentage point rise of 24.6 percent. In 2021, there were almost 6.5 times as many households using sachet-water in urban regions as in rural areas.
The Oti Region witnessed a 6.7 percent increase in household water consumption between 2010 and 2021, with Jasikan district leading with a 10.0 percent rise.
In Northern Region, the percentage of households primarily using sachet-water as their source of drinking water increased from 0.2 percent in 2010 to 3.2 percent in 2021. Every district experienced an increase, with Sagnarigu and Tamale Metropolitan Assembly seeing increases of 6.5 and 5.4 percent respectively between 2010 and 2021.
The Savannah Region experienced a substantial increase, with the percentage of households using sachet-water as their primary drinking water source rising from 1.0 percent in 2010 to 6.2 percent in 2021. With the exception of North Gonja, where usage decreased from 0.1 percent in 2010 to 0.0 percent in 2021, every district experienced an increase. In the region, 5.2 times as many urban families than rural ones consumed sachet-water in 2021.
The North East Region saw an increase in households primarily using sachet-water, from 0.2 percent in 2010 to 1.8 percent in 2021. During this period, the percentage of households increased four-fold in rural areas and eleven-fold in urban areas.
In Upper East Region, the percentage of households using sachet-water as their primary drinking water source rose from 0.4 percent in 2010 to 2.2 percent in 2021. Every district experienced an increase in the percentage of households utilising sachet water, with a more significant increase observed in urban areas where there was an increase of 5.3 percent points over the same period, compared to 0.4 percent points in rural areas.
By 2021, 2.6 percent of households in the Upper West Region were using sachet-water as their primary source of drinking water – up from 0.7 percent in 2010. In all districts of both urban and rural areas, the percentage of homes utilising sachet water increased – with urban areas showing a proportion fifteen times higher than rural areas