July 7, 2017
GCF’s Water Satellite Coordinator Graduates with Distinction
July 11, 2017

This year, 2017, attention has been turned to the importance of wastewater which by nature is considered as waste, probably by virtue of ‘waste’ being included in its nomenclature. However, wastewater presents tremendous opportunities if we can focus on how to reduce and reuse it in order to reap all the benefits it comes with to help society. With wastewater in the equation, the difficulty associated with meeting the sustainable development goal 6 (Clean water and sanitation) will be halve taken care of.

Wastewater refers to all effluent from homes, industries, institutions, etc. including storm water and runoffs. In simple words, wastewater is the dirty water that we do not want to use due to health reasons. Wastewater comes in different types based on where it is produced or its constituents. There are three main types which include;

  1. grey water – produced in the home, mostly from laundry, sinks, bathtubs, swimming pool, etc.
  2. black water –  produced from toilet facilities, food preparation sinks, urinals, etc. this type of wastewater is highly contaminated and contains dissolved chemicals, solids and harmful pathogens.

iii. yellow water – produced from the sole collection of urine only without any other component.

Wastewater has very harmful effects on the r=environment especially due to its constituents; organic compounds, fecal coliforms, total and dissolved solids, etc. unfortunately, the discharge of wastewater is mostly done in a wrong way, thus, discharge into water bodies such as sea and rivers. This puts the whole human race at risk. This practice has a negative impact on health, food security, water security, and ecosystems. In Ghana, the lavender hill cannot be overlooked when discussing the nuisance and danger of wastewater. Most importantly, runoffs equally pose serious risks as harmful chemicals due to farming along water bodies, pathogens due to open defecation have the tendency to pollute drinking water sources for most Ghanaians.

The annual total wastewater production in Ghana not available due to lack of data and minimal surveys and research. In 2006, the estimated total amount of wastewater (domestic- grey and black waters, produced in urban Ghana was estimated to be approximately 280 million m3. It is estimated that urban wastewater generation in Ghana will increase from about 530, 346 m3/day (36%) in 2000 to about 1,452,383 m3/day (45%) in 2020[1]. Wastewater treatment in the ten regions of Ghana is no too good, only less than 8% of wastewaters (domestic) in Ghana undergo some form of treatment.

Contrary, the good handling of wastewater presents lots of advantages to humanity. This due to the fact that wastewater is made up of 99.9% water and 0.1% of contaminants. That gives us hope that with the removal of the 0.1% components, a clean water that can be reused is assured.

In terms of food security, the use of treated wastewater can be very useful in the production of agricultural produce. The removals of harmful pathogens in black water for example, presents a rich effluent containing nitrogen, ammonia, etc., which are good nutrients for crop production.  Agodzo et al., (2003), if only 10% of the 280 million m3 of wastewater from urban Ghana could be (treated and) used for irrigation, the total area that could be irrigated with wastewater alone could be up to 4,600 ha, and with an average dry-season farm size of 0.5 ha, this could provide livelihood support for about 9,200 farmers in the peri-urban areas of Ghana.

When it comes to industrial purposes the re use of wastewater generated by the industry activities in cooling their machineries and cleaning equipment is one of the benefits and this will lead to a reduction in the costs of production and reduction in the quantity of water abstracted for use each year. Nestle Ghana can be commended in this regard for establishing a $3.4 million water recycle plant at its Tema factory to ensure about 30% reuse of their wastewater and also protect the surrounding water bodies.

Considering all these benefits, wastewater in Ghana has been a much of a problem rather a resource. What then do we need to turn the tables around?

There is a need for strong and effective governance; without regulations backed up by monitoring, control and enforcement, there is little incentive to act. In the UNEP document ‘Clearing the waters’ (UNEP, 2010) the central role of governance is stressed with the statement “there is a water crisis, and there is an increasing understanding that it is a crisis of governance rather than one of physical scarcity”.  It is also noted that “the lack of good governance, including ineffective policies, enforcement, and institutions; corruption; and the lack of appropriate infrastructure, along with a shortage of new investments in building human capacity, all contribute to ongoing water quality problems. Weak institutions, inadequate water quality policies and regulations, and limited enforcement capacity underlie many water quality problems worldwide”[2]

Thorough research and data collection is highly needed to be able to deal with this menace. Data on commercial and industrial wastewater production are not existent. Knowledge and on safe wastewater use in agriculture is virtually non-existent. Wastewater treatment, especially, low-cost technologies are lacking in Ghana. Without data nothing happens, therefore its essential for stakeholders to invest in the gathering of data and the conducting of cutting edge researches to bring out solution that can be implemented to make the best use of a great resource we have.

Ghana is undergoing significant demographic and social changes, with urbanization and migration being two of the most important issues. This will bring to bear increasing influences on the production of wastewater. This makes it very important the need to focus on the recycling and reuse of wastewater especially when most of the country’s fresh water bodies are under siege due to illegal mining activities.

Wastewater because it is more of a resource that a problem or nuisance.



Jacob K. Amengor, Water and Sanitation Expect


[1]  Agodzo, S.K., Huibers, F.P., Chenini, F., van Lier, J.B. and Duran, A. 2003.Use of Wastewater in Irrigated Agriculture. Country Studies from Bolivia, Ghana and Tunisia. Volume 2: Ghana. Wageningen: WUR, 2003. (www.dow.wau.nl/iwe)

[2] UNEP (2010) Clearing the waters. A focus on water quality solutions. United Nations Environment Programme.

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