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Saturday, March 30, 2013


Water water everywhere – but sometimes nought to drink?

I don’t think it has rained more than three times since October when we got back to Accra from France. The UK may be suffering the coldest Easter on record with temperatures of minus ten degrees (I remember swimming in the North Sea at Easter up near Newcastle, at much this time of year and, though cold, my genitalia didn’t completely retract) but Ghana is drought-like. Temperatures stay up around 33 degrees and the humidity is around 80. Even Ghanaians are suffering heat rashes. The consequence is water shortages. And water wars.
The latter are fought between the well-to-do in the much sought after areas of the city. Here, half acre plots boast large houses and tropical gardens. Every house has a decent-sized water tank to see it through the days when the mains water does not run. This was fine until someone realized that if you add a pump to the tank you could exert extra suck on the mains and fill up even when water pressure is low. Soon, the inevitable, either you get a pump or you have no water.
Where we live (a mix of large houses and shanty squats) there is less water acquisitiveness but it does not mean we are out of the loop of steadily escalating self-interest. We had a full tank the other day, enough for two weeks, normally. Two days later it was nearly all gone. Why? We have theories. Leaks? Not likely as there are no damp signs on the soil. Neighbours burrowing under the wall and putting a T joint on our house supply? Again, no signs. The gardener selling water to locals (a common reason for sackings at the big houses). No – he’s a good feller and I am in the house, writing, when he is around. The neighbours joining the water pump army and sucking water from our tank? Possible. Anyway, our plumber is coming to fortify these precious resources. Also we will soon have the bore hole fully operational and be able to draw water when and how we like. In this latter respect we are, to use the North Korean metaphor, going nuclear.
All this does not disguise the potentially frightening issue of water becoming more precious than any other resource, even in Ghana. The country has the financial wherewithal and the climate to provide water for everyone all of the time. It is now oil-rich. But a governmental ideal that everyone, from the poor upwards, should be cared for, is sadly lacking. Thus the rich secure water by whatever means and what is left is spread thinly among the rest of the population.


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