Community Water Issues

Article by Libby Clarke & Ana March

This is a farming community of around 2000 lives without access to safe water and sanitation in a dry and dusty environment. The main water source is a muddy dugout in a cluster of trees, shared by animals and surrounded by thick undergrowth. It is 20 minutes' walk downhill from the village, so water has to be carried uphill on the return journey home.

The water level at the dugout falls month by month throughout the dry season until March when it dries up completely until the rains come again in July. During this time the women have to walk seven kilometers to the White Volta River to fetch water until the rains come again in July to replenish the dugout. The birds noisily squawk in the trees as they too are distressed by the lack of water.

Another NGO drilled two boreholes here five years ago but the water was found to have high fluoride levels so the boreholes were capped and the NGO withdrew. Other wells have been dug by other agencies but turned out to be dry. This community suffers further as the village is close to the border between two administrative regions the Upper East and Northern regions.

Most of the houses here are officially in the Northern region but the nearest towns are in the Upper East region. This means it's sometimes unclear at local government level who is responsible for looking after the community.

Now WaterAid's partner Rural Aid is trying to help the community access water. It's a difficult problem as the village is built on hard, crystalline granite, meaning it's impossible to hand dig a well and drilled boreholes would only reach water if a fracture can be found in the rock. Rural

 Aid is looking into the option of filtering and piping water here from the White Volta River and storing it in overhead tanks. This would be a very capital-intensive undertaking but may be the only solution if a fracture can't be found in the granite. The community members are very cohesive and willing to actively participate in development projects. The village chief and elders expressed their thanks for the work done to date by Rural Aid in trying to find a solution.

 Source of article can be found at:


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  • The Dry Season

    In the dry season, agricultural operation is impossible without irrigation. Farmers move to cities, creating population density and poverty. The dry season is one of two seasons in semi-arid Africa.  The dry season is characterized by low humidity, lack of water and depletion of subsistence crops between November to April yearly.
  • The Rainy-Wet Season

    The rainy or wet season occurs during a warm season, or summer, precipitation takes place.  In the wet season, air quality improves, fresh water quality improves, and vegetation grows substantially, leading to crop yields late in the season. Rivers overflow their banks and drains into lakes along the white Volta river networks.    
  • Dredging Existing Lakes

    UTAP proposes expanding five (5) midsize lakes spreading along the White Volta, dredged or dug-up to regain lost storage, improve water supply reservoirs, improve fish habitat, and use nutrient-rich sediments for planting of fruits and vegetables. None of the lakes sediments are considered contaminated in any form.