Takoradi — Illegal mining, popularly called galamsey, is undermining efforts to sustain potable water in small towns, particularly in mining areas across the country, the Chief Executive Officer of Community Water and Sanitation Agency (CWSA), Mr Worlanyo Kwadjo Siabi, has disclosed.
He explained that upsurge of minerals, including arsenic, manganese and fluoride in groundwater in some mining areas, have destroyed and causing a decline in water coverage.
The CEO said water coverage, which was 65 per cent in 2016, now stands at 62. 06 per cent, and stressed the need for improvement on the situation to save the rural community from health hazards.
Mr Siabi revealed this to journalists on Tuesday during a duty tour by the CSWA board in the Western Region.
He said: "We have noted a decline in coverage because of illegal mining, which has destroyed most of our surface water sources, but, we have also not looked at groundwater, which forms about 95 per cent of water, and because of illegal gold mining in some communities, arsenic levels are high."
He said that water quality of most systems were not monitored due to the wrong assumption that groundwater, which was the most used water source, had constant quality, but, argued that high levels of iron, manganese, fluoride, arsenic, hardness and salinity were common.
For example, he said, water sources which were contaminated with arsenic could affect fertility of people and the intelligence quotient of children.
The situation, he said, had made the running of treatment plants very expensive, but, added that "as a way forward, we have to reduce illegal mining and make our water safe."
Mr Siabi said another reason why the groundwater had reduced was because of the deterioration of the tree cover caused by climate change,, thereby affecting volumes of water in boreholes.
He disclosed: "We also have an outstanding debt of GH₵40 million in electricity bills not paid by the communities, so close to about 900 systems out of the 1,022 are not working."
Mr Siabi expressed worry that these factors were eroding investment in small water systems, recalling that in 2009, the World Bank provided $90 million, while in 2017 another $45.7 million from the same bank was used to rehabilitate systems which were not functioning.
Again, the British government had also provided 30 million euros for some districts in Ashanti, while another $3.8 million would also cover the Volta Region, with government also providing $35 million to improve water systems as part of the reforms in the sector, he said.