The Safe Water Network in Ghana

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SEATTLE — The body can survive for up to three weeks without food, but only three days without water. Water makes up about 60 percent of the body. By day three of severe dehydration, your blood will have thickened enough to slow blood flow, thereby shriveling the skin. Sweating is no longer an option to help keep you cool, so the body starts to overheat and act as an oven for your vital organs. Liver and kidney failure will follow shortly after if you do not get water as soon as possible.

Why Clean Water Is Important
Dehydration is one of the main causes of preventable death in Ghana. This condition is typically brought on by gastrointestinal bugs characterized by vomiting and diarrhea. These illnesses often originate from waterborne diseases like cholera, giardia and dysentery. One of the major causes of infantile illness and death, dehydration claims the lives of nearly two million children under five each year in developing nations.

In Ghana, diarrhea kills about 14,000 children annually. About 40 percent of Ghana’s population still does not have access to clean water. Most Ghanaians rely on surface water sources that are often contaminated by parasites and other microbes.

Current estimates reveal that 29 percent of hand pumps that enable access to clean water are completely broken and 49 percent of pumps only partially function. Many locals lack the skills necessary to maintain wells, pumps and other systems already put in place. Difficulty maintaining proper sanitation methods continues to be an issue and hinders the distribution of clean water.

The Safe Water Network as a Gamechanger
This is where the Safe Water Network in Ghana comes in. Since 2008, the Safe Water Network (SWN) has been working to sustainably provide safe and affordable water to communities in Ghana and India.

SWN operates at a local level, providing the training and equipment necessary for residents to be able to run and manage the system for their community
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Though the program does charge a fee for the water, maintaining an active consumer base ensures the viability of the operation, acting as funding for routine maintenance and repairs. This also encourages economic stimulation and retention within the community.

Operating locally does not apply only to local ownership. The operation is designed to draw from contaminated local water sources in a way that does not devastate the environment, so that whichever river, lake or pond is being drawn from can be a reliable source for many years to come.

Working on a local level allows operators to tailor their technology to be contaminant-specific, ensuring an effective and prudent water sanitization station process.

Innovation and the Future
The Safe Water Network in Ghana is evolving with technology. Weaving long-term success goals into their models has showcased the adaptability of the program. In 2014, the first Safe Water Station running completely on solar power was built in rural Ghana.

Finding sustainable ways to power these water plants in remote areas is a futuristic way to deliver clean water to more people. More than 302,000 people now have access to clean water because of the 95 stations set up by the Safe Water Network in Ghana.

Sloan Bousselaire

Photo: Flickr

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About Author

Sloan Bousselaire

Sloan lives in Denver, CO. Her academic interests include civil liberties, social justice and education policy.

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