Water in Ghana from pipe to packet: Is there a hidden cost to this low-cost solution?
In a country where pipes can stop short of reaching home, cheap sachets of water sold on the street could be an unlikely solution, but at what cost?
Like most of his fellow Ghanaians, Johnnie has been chasing after water his whole life.
Nearly two billion people still drink water from faeces-tainted sources, according to a 2018 World Health Organisation (WHO) fact sheet.
Instead, millions get their water in 500ml plastic sachets — some from Johnnie Water.
Today, the little plastic packets are more sought-after than bottled water — which is for the rich — and more popular than tap water, which people don’t trust.
Osei is a microbiologist at the Ghana Standards Authority and lead author of a 2013 study on the quality of sachet water in Accra published in Food Control.
“You cannot tell me that if I don’t have money to buy bottled water that I should buy [lower] quality water.” Osei believes tap water is safe to drink — with major caveats.
Although several studies have found contaminated sachets, Stoler wrote that very few of them — not excluding Osei’s — had too small of a sample size, for instance, to make broad conclusions about quality, even at a local scale.
“You have this gap in supply, so the private sector steps in and fills the demand.
Osei believes it might be time for Ghanaian authorities to step in and regulate the industry.