In August 2017 Engineers Without Borders USA (EWB-USA) was the recipient of a $210,000 grant from the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation. The grant supports the facilitation of a two-year project between EWB-USA and Safe Water Network to improve water service solutions in Ghana.
Today, more than one billion people lack access to safe, affordable water. Over the course of two years, this project will build the local capacity to design and launch water systems with household connections. Household connections are critical as they improve water quality for the family, increase the amount of safe water being consumed, and strengthen the financial proposition of water supply by increasing revenue.
The collaboration will not only directly increase household connections in two Ghanaian communities, it will also build the local skills in Ghana so more organizations can also implement household connections. In this way, the impact from the work will extend to tens of thousands of households in Ghana.
Every household brings us one step closer to achieving universal and equitable access to safe and affordable drinking water for all (SDG 6.1).
A cornerstone of this project is supporting the ramp-up of a market-based solution in Ghana: H2Ome! Water Stations. These stations are community-level water treatment facilities that produce high-quality water sold at affordable rates. The capital and start-up costs for H2Ome! Water Stations average ~$35 per person, with these costs covering water treatment technology, civil works, community engagement and training, and operating subsidies for the first few years until Stations break even.
Safe Water Network’s Ghana team currently operates 70 stations that serve 106 communities, and this includes more than 530 household connections. Their goal over the next five years is expand to a total of 150 stations serving 200 communities. Achievement of this goal is reliant on bringing in the technical capacity to complement their existing efforts — and that’s where EWB-USA comes in.
Beginning this November, EWB-USA’s Engineering Service Corps program will send four seasoned volunteer engineers on the first of six field visits. While on the ground, the teams will scope and design the technical requirements to retrofit Safe Water Network’s existing station in Tongor with the capacity for household connections. Plans are also underway for teams to work with Safe Water Network to provide technical support for a new site in Ghana’s Ashanti region.
EWB-USA’s field visits will include training for the in-country Safe Water Network team to manage the engineering needs of the stations. Training will also be extended to capacity-building at a local engineering firm, empowering the local business to scope, design and manage future construction of the station-to-household engineering components.
All participating organizations recognize that the sharing of information is crucial to the overarching goal of a world where no one lacks access to safe, affordable water. All lessons learned and best practices identified through the household connections project will be documented and disseminated to our peers working in the water, sanitation and hygiene sector.
An exciting partnership lies ahead: With the Hilton Foundation’s support, Safe Water Network’s on-the-ground connections and experience, and EWB-USA’s technical expertise, the building of sustainable and safe water services will give communities the opportunity to live healthy, productive lives.
Stay tuned for future blog updates on project progress!