The standard of living of communities which go beyond their basic human needs can be
sustainable only if their demands for quality water and consumption standards have regard for
socio-demographic variabilities and ecological sustainability. Yet, many rural poor communities
live below the world’s ecological means, in terms of their access to quality drinking water (United
Nations, 2018a). The essential needs of a vast number ofpeople in developing countries for
food, water, clothing, shelter, jobs and sanitation are not being met, and worst still, beyond
these basic needs, rural people have legitimate aspirations for improved quality of life. A world
in which poverty and water inequity are endemic would always be predisposed to ecological and
other crises (United Nations, 2018b).
The approach by countries towards achieving sustainable local development must,
therefore, ensure that all communities meet their basic water consumption needs and that
opportunities are extended for rural people to satisfy their aspirations for a better life (Brundtland
Commission, 2014). Furthermore, the effective distribution of water resources and promotion of
water quality at the rural level can only be pursued ifdemographic developments and population
increases are in harmony with the changing productive potential of their ecosystems (Solane &
Jouravlev, 2006). This is essential for poverty reduction andhuman development, especially in
sub-Saharan Africa where poverty is more widespread in rural areas than in cities (World Bank,
The majority of rural dwellers are powerless households,for whom a common constraint
is access to water for production and meeting their biol ogical consumptive needs (Food & Agriculture Organisation-FAO, 2017). Moreover, water is a human right and a common good,
yet quite paradoxically, powerless rural households have difficulties in accessing portable water
(Choguill, 1996). For Todaro and Smith (2014), water and sanitation are at the very core of
sustainable development, pivotal to the survival of peopleand their ecosystems. As a result,
civil society actors are advocating for better rural water and ecological management (Kramer &
Pahl-Wostl, 2014).
Nonetheless, universal access to portable water and curtailing open defecation seem to
be eluding rural areas of Central, Southern, Eastern and South-Eastern Asia and sub-Saharan
Africa (UNESCO, 2017). In sub-Saharan Africa, in every 10 persons, 4 lack access to improved
drinking water (WHO and UNICEF, 2017). This puts the health of populations at risk of disease
infection (WHO, 2014) since access to quality drinking water relates to all aspects of human
growth and development (Awoke, 2012). As the second-driest continent in the world, after
Australia, Africa suffers from acute water scarcity problems and rural households are affected
the most (Paulson, 2015; Misra, 2014).
The management approaches for domestic water resources in rural sub-Sahara Africa
(SSA) have largely been ineffective and this accounts for water scarcity, hunger, poverty, illhealth and resource conflicts in parts of the sub-region.The use of unsafe water has been the
cause of diseases such as cholera, dysentery leading to increased death rates among rural
African populations. This is because the rates of access toportable domestic water services in
rural SSA are among the lowest worldwide, with approximately 1 in 2 rural dwellers, or 278
million people in total, lacking access to an improved water source (Joint Monitoring
Programme, 2010).
In Ghana, access to water appears to be geographically, economically and socially
determined. Therefore, to reverse inequalities of water supply at the rural level, the Community
Water and Sanitation Agency (CWSA) and the District Assemblies (DAs) have established
decentralised sub-structures including the Water and Sanitation Committees (WATSAN) and
Water and Sanitation Management Teams (WSMTs) to managewater and sanitation delivery at
the local level (CWSA, 2015). Nonetheless, power asymmetries and pervasive scarcity of water
turn to perpetuate rural poverty and the narrative of decision-making between powerholders and
powerless, compelling rural residents to extensively depend on surface (unimproved) water
sources (Umesh & Nagarkatte, 2017). Meanwhile, water and sanitation are sine qua non to
human life (Wumbei, 2017). Hence, the absence of water exacerbates or reinforces the
margenalisation and powerlessness of rural people (Lockwood & Smits, 2011). Due to lack of
politico-ecological voice and prevailing socio-economic conditions, rural people have limited
influence or no real voice in water accessibility and sanitation service delivery.

A top-down decentralised approach in Ghana (Ahwoi, 2010), was supposed to empower rural
people, resolve power imbalance and make water accessible to all persons, irrespective of
geographic locations (Ayee, 2008, CWSA, 2014a), yet thenarrative suggest polar opposite in
rural water and sanitation sector. The rationale for this rural ecologically driven study lies in
locating the socio-demographic elements of end- users of water (household‟s) and the palpable
effects on rural water quality, access and sustainability. This is because, though Ghana is “on
track” for reaching access to water by the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) for improved
water by 2015 (UNICEF and WHO, 2017), nonetheless, “significant populations especially in the
northern part of the country have unmet needs for safe drinking water” (German Industry and
Commerce in Ghana-GICG, 2018: 25).
At the national level, (79%) of Ghanaians have access to basic water, however, the
rural-urban disparities reveal that (93%) urban households have access to water compared with
(68%) rural access. Moreover, in rural settings, about (9%) have access to limited water, (6%)
unimproved water and (16%) of rural people use surface water. Besides, national sanitation
coverage is 21%, with 25% access by urban areas and 17% coverage in rural settlements
(Ghana Statistical Service-GSS, 2018). The geo-politics and ecological landscape reveal
inequalities and power asymmetries (wealth disparities) on access to quality water (CWSA,
2013), with the wealthier/powerholders (97%) having more power/influence over water
allocation than the powerless/poor (51%) and urban centres (93%) more likely to have access to
quality water than powerless rural (68%) settlements.
Meanwhile, access to improved sanitation appear better in urban centres (25%) than
rural settlements (17%) and open defecation is more widespread (70%) among the poorest rural
household populations in Ghana (GSS, 2018). About (12%) of residents in northern Ghana lack
access to basic sanitation while (50%) lack access to safe drinking water and, therefore, use
unimproved water (surface water), as drinking water sources. “An improved source includes a
public standpipe or outdoor tap, a protected well, a protected spring, or rainwater. However,
these sources don’t completely p revent water borne diseases. Children have high mortality
rates and serious health issues due to the lack of safe water and sanitation access” (GICG,
2018: 15).
The situation is pellucid in the case study area (SavannahRegion) of northern Ghana
and rural settlements of Buipe, Bole and Damongo communities which are hydrologically
constrained with rates of basic water and sanitation access lower than the national average
(GSS, 2014a; GSS, 2014b). In the Savannah area, there is a substantial need for not only
“improved” but also “safe” water service delivery and water treatment options suitable to the
socio-economic and ecological conditions of rural settlements (GSS, 2014c; GSS, 2014d).


Moreover, the effective management of drinking water and sanitation sectors of rural economies
require competent individuals who have the requisite knowledge, information, adequate
incentives and capacities to discharge responsibilities and decisions at the local level.
Nonetheless, local authorities and community stakeholders are constrained with technical
capacities, financial resources, managerial competencies, political and ecological
unpredictabilities which turn to affect access to quality water by rural dwellers. There exists a
substantial variation between urban and rural settlements in access to water. It appears
geographical locations, power-relations, wealth/affluence and distance from social amenities
dictates accessibility to improved water and sanitation services. This is worst particularly among
communities located farther from these social amenities. There is the need to stabilize and
ensure sustainability in the rural water sector and this cannot be achieved without
understanding the ecological preconditions and socio-demographic situations under which rural
people live and operate. This study thus evaluates the effects of household‟s sociodemographic elements on the determination of drinking water quality and quantity in rural
Savannah communities of northern Ghana.
Rural Political Economy and Development; Human Needs of Water
The unrestricted access to safe drinking water is a basic human need and an essential
ingredient for sustainable rural development. As a result, water supply and sanitation service
delivery must form part of any environmental and primary health care strategy. In the early
1970s, a study on domestic water use in East Africa, by White, Bradley and White (1972)
developed three categories of water use-consumptive(drinking and cooking), hygiene(washing,
cleaning, and bathing), and amenitiessuch as watering lawns and other non-essential activities
(Hall, Koppen & Houweling, 2014). Furthermore, White, et al. (1972) demonstrates that the
productive use of water, intended for domestic uses only by rural households (from piped and
non-piped sources), was a largely unrecognized, but important factor supporting livelihoods.
However, in a follow-up study some 30 years later, Thompsonet al. (2001a) added productive
usesas a fourth category. The frontiers of water use were widened from a productive standpoint
to include health and well-being perspectives.
The productive uses of rural water were expanded to include consumption by livestock
(e.g. cattle, goats, pigs and sheep), brewing beer, distilling gin, making fruit juice, brick-making
and the construction of homes, irrigating trees and horticultural crops (Thompson, et al., 2001a:
31). The productive use of rural water resources has been found to have the capacity to
increase employment, rural household‟s income, food security and livelihoods in rural
settlements (Kurian & McCarney, 2010). Similar studies show access to water have positive impact on reducing poverty (Moriarty, Butterworth, & vanKoppen, 2004), empowering women
(Torres, Smits, & Torres, 2003) and improving the sustainability of water (Thompson et al.,
2001b; Van Koppen, Moriarty & Boelee, 2006; World Bank, FOA and IFAD, 2009). In rural
industry, water is essential for car-washing, arts, ice-making, brick-making, pottery, butchery,
and other small-scale commercial activities (Van Koppen et al., 2009; Smits, Van Koppen,
Moriarty & Butterworth, 2010). Water-dependent activities provide critical income streams
(Smits et al., 2010), especially for rural poor who often lack opportunities for wage and salary
work (Noel, Phuong, Soussan & Lovet, 2010). Nonetheless, in the Saboba-Chereponi district,
Limantol (2009), found that the sustainability of rural water systems is threatened by
inconvenient siting of water-points, geological limitations, lack of spare parts, failure to account
transparently for funds generated, lack of maintenance,community‟s lack of sense of ownership
and lack of capacity.
The WHO and UNICEF (2012) found that poor water access in rural communities is
associated with many water-related illnesses, food insecurity, loss of productivity, poor
livelihoods and irregular school attendance, especially for women and girls respectively. The
access to water and sanitation services among rural settlements is generally considered as a
prerequisite for the attainment of other human rights (Gleick, 1998). The human rights to water,
entitles everyone to sufficient, safe, acceptable, physically accessible and affordable water for
personal and domestic uses. This is because safe water and adequate sanitation in rural
economies are necessary measures to prevent death from dehydration, reduce risk of waterrelated diseases and to provide for consumption, cooking, personal and domestic hygienic
requirements (CESCR, 2003).
In a multi-country study which assessed the link between the productive use of piped,
rural domestic water systems, poverty-reduction, and system sustainability among rural
households in Senegal, Kenya and Columbia, the Water and Sanitation Programme (WSP,
2014), discovered that high proportion of households were engaged in productive uses of water.
In the three countries, between 71% and 75 % of all rural households interviewed were engaged
in productive activities that used water sources. The use of piped water supply was considered
a more important source than other water sources for households as between 54% and 61% of
households used piped water to support their daily livelihoods. These uses met various needs
including domestic, consumption and production-based activities. For Hall et al. (2014),
expanding the human rights to water should be extended to address the rights of households to
access quality water to enable them to meet the full range of domestic, health, sanitation, and
livelihood needs in rural settlements. A rural householdstudy by Wilson and Ramphele (1989)
discovered that in rural South Africa, the causes of mortality among infants in particular are as a result of intestinal infection. Hence, proper disposal ofwaste and household hygiene are very
important indicators of the health status and socio-economic conditions under which rural
communities live.
Rural Households Water Treatment and Storage
The livelihood of rural communities depends on diversified water sources including village
ponds, rivers, lakes, streams, piped water, rain water, dams, boreholes and groundwater wells.
These water sources play vital role in the socio-cultural, economic and environment
development of rural settlement communities, yet rural water sources are continuously being
polluted by human activities of clothes washing, mining, farming activities, industries, bathing
and shared surface water use with animals (Peeler, Opsahl & Chanton, 2006). Further, the lack
of basic sanitation infrastructure results in the engagement in unsanitary activities like open
defecation, poor solid waste and waste water disposal which turn to affect the quality of rural
household water resources. The process of transporting water either by vehicles, main pipe
lines, or head portership and the storage processes could re-contaminate water sources and
become critical obstacles to maintaining rural water quality (Kurian & McCartney, 2010).
Meanwhile, it is also difficult for rural residents to have portable drinking water purifiers
to treat household water as they simply cannot afford the cost of water purifier or they are not so
educated on application of water purification technologies or they don‟t know the threats
involved in the use of surface water sources (Lothrop, 2015). Opryszko et al. (2013) concludes
that the basic treatment methods and designs deployed for surface water purification in
deprived rural communities should involve either simple filtration or through ultraviolet light
disinfection, combined with rural-based hygiene education, provision of waste disposal facilities
and periodic community cleaning exercises. Moreover, in rural Arizon community, Lothrop
(2015) found that approximately 42 percent of educated households treated their water sources.
The residents with higher income (OR = 1.25; 95% CI (1.00 –1.64) and education levels (OR =
1.49; 95% CI (1.12 –2.12) were more likely to treat their water and thus drink from quality water
sources. However, in rural India, though surface water sources support the livelihoods of
marginalized rural communities, due to contaminations of these drinking water sources, around
38 million Indians are affected by waterborne diseases annually, of whom 1.6 million children
are estimated to die of diarrhea alone (Singh & Kumar, 2014). In a related study in Saboba,
Limantol (2009) discovered that with the exception of guinea worm infection, the most common
disease infections in the rural communities were water-borne. The prevalence of malaria
accounted for (81.6%), diarrhoea (68.3%), typhoid fever (66.7%), skin diseases (23.3%),
intestinal worms (6.7%), and bilharzias (5.1%).

Besides, Schouten & Moriarty (2003) studies discovered thatlow incomes (sig.= 0.07, p > 0.05),
occupation (sig= 0.06, p > 0.05),and education levels (sig= 0.08, p > 0.05),of rural populations
significantly influenced the water and sanitation sectors of rural communities in Rwanda. In a
related survey among 15 clustered villages in South Africa, Rietveld, Haarhoff, and Jagals
(2009) conducted a chi-square test which established highpositive association between gender,
marital status and poverty among the inhabitants and these variables turned to have
significantly impacted on water and sanitation maintenance. In Bangladesh, Kabir and Howard
(2007) found a significant association between educational achievements (p=0.05), gender
(sig= 0.06, p > 0.05), and occupation prestige (sig= 0.08, p > 0.05) among rural populace to be
positively related with households‟ determinants of quality water and their participation in rural
water and sanitation
Determining the Basic Quantity of Rural Household Water Needs
There have been divergent views among water experts and international organizations, such as
the World Health Organization (WHO), on the minimum quantity of water required per capita for
use among rural households. There is a significant variation among scientific researchers on
recommended average water quantity measures in society. TheWHO has recommended 20
liters per capita per day as a minimum requirement of w ater for domestic hygiene purposes
(WHO & UNICEF, 2000). However, Gleick (1996) showed that 50 liters per capita per day would
be sufficient to meet the domestic needs of water by rural households. For Gleick (1996),
approximately, 5 liters per capita per day are required for drinking, 20 liters per capita per day
are required for sanitation, 15 liters per capita per day are required for bathing, and 10 liters per
capita per day are required for food preparation.
A more conservative estimate is, 7.5 liters per capita per day can be enough to meet the
daily basic consumptive needs (Howard & Bartram, 2003).However, the authors noted that 7.5
liters per capita per day cannot entirely meet the hygi enic needs. Therefore, they claimed that
50 liters per capita per day can meet most of their water needs and 100 liters per capita per day
will satisfy all the basic water needs of rural households (Chenoweth, 2008). Furthermore, the
availability of rural household water and sanitation amenities depends on various factors such
as culture, tradition, religion, appropriate technology, accountability, transparency, rural lifestyle
and many others. A study by Muhanad (2016) discovered that climatic conditions, human
behavior, household‟s income, occupation, geography andother factors can play major roles in
determining the minimum water and sanitation needs for households. Therefore, understanding
the community‟s characteristics regarding individual‟s behavior, community activities, and the socio-economic dynamics is the key role for defining and meeting the water and sanitation
needs of rural communities. Furthermore, Thompson and Munguti (2001), using the quantitative
methodology with over 1000 sample size, carried out a follow-up study in over 50 selected rural
communities of Tanzania, Uganda and Kenya. From Figure 1, the study found that the quantity
of water consumption among rural respondents was almost constant among the surveyed
households, at approximately 4 liters per capita per day (Thompson & Munguti, 2001).
Figure 1: Consumptive Use of Water. Units are in Liters
Source: Thompson and Munguti (2001)
In other words, the study found no statistical variation in water consumption among users of
piped and unpiped rural households across the three countries concerning the consumptive use
of water. Furthermore, Moriarty, Butterworth and Van Koppen (2004) discovered that the low
levels of household hygiene in rural settings and dependence on surface water by unpiped
households for drinking, bathing, washing and cleaning,are the direct consequence of ill-health
among rural dwellers. For disadvantaged unpiped communities, White et al., (1972) found that
the quantity of water is highly valued compared to the quality of water among poor rural
households. Singh and Kumar (2014) confirms that this makes rural settlements exposed to
diseases infection, which are usually transferred through uncleaned hands, unhygienic food and
uncleansed dishes. These diseases are more likely to be either food-borne or water-borne.
Hence, Noel et al., (2010) concludes that inadequate quantity and quality of water devoted for
household hygienic purposes, are likely to make the health of rural dwellers more
disadvantaged and deteriorated compared with urban households.

Water Collection, Sanitation and Health (WASH)
The availability of sanitary and water supply facilities and ease of access to service delivery
relatively influences the burden of rural sanitation and water collection. Thompson et. al., (2003)
discovered, comparatively, rural households in Toronro, tend to walk long distances in other to
obtain their water sources from outside the dwelling units, while most urban households which
used piped supplies had reduced time and distance of walk to water sources. Furthermore, in
rural communities classified as „piped‟, such as Iganga in Uganda and Temeke-Dares Salaam in
Tanzania, significant number of unpiped households exist (Thompson, et. al., 2000). In a related
study, Huttinger et al., (2017) showed that, in rural Rwanda, even though the physical
infrastructure of water and sanitation facilities are inplace, sanitation and water supply systems
and services no longer function properly, thus forcing families to adopt unhygienic and liquid
waste practices. Similarly, in Ghana, Awepuga (2016) discovered that due to excessive
droughts and unreliable supply from piped schemes, households are being compelled to collect
consumptive water from unprotected and polluted external sources. The study found that the
irregularities in water supply and non-availability of sanitary facilities among communities,
resulted in the purchase of water from private vendors, frequently at relatively high prices. In a
related piloted rural water and sanitation study in the Afuaman community of the Ga West
district in the Greater Accra region. Similarly, Opryszko etal., (2013), analysed samples of rural
water for Escherichia coliand conducted a cross-sectional household survey involving 49 rural
households selected across five villages. The study found that households which utilized piped
water had improved water quality compared with households using untreated surface water
(adjusted incidence rate ratio = 0.07, 95% confidence interval = 0.02, 0.21).
The practice of unhygienic sanitary habits was found positively associated with water
quality (0.08), household health (0.06) and education levels of households (0.05). The
implication is that this likely contributed to diarrheal disease burden, caused by waterborne
pathogens, including bacteria, viruses, and protozoa, that are transmitted through faecal–oral
route. Moreover, the maintenance, repair and servicing culture for rural water and sanitary
systems remains critical for the health of rural populations. However, Thomson et al. (2000)
discovered that in rural Uganda, reliability of water supplies has declined significantly among
households over the last three decades. The factors which contributed to this situation included
a lack of system maintenance, mismatch between network capacity, technology deficits, poor
sanitation practices and population increase. A trend analysis and comparison between water
and sanitation service delivery revealed that;“while in 1967 practically all sampled piped
households received 24-hour service delivery, in the early 2000, only 56 percent of them benefited from the same level of service, almost 40 percent received less than 12 hours of
service, and roughly 20 percent got one to five hours ofservice per day.
Not surprisingly, more affluent areas such as Parklands in Nairobi, Oyster Bay in Dares
Salaam, and Tororo in Uganda all enjoyed virtually continuous 24-hour water supply, while highdensity, low-income settlements such as Karuri, Kenya and Dodoma, Tanzania, could count on
a maximum of only five hours of service per day” (Thomson et al., 2000: 43).Furthermore, the
burden of collecting water and waste disposal relates with the nature of existing water supply
and waste service delivery in rural settings. The disposal of household waste and rural water
supply often involves substantial inconvenience in terms of time spent in collection, physical
effort required and adverse health effects which may impact on persons who bear
responsibilities for household water collection. Studies in sub-Saharan Africa confirm that in
rural settings, the principal drawers of water include women (Thomson, et al., 2000), child
drawers and teenagers (Jagals, 2012), who are burdened with the primary responsibility for
collecting water for either domestic household consumption or commercial purposes.
In a related demographic study involving the use of several indicator cluster analyses,
Graham, Mitsuaki and Kim (2016) describes the gender variation in water collection labour and
challenges of water haulage in 24 sub-Saharan African (SSA) countries. The study found
that;“an estimated 3.36 million children and 13.54 million SSA adult females were responsible
for water collection in households (HHs) with collection times greater than 30 minutes. Among
households spending more than 30 minutes collecting water, adult females were the primary
collectors of water across all 24 countries, ranging from46% in Liberia (17,412 HHs) to 90% in
Cote d‟Ivoire (224,808 HHs). Across all countries, female children were more likely to be
responsible for water collection than male children (62% vs. 38%, respectively). Six countries
had more than 100,000 households (HHs) where children were reported to be responsible for
water collection (greater than 30 minutes): Burundi (181,702 HHs), Cameroon (154,453 HHs),
Ethiopia (1,321,424 HHs), Mozambique (129,544 HHs), Niger (171,305 HHs), and Nigeria
(1,045,647 HHs)” (Graham et al., 2016:4).

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