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GEOG 302 Lecture Notes (Strictly not for sale)

Dr. J.K. Teye


Water resources are sources of water that are useful or potentially useful to
humans. Virtually all of the human uses of water require freshwater. The definition
of freshwater is water containing less than 1,000 milligrams per litter of
dissolved solids, most often salt. It is estimated that about 97% of the worlds total
water is saline (mainly stored in the oceans), leaving only 3% as fresh water. And, of
the total freshwater, about 68.7 % is locked up in ice-caps and glaciers in Antarctica
and Greenland. Another 30.1% of freshwater is stored in the ground. Thus, fresh
surface-water sources, such as rivers and lakes, constitute only a small percentage of
total water.
The major uses of water include agricultural, industrial, domestic, recreational and
environmental. Almost all these uses of water require freshwater. These specific uses
of water can be categorized into two namely, consumptive and non-consumptive
uses. In the case of the consumptive use, the water is lost after use so that it cannot
be available for other uses. For instance, water that is used for cooking at home
cannot be available for other uses. In the case of non-consumptive usage, the water is
available for other uses. For instance, water that is kept in a reservoir for recreational
purposes falls under this category. Other non-consumptive uses of water include
hydropower generation and inland fisheries. Globally, agriculture is the largest user of
water, accounting for approximately 67% of water withdrawals. Industry accounts for
about 19% of global water withdrawal. Municipal and domestic purposes account for
9% of water withdrawals whilst evaporation loses from large reservoirs in dry
climates account for about 5% of total water withdrawals worldwide (Potter et al,
Agricultural: Fresh water is used for irrigation in places with inadequate rainfall or
during the dry season. Apart from irrigation, fresh water commercial fishery is also
considered as agricultural uses of water.
Industrial: Water is used in the cooling of machinery to prevent over-heating. It is
also used as a power source (i.e. hydroelectric plants). Water is also directly used in
the industrial production of some food products and for manufacturing of chemicals.
Oil refineries also use water in chemical processes.
Domestic/household: A significant proportion of worldwide water use is for
domestic purposes. These include the water used for drinking, bathing, cooking,
sanitation and gardening. Drinking water is water that is of sufficiently high quality so
that it can be consumed or used without risk of immediate or long term harm. Such
water is usually referred to as potable water.
Recreational: Recreational water use is mostly tied to reservoirs (e.g. the swimming
pool) and recreational irrigation (which includes private gardens). The use of water on
golf courses is also considered under recreational usages.

Environmental: Environmental water usage includes artificial wetlands, artificial

lakes intended to create wildlife habitat and water releases from reservoirs timed to
help fish spawn. Like recreational usage, environmental usage is non-consumptive but
may reduce the availability of water for other users at specific times and places. For
instance, water release from a reservoir to help fish spawn may not be available to
farms upstream.

The most important sources of freshwater are: surface water, under river flow, ground
water, desalination, and frozen water.
Surface water: Surface water sources includes the streams (of all sizes, from small
creeks to large rivers), ponds, lakes, reservoirs (man-made lakes), and freshwater
Under river flow: Throughout the course of a river, the total volume of water
transported downstream is a combination of the visible free water flow (water that is
seen flowing) together with an unseen component of water flowing through subsurface rocks and gravels that underlie the river and its floodplain called the
hyporheic zone. In the case of many rivers in large valleys, this unseen component of
flow may greatly exceed the visible flow. The hyporheic zone tends to form a
dynamic interface between surface water and true ground-water, receiving water from
the ground water when aquifers are fully charged and contributing water to groundwater when ground waters are depleted. This is especially significant in karst areas
where pot-holes and underground rivers are common.
Groundwater (sub-surface water): Groundwater or sub-surface water is fresh water
located in the pore space of soil and rocks. The upper layer of the soil is the
unsaturated zone, where water is present in varying amounts that change over time,
but does not saturate the soil. Below this layer is the saturated zone, where all of the
pores, cracks, and spaces between rock particles are saturated with water. In reality,
the term ground water is used to describe this area. The term aquifers are used to
describe huge storehouses of Earths water located in the ground. People all over
the world depend on this ground water in their daily lives. As in the case of surface
water, humans can also cause groundwater water to be become unusable through
Desalination: Desalination is an artificial process by which saline water (sea water) is
converted to fresh water. The most common desalination processes are distillation
and reverse osmosis or filtration under pressure. Since about 97% of water
resources are denied to man by a high level of salt content, the removal of this
impurity would appear to be a solution to water problem. However, the difficulties
are, basically, economic; water for community use is required in very large quantities
at very low cost. The desalination plant is expensive both to build and to maintain.
The techniques are already developed on a practical scale for situations in which these
costs can be met, e.g. in oil-well operations in coastal deserts such as Kuwait or where
urban development has completely outrun water resources. In order words,
desalination is currently expensive compared to most alternative sources of water, and

only a very small fraction of total human use is satisfied by desalination. It is only
economically practical for high-valued uses. Countries that use desalination to
provide part of their water needs include: Israel, Singapore, Saudi Arabia, Australia,
and United Arab Emirates. In the United States, California, Arizona, Texas, and
Florida use desalination for a very small part of their water supply.
Frozen water: Given that a significant percentage of fresh water is stored in ice-caps,
any scheme that allows for the water in these ice-caps to be used will help increase the
availability of water for mans use. Several schemes have been proposed to make use
of icebergs as a water source. However, to date this has only been done for novelty
purposes. I want you to remember that glacier runoff is considered to be surface


Water Stress
The worlds supply of clean, fresh water is steadily decreasing. Water demands
already exceeds supply in many parts of the world, and as world population continues
to rise at unsustainable rates, many more areas are expected to experience this
imbalance. The Global Water Supply and Sanitation Assessment Report (2000)
defines reasonable access to water as at least 20 liters per person per day from a
source within one kilometer of the users home. The concept of water stress applies
to situations where there is not enough water for all uses, whether agricultural,
industrial or domestic. Although defining thresholds for stress in terms of available
water per capita is complex, it has been proposed that when annual per capita
renewable freshwater availability is less than 1,700 cubic meters, countries begin to
experience periodic or regular water stress. Below 1,000 cubic meters, water scarcity
begins to hamper economic development and human health and well-being.
You may ask how a planet that has 70% of its surface covered with water could face a
water crisis. As we have seen already, about 97% of that water is ocean water. Water
scarcity is further compounded by mismanagement of water resources. According to
the Global Water Supply and Sanitation Assessment Report (2000), the proportion of
people served with some form of improved water supply rose from 79% (4.1 billion)
in 1990 to 82% (4.9 billion) in 2000. So why are we talking of water stress when the
statistics show that water supply is increasing? The explanation is that although the
global picture is improving, more people in poor regions of the world are facing water
shortage. At the beginning of the year 2000, one-sixth (1.1 billion people) of the
worlds population was without access to improved water supply. The majority of
these people live in Asia and Africa (see Table below)

Global Water Access by Region

Caucasus and Central Asia
Developed countries
Eastern Asia
Latin America and the
Northern Africa
Southern Asia
South-eastern Asia
Sub-Saharan Africa
Western Asia


% of population
with access to water

Source: Based on WHO/UNICEF (2012)

It is important to note that within Africa itself, some countries have higher level of
water access than others. As shown in Table below, 86% of people in Ghana have
access to water in 2010. In contrast, only 51% percent of people in Chad have access
to water.
Table Percentage of population with access to water in selected African countries

South Africa

Source: Based on WHO/UNICEF (2012)



The major factors driving water stress/shortage are: population growth, rapid
urbanization, increased affluence, expansion of business activity, climate change and
water pollution.
Population Growth: The world population has been rising more rapidly than
expansion in water infrastructure. It has been estimated that, in 2025, water shortages
will be more prevalent among poorer countries where resources are limited and
population growth is rapid, such as the Middle East, Africa and parts of Asia (Global
Water Supply and Sanitation Assessment Report 2000).
Rapid Urbanization: As you may be aware, rapid urbanization requires significant
investment in water infrastructure in order to deliver water to households and to
process the concentrations of wastewater. In many developing countries, however,
rapid urbanization has not been accompanied by expansion in water infrastructure. In
some cases, new communities have not been connected to the urban water distribution
system. This is the case in many newly developed communities in Accra, Tema and
Kumasi in Ghana. The Global Water Supply and Sanitation Assessment Report
(2000) predicted that African urban population is likely to more than double over the
next 25 years. Given that most countries on the continent are unable to invest
significantly in water infrastructure, they are likely to face more serious water
Increased Affluence: Increasing affluence inevitably means more water
consumption. For instance, some people will need more water for their gardens and
car washing. Others will need more water for their jacuzzis and private swimming
pools. The rate of poverty alleviation is increasing in some parts of the world,
especially within the two population giants of China and India. Whilst this is not bad
in itself, it implies that there is increase demand for water and other commodities like
Expansion of Business Activity: Business activity ranging from industrialization to
services such as tourism and entertainment continues to expand rapidly. This
expansion requires increased water services, which can lead to more pressure on
water resources and natural ecosystem.
Climate and Landscape Changes: Climate change could have significant impacts on
water resources around the world because of the close linkages between climate and
hydrological cycle (refer to Geog 203). The effects of rising temperatures on water

resources may vary from region to region. Both droughts and floods may become
more frequent in different regions at different times. Dramatic changes in snowfall
and snowmelt are expected in mountainous and Polar Regions. In the tropical world,
global warming may lead to increase in evaporation and hence water loss from
surface water bodies. Landscape changes such as deforestation in many tropical
countries may also cause significant decline in rainfall in tropical countries. These
may affect surface water systems in the tropics. Climate change could also mean an
increase in demand for farm irrigation, garden sprinklers, and perhaps even swimming
Pollution: I hope you would agree with me that pollution from industrial, municipal
and agricultural sources also contributes to water stress. In Ghana, a number of rivers
and lakes have been so heavily polluted that they cannot be relied upon for drinking
water. I will discuss the problem of water pollution more comprehensively later in this
Corruption and Mismanagement: Corruption and mismanagement also contribute
to water shortage. In many developing countries, water management is in the hands of
non-performing state organizations. These organisations are sometimes under-funded.
Consequently, they lack the capital to expand water infrastructure. In addition,
mismanagement and corruption affects service delivery. Anecdotal evidence suggests,
for instance, that about 50% of water produced by the Ghana Water Company gets
loss in the distribution system as a result of illegal connection, wrong billing, leakages
As mentioned already, water pollution is one of the major problems affecting water
supply in many parts of the world. What is water pollution? Usually, water pollution
means one or more substances have built up in water to such an extent that they cause
problems for animals or people. Pollution affects both surface water and groundwater.
Both developed and developing countries continue to struggle with pollution
Categories of Water Pollution
Based on their origin, sources of water pollution are generally grouped into two. The
first is Point Source Pollution. This refers to contaminants that enter a water body
from a single location, such as a discharge pipe attached to a factory. The second type
of pollution is Non-point source (NPS) pollution which refers to diffuse
contamination that does not originate from a single discrete source. Thus, in this
case water pollution happens not from one single source but from many different
scattered sources. For instance, nutrient runoff in storm water from sheet flow over
an agricultural land is an example of Non-point source pollution.
Water pollution has many different causes and this is one of the reasons why it is such
a difficult problem to solve. The following are some of the common causes of the

Sewage: Disposing of sewage waste is a major global problem. Sometimes sewage

waste is pumped untreated into the oceans and other water bodies. This occurs in both
developed and developing countries. Sewage may contain all kinds of other chemicals
(e.g pharmaceutical drugs and other wastes people flush down their toilets).
Nutrients: When it rains chemical fertilizers used by farmers may be washed down
into rivers, lakes and seas. Together, sewage and fertilizers can cause a massive
increase in the growth of algae that overwhelms huge areas of oceans, lakes, or rivers.
Waste Water: Each year, the world generates about 400 billion tons of industrial
waste, much of which is pumped untreated into rivers, oceans, and other waterways.
Apart from factories, individuals also pollute water through this process. Virtually
everyone pours chemicals of one sort or another down their drains or toilets. A lot of
toxic pollution also enters waste water from highway runoff. This includes fuel and
brake fluids that are washed into drains and rivers by surface runoff.
Chemical Waste: A common kind of chemical waste that usually ends up in water
bodies is detergents. Another kind of toxic pollution comes from heavy metals, such
as lead and mercury. In developing countries such as Ghana chemicals used by
mining companies also sometimes find their way into rivers.
Plastics: Plastic is one of the most common substances found in water bodies. This is
partly because plastics are not biodegradable (they do not break down naturally in the
environment). While plastics are not toxic in quite the same way as poisonous
chemicals, they nevertheless present a major hazard to fish, seabirds and other marine
Other causes of water pollution: Oil poured down drains and or from tanker
accidents also causes pollution of water. Again some fishermen also directly pour
chemicals into water bodies. As you learned during the study of Soils and
Biogeography, soil erosion is another cause of water pollution. Eroded materials are
sometimes deposited in water bodies. Similarly, during construction work, soil, rock,
and other fine powders sometimes enter nearby rivers in large quantities. The extra
sediment can block the gills of fish, effectively suffocating them.
Controlling Pollution
Apart from causing water shortage, water pollution causes diseases in human beings.
These include typhoid, diarrhoea, vomiting and stomach aches. Pollution also affects
aquatic living organisms, including fish. In view of these negative effects, controlling
pollution is a very important task that faces water managers. There is no easy way to
solve water pollution. Broadly speaking, the following measures can help tackle the
problem: education, laws, and economics.

Education: Making people aware of the problem is the first step to solving pollution.
Education programmes are often organised by environmental experts and nongovernmental organisations. For instance, local communities could be educated about
the adverse effects of dumping refuse in water bodies. This will go a long way to
reduce the problem.
Laws: Effective environmental laws can make it tougher for people to pollute water
bodies. Most countries have their own water pollution laws. One of the biggest
problems with water pollution is its transboundary nature. Many rivers cross different
countries. Pollution discharged by factories in one country with poor environmental
standards can cause problems in neighbouring nations. Thus, to be very effective,
environmental laws have to operate across national and international borders. The
European Union has water-protection laws (known as directives) that apply to all of
its member states.
Economics: Pollution can be tackled through an economic instrument called the
polluter pays principle. This means that whoever causes pollution should have to
pay to clean it up, one way or another. The European Union Water Framework
Directive encourages member states to adopt the polluter pays principle as part of
water management policies. The adoption of this principle can go a long way to help
promote development in Ghana. For instance, mining companies who are known to be
responsible for the pollution of water bodies could be made to pay very high taxes so
that the money is used to provide improved drinking water for the communities in
which they operate.


What is Water Resource Management?

Water resource management is the practices of planning, developing, distributing and
optimum utilizing of water resources under defined water policies and regulations. In
other words, water management involves the optimal development, exploitation,
prevention of pollution and conservation of the resource (Adombire, 1993).
The Concept of Integrated Water Resource Management
The concept of Integrated Water Resource Management (IWRM) emerged recently in
response to the realisation that conventional water management practices are
ineffective for planning, developing and distributing this useful resource. Integrated
Water Management is a process which promotes coordinated development and
management of water, land and related resources in order to maximise economic
and social welfare in an equitable manner without compromising the
sustainability of the ecosystem. Thus, unlike conventional water management
practices whereby each sector agency is responsible for planning and regulating its
own activities with little effort towards collaboration, integrated water management
ensures cooperation at all administrative levels and with the public. The rationale
behind integrated water management is the fact that the exploitation of any given

natural resource may have negative impacts on other resources. For instance, mining
and farming activities may lead to water pollution. The destruction of forests at the
bank of water bodies may also affect the quantity and quality of surface water.
Consequently, water resources can be better managed, if various groups (e.g. farmers,
mining companies, forestry organisation) are involved in the management of the
Although, management frameworks based on this concept vary from country to
country, they all tend to incorporate the principle of river basin management. The
River Basin Management principle involves the establishment of appropriate
organizations based on a decentralized administrative framework to manage major
river basins. For instance, the European Union Water Framework Directive, which is
largely consistent with the concept of integrated management, requires member states
to identify river basins and all their associated surface and underground water for the
establishment of appropriate organizations to manage these river basins. Ghana has
also recently adopted the river basin concept for the management of the Densu,
Ankobra and Volta rivers. Integrated water management frameworks adopt
preventive measures for controlling water pollution. For instance, the European
Union Water Framework Directive uses a combined approach for the control of
pollution, setting emission limit values and water quality objectives.
What are the main benefits of integrated water management? It ensures the
utilisation of ideas and expertise from professionals with different backgrounds
(e.g. civil engineers, foresters, hydrologists, geographers etc). This promotes holistic
and effective water management. The approach also ensures that traditional
knowledge and techniques are combined with scientific water management
principles. Again, integrated water management system can ensure that activities
that affect water quantity and quality are controlled. For instance, by involving
farmers, fishermen and miners in the design and implementation of water policy, it
should be possible to reduce water pollution. Furthermore, the plural participation
that goes with Integrated Water Management can reduce management cost. For
instance, local communities can provide free labour for such activities as the planting
of trees at the bank of water bodies. They can also play an active role in monitoring
the activities of fishermen so that the water is not polluted.
While the concept of integrated water management is good, there are some challenges
to its practical application. First, it is not easy coordinating the activities of all
relevant state and private organisations. This is because various organisations have
different administrative practices. The problem even becomes more complex when
informal groups such as local communities and farmers are to be involved in water
management. It is also difficult reconciling the interests of different state and
societal actors in the water sector. For instance, the interests of local farmers may
conflict with those of mining companies. Here, ensuring collaboration among these
groups is difficult and may delay the implementation of key policies on water
management. Another challenge is resource constraints. Given that both state
organisations and societal actors are expected to be involved in water management,
more financial and technical resources may be needed. Governments of developing
countries may be unable to provide the resources for effective implementation of
integrated water management policies.

Status of Integrated Water Resource Management in Ghana

Ghanas experience with Integrated Water Resource Management is still evolving. As
hinted already, before the 1990s, each of the main agencies in the Ghanaian water
sector was planning and regulating its own activities with respect to water
management with little effort exercised towards coordinating initiatives. As a way of
coordinating the activities of these agencies, the Water Resources Commission
(WRC) was created in 1996. The WRC has been facilitating the implementation of the
Integrated Water Management concept in Ghana. The main aim of introducing the
concept of Integrated Water Resources Management in Ghana is to invite all
stakeholders to participate in the management of the resource. In line with this broad
aim, a water resources policy was developed in 2002, which focused on an integrated
approach to water resources management. The policy has since been consolidated
with other key water sector policies into a comprehensive National Water Policy,
which was approved by Cabinet in July 2007. As hinted already, the Densu River
Basin was selected as the first pilot basin to test the applicability of capacity building,
participation and public awareness strategies and water resources planning within a
decentralised administrative framework. Based on the experience gained from the
Densu Basin pilot project, similar projects have been started in two other priority
basins. These are the White Volta River Basin and the Ankobra River Basin. Ghana is
also collaborating with Burkina Faso to manage the Volta River.
Privatization of Water Management
The term privatization is sometimes used as a generic term to refer to increasing
private sector involvement in service delivery, but at other times is used to refer to the
model of full privatization (divestiture). In the water sector, privatization tends to be
used to refer to arrangements based upon contracts in which the private assumes
greater responsibility. There are strong arguments both for and against privatisation of
water management. Those who support privatisation argue that it brings about
improved efficiency in public services delivery and also attracts private capital to fund
investments in water infrastructure. The poor financial performance of public utility
agencies and their inability to expand physical infrastructure are often cited to buttress
these claims. Supporters of privatisation also argue that the improved efficiency that
is associated with competition will result in reduced prices.
On the other hand, those who oppose privatisation argue that the fairness and equality
of the supply of water are put at risk. If water management is transferred to private
actors, the resource may be too expensive for the poor. This is because a private
monopolist can decide to increase the prices of water without considering the impact
of such decisions on poor people. Some critics have also seen water as part of public
goods that the state should provide freely. They argue, for instance, that if people are
unable to purchase enough water to protect their own health, and contract infectious
diseases as a result, then the health of others is also put at risk.
Why is the public sector increasingly involving private enterprises in water
management? The need for finance is usually the paramount consideration driving
governments to involve the private sector in water management. The most important
driver in developing countries is conditionality from multi-lateral development
agencies in relation to loans. This has been the case since the implementation of


structural adjustment policies in the 1980s, under which the reduction of state
spending was aggressively promoted.
Regulation of Private Water Enterprises
Regulation is a way of controlling the private company to make sure that it does not
abuse its monopoly position. The role of the regulator is to act as a referee between
the operator, the consumer and the relevant government agencies, in order to
determine what is reasonable. The functions of a regulatory system are as follows:
Ensuring that users receive an adequate level of service at reasonable price and
protecting them from abuse by firms.
Ensuring that investors receive a reasonable return on capital and protecting
them from arbitrary action by government.
Monitoring and ensuring that the private firm complies with the conditions
and provisions of the contract, setting or regulating prices, and regulating
environmental standards.
In reality, regulatory systems in developing countries are ineffective mainly as a result
of the following challenges. First, the information necessary for effective
regulation is often difficult to obtain, frequently leading to problems of information
asymmetry, in which the company is far better informed than the regulator. It is also
often difficult to balance the rights and interests of the different groups. For
instance, keeping services affordable for low-income groups is not always consistent
with keeping utility prices high enough to provide private firms with reasonable
returns. I hope you would agree that it is difficult to assess what is affordable to
households or sufficiently profitable for private operators. The difficult question is:
should consumers pay higher when it is clear that loses to the firm are due to
mismanagement? For instance, some Ghanaians would like to argue that low profit
levels of the water company is due to leakages, wrong billing and inaccurate meters
that reportedly lead to loss of about 50% of water produced. On the other hand, the
company may argue that it has not been allowed to charge economic rate for the
In other to be objective and fair, the regulator should be both independent and strong
enough to withstand pressures from both government and the private operator. Some
recommend that regulators should be autonomous organizations with adequate
funding in order to avoid corruption. However, regulators in developing countries are
unable to effectively control the activities of the private firms. Service delivery is still
very poor, yet local people do not have the power to take firms to task. For instance,
some water consumers in Ghana pay flat rate for water. Most of the time, the water
does not flow regularly, yet consumers are forced to pay or they risk disconnections.
This can best be described as abuse of monopolist power.
Discussion: Forms of payment for water
1. Free ( E.g. Norway)
2. Payment based on property value (U, K)
3. Use of meters ( prepaid and post paid)