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General News of Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Source: Andrea Yaa Adomako

Safe Water Network Breaks Ground

on Two Modular Slow Sand Filtration Systems in Ghana Akateng and Aveme are the first in a regional expansion for Lake Volta communities

Breaking ground in Akateng, the Hon. Majeed Ayariga, District Coordinating Director, North Dayi, along with Safe Water Network's Charles Nimako (to his right) and other dignitaries and partners — the first of many slow-sand water systems for the Lake Volta Region.

Safe Water Network has now broken ground on the two pilot sites for modular slow sand filtration systems in the southern Lake Volta area of Ghana. Building upon our learning in Ghana where we already provide safe water access to over 35,000 people, we are constructing slow sand filtration systems because they cost less to install and operate.

Slow sand filtration has been around for ages, but historically had high up-front costs. This initiative utilizes recent innovations that have lowered the initial capital and reduced the construction time to just a few days. Because of slow sand's simplicity and lower operating costs, there is great potential to broadly replicate this modular approach. The use of solar power will cut the cost of electricity by 75%.

The groundbreaking ceremony took place on August 15th. Akateng and Aveme, with combined population of about 10,000, will each benefit from water priced up to 50% lower than alternative sources now available in these communities.

"From our experience in the area," says Charles Nimako, Safe Water Network's director of African initiatives, "slow sand filtration provides an opportunity to reduce costs and operating complexities without sacrificing water quality."

Safe Water Network will work closely with the communities to establish local operating and ownership structures, with a long-term goal for the sites to be self-sufficient. Cash flow will be used to cover operating expenses and future expansion and the establishment of centers of excellence for training, support and supplies.

One key benefit of slow-sand filtration, together with the abundant water volume of Lake Volta, is the small incremental expense to deliver additional safe water—the systems can easily grow to serve more people. Among the plans being developed are direct connections to schools, health clinics and restaurants. Long-term we will explore the replacement of community kiosks with direct household connections.

Expansion

Safe Water Network will focus initially on the villages in the Afram Plains and Lower Main Lake regions of Lake Volta, eventually looking to expand to villages in all 16 districts surrounding the lake. Current estimates indicate that this approach can provide safe water to more than 500,000 people in the target area.

Beyond the significant potential in the Lake Volta area, we believe this model can be applied in other parts of West Africa, or any location internationally with an appropriate surface water source.

For more information on slow sand, visit our supplier's site: Blue Future Filters, Inc.

I welcome your comments and questions.

Charles Nimako, Director, Africa Initiatives cnimako@safewaternetwork.org

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