A new report by the Water Citizens’ Network in Ghana traces the history of resistance to pre-paid water metres and the successful campaign to stop the Ghanaian government’s most recent attempts to implement metering schemes. The report argues that the government’s latest initiative – a direct result of pressures from the World Bank and International Monetary Fund to implement full-cost recovery in public services as part of a 2013 bailout package – flies in the face of evidence gathered during previous attempts to establish water meters in Ghana.
According to author Leonard Shang-Quartey, when water metering was first introduced through a pilot project in 2004, people were told prepaid metering would lead to better and more efficient services. However, the pilot program was so plagued with problems that the Ghana Water Company Limited (GWCL), the government agency that had enthusiastically signed on to the deal, ended up seeking legal sanctions against the metering company, Aquamet. Five months into the pilot project, residents who had initially signed up when the company offered deceptively low rates to attract customers, found themselves without water when rates rose drastically to ensure profits for the private collection agency. Additionally, technical glitches left paying customers without reliable access and the illusion of efficiency was soon replaced by the reality of an administrative nightmare that eventually drove the GWCL to seek a court injunction against Aquamet to prevent further metering. During this period, Aquamet made profits while its public sector partner, the GWCL lost revenues.
According to Koni Benson, the Blue Planet Project’s Cape Town-based organizer who supported the Water Citizen’s Network’s effort to document the Ghanaian experience with metering, the report will be useful in supporting other campaigns against metering on the continent.The Blue Planet Project currently supports a campaign against water metering in Cape Town and regularly facilitates exchanges between water justice activists throughout Africa and around the world.
Read The Fall of Prepaid Water Meters in Ghana (PDF 1.2mb)