Implications of household sanitation on groundwater quality and human health in low-income urban communities of Cape Coast, Ghana

Authors: Joseph T Zume*, Department of Geography and Earth Science, Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania., Simon Mariwah, Department of Geography and Regional Planning, University of Cape Coast, Ghana, Ebenezer Kwaku Boateng, Department of Geography and Regional Planning, University of Cape Coast, Ghana
Topics: Water Resources and Hydrology, Africa, Environment
Keywords: Cape coast-Ghana, Soakaways, Groundwater quality, Pit latrines, Sanitation-groundwater quality
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/6/2019
Start / End Time: 3:05 PM / 4:45 PM
Room: Tyler, Marriott, Mezzanine Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Access to clean drinking water and improved sanitation facilities remains a perennial challenge to rural and urban communities in Sub-Saharan Africa. Due to the lack of central sewage systems, septic tanks, locally called “Soakaways”, are commonly used in homes. For the low-income, outer-city communities, pit latrines are also often mixed with soakaways. Meanwhile, poor access to potable water in these communities forces a dependence on groundwater, mostly sourced via hand-dug wells. The unintended result is that household wells end up in close proximity to soakaways/pit latrines such that groundwater quality is threatened, with potential implications for human health. Projected impacts of climate change may further complicate the groundwater-sanitation problem. This study evaluates the potential impacts of soakaways on groundwater quality in four urban communities of Cape Coast, Ghana. It mapped soakaway locations as well as depth to groundwater in wells, water temperature, conductivity, dissolved oxygen, salinity, and total dissolved solids (TDS). The measured water quality parameters were assessed against WHO set thresholds. Using GIS, the effects of distance and angle of wells from soakaways on the measured parameters were explored. Overall, preliminary results suggest that groundwater quality in all four communities may have already been compromised, possibly from the soakaways.

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