Piped water flows but sachet consumption grows: The paradoxical drinking water landscape of an urban slum in Ashaiman, Ghana

Justin Stoler, Raymond A. Tutu, Kiana Winslow

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


Packaged "sachet" water has become the primary drinking water source for millions of West Africans despite ongoing controversy over inadequate management of the new waste streams created by all the plastic wrappers. While recent literature from Ghana has shown that municipal water rationing and lower socioeconomic status tend to drive sachet consumption at the metropolitan scale, some low-income communities with a reliable piped water supply still exhibit diverse drinking water-seeking behaviours. This paper explores the drinking water landscape of one poor, informal community in Ashaiman, Ghana, as a case study of the individual- and community-level factors that shape household drinking water decisions. Using the results of a water questionnaire completed by 95 households and the transcripts of four focus groups, our findings suggest that, after controlling for demographics, sachet water consumption is associated with proxies for higher disposable income and lack of knowledge about household water treatment methods, while social processes and attitudes toward water quality do not seem to drive drinking water decisions. This community presents a paradoxical drinking water landscape, as poverty abounds despite excellent piped water access, and low-income households with slightly greater means tend to opt for packaged water as opposed to being driven to it by piped water shortages. These nuances in drinking water purchasing behaviour can inform policy and planning for drinking water provision in urban slums across the region.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)52-60
Number of pages9
JournalHabitat International
StatePublished - Jun 1 2015


  • Africa
  • Drinking water
  • Ghana
  • Poverty
  • Sachet water
  • Urban slums

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Nature and Landscape Conservation


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