Urban but off the grid: the struggle for water in two urban slums in greater Accra, Ghana

Raymond A. Tutu, Justin B Stoler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


This paper seeks to understand the daily lived struggles for water in two slum settlements in Greater Accra, Ghana. Poor infrastructure and governance leave the Ghana Water Company Limited (GWCL) unable to fulfill the demand for water production in the capital city Accra, thus resulting in chronic intermittency of the urban water supply, and a high percentage of households purchasing water from neighbors and alternative sources such as sachet water, water kiosks, and water tankers. Utilizing theoretical insights from informality discourse, we examine household-level water access and the impacts of water supply disruption on daily lives by analyzing the emergent themes of eight focus group discussions (FGDs) about water access that were conducted in two slum settlements in Greater Accra. We observed intricate effects of water interference on daily lives, including negative perceptions about the government’s role in improving water access. The emergent themes from the FGDs included: (1) disruptions of individual and family livelihoods, (2) perceived disenfranchisement from quality water, (3) deprivation in an excluded space, and (4) the effect of exclusion on water rationing. These findings help us better understand the daily lived experiences of residents’ struggle for water security in a rapidly developing city and could have ramifications for slum upgrading projects that aim to improve human health and well-being.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-15
Number of pages15
JournalAfrican Geographical Review
StateAccepted/In press - Apr 22 2016


  • drinking water
  • Ghana
  • informal settlements
  • urban slums
  • water security

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Earth-Surface Processes
  • Geography, Planning and Development


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