Water supply has remained centralised and governments advanced several reasons (health benefits and increase in rural productivity) for the state-led water services delivery. This approach had budgetary and sustainability challenges. This led to a community-based management approach in which communities were required to contribute towards water supply and own the water supply. This paper explores households’ perception of who owns and controls community water systems that were provided under the ambit of community-based management regimes. The study was conducted in four communities in the Upper West Region of Ghana. Data were collected using two main sources: (i) a household survey, using questionnaires; and (ii) a platform, comprising 14 participants. The study found that there is a relationship between community contribution and ownership of the water systems. Community level actors argue that communities own the water systems, because they contributed towards capital cost and are responsible for operations and maintenance. Community level actors have control over the decisions of the water systems. Legal ownership resides in the government and communities manage the water systems and appropriate the returns, thus creating a sense of ownership of the water systems. As such, there is a dualistic ownership of the water systems.
A sense of ownership is strongly explained by community contribution.
Legal ownership resides in the government.
There is a dualistic ownership of the water systems.
Households perceived water management staff as having control over decisions of the water systems.
The elimination of community contribution risks reintroducing paternalism in the water sector.