This blog post, for the ARIGA Catalyst Project, was originally published as part of the ‘Talking Science’ and Water, Land and Ecosystems Blog .
Making better development decisions with decision analysis tools
Making decisions is difficult. Most of us spend a lot of time procrastinating about decisions in our everyday lives, struggling to weigh pros and cons and thinking through ‘what-if’ scenarios. For big decisions, like buying a car, we may do a bit of research; but most of the time, we simply follow our gut feeling as a guide. This is okay, as long as we’re right most of the time, and the potential harm from taking a bad decision is limited.
Road construction affects the hydrology of an area; causes erosion, flooding, water logging (photo: Meta Meta Research)
Roads can devastate a landscape – scarring it, creating barriers for wildlife and accelerating stormwater so that valuable farmland, habitats and homes get washed away or polluted. What if didn’t have to be that way? What if roads would work with the grain of nature rather than against it?
One of the UPGro teams, lead by Frank van Steenbergen, at Meta Meta Research, has being doing just that. Over the last year, their UPGro Catalyst project has been researching how roads can be used for rainwater harvesting on a landscape scale to recharge aquifers and ponds for later use in the dry seasons.
Working closely with the Mekelle University and the Government of Ethiopia, Frank and his team (including the Institute for Development Studies) has not only been testing the theory but they have been putting into practice. In the region of Tigray, the methods of road design have captured imaginations as well as water and now the government is keen to roll these ideas out further around the country.
The Catalyst project is now complete and a number of resources are now available online:
This one-day meeting, jointly convened by the UPGro Knowledge Broker Team and ODI’s Water Policy Programme, will showcase current research and practice concerning groundwater and its role in poverty alleviation and development. The meeting will highlight research needs and identify good practices.
Question: How can dusty roads provide water? Answer: By harvesting and storing rainwater when it falls on them.
A 30 mm rainfall over a 1-kilometre stretch of road can produce up to 100,000 litres of water. This number points to a huge potential. And not one that has not been adequately tapped (around 7 billion USD are spent on road construction in sub-Saharan Africa alone).
Drilling for water can be expensive: it can cost up to £10,000 to drill a borehole that will have a £500 handpump installed on it. However, there are alternatives – manual drilling methods are often most effective and just as good quality, but the challenge for the drillers is knowing where they can find good quality water.