Presentation by John Chilton to UN-Water Conference, January 2015

UPGro invited by UNICEF to present at the UN Zaragoza Conference

(with thanks to John Chilton, Sharon Velasquez-Orta and Jose Gesti-Canuto)

The UN-Water Annual Zaragoza Conferences serve UN-Water to prepare for World Water Day, which in 2015 will focus on “water and sustainable development” and celebrated the end of the International Decade for Action ‘Water for Life’, so it was especially important for taking stock of and learning from achievements as well as planning the next steps.

The meeting brought together the UN agencies working in water and invited stakeholders from governments, business, civil society, academia and the media to talk about water scarcity and water quality, risk and risk management and WASH in terms of lessons learnt from the Waterforlife Decade and the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and to take them forward to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

In the theme “Academia contribution to the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals related to water” on the 16th January, the was a session titled “Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH): Tools for WASH implementation from an equity lens”, led by Jose Gesti-Canuto, with short presentations by three UPGro collaborators:

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“When wells run dry” Prof. Richard Taylor writes in Nature

“A global analysis reveals growing societal dependence on the use of non-renewable freshwater resources that depletes groundwater reserves and undermines human resilience to water scarcity in a warming world”

Full article available for Nature subscribers (paywall): Nature, 516, 179–180, (11 December 2014) doi:10.1038/516179a

In the short article, Prof. Taylor raises concern about groundwater depletion, as well as declining lake and river levels in many areas of the world, and that raises not only important scientific questions about how and why, but also a crucial problem for society.

Looking at recently published research he notes that there is increasing evidence of non-renewable freshwater use – basically more freshwater is being used and then either lost to evaporation or rendered useless by pollution and increased salt levels.

The finger of blame is pointed firmly at irrigation, but the demand for food will only rise in the coming years and decades. Groundwater, particularly in Africa, has great potential but its use is hampered by poor data and unreliable models and the joker card of climate change.

‘We need to better understand available groundwater storage and recharge responses
to the intensification of rainfall, which is expected to be especially strong in the tropics. Indeed, it is here where increases in freshwater use are projected to be most intense. We also need to reduce human dependence on nonrenewable fresh water through more efficient water use, particularly in irrigation, and by trading in ‘virtual water’, which reduces local freshwater use through the import of food and other products. If we continue along our present trajectory, “when the well runs dry we (shall) know the worth of water”

The Grofutures Catalyst project, which has been green-lighted to become a Consortium project for the next 4-5 years, will tackle some of these issues in detail. More on this project will follow next year.


A tale of two cities: How can we provide safe water for poor people living in African cities?

Dan Lapworth, Jim Wright and Steve Pedley are working to find out.

Reproduced from Planet Earth Winter 2014, p 22-23

Across much of Africa, cities are growing quickly. Current projections estimate that by 2050, 60 per cent of the population will be living in urban areas – half of them in slums. Many of these people have little access to services such as clean water and sanitation, and the UN has identified fixing this as a major priority.

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UPGro Consortium Projects Announced

The next phase of UPGro research has been set in motion with the announcement of which research teams and projects will be funded over the next five years.  The competition was fierce and many fantastic ideas didn’t make it – but we sincerely hope that other research funders will take note and provide support.

Five projects will be funded, four of which have evolved from Catalyst Projects, plus a new entrant – a team led by UNESCO-IHE.

Here is the list, in order of alphabetical surname of the Principal Investigator (PI). More details will appear here on the UPGro website soon:

  • Building understanding of climate variability into planning of groundwater supplies from low storage aquifers in Africa – Second Phase (BRAVE2)
    PI: Dr Rosalind Cornforth, University of Reading
  • Experimenting with practical transition groundwater management strategies for the urban poor in Sub Saharan Africa
    PI: Dr Jan Willem Foppen, UNESCO IHE Institute for Water Education
  • Groundwater Risk Management for Growth and Development,
    PI: Dr Rob Hope, University of Oxford
  • A hidden crisis: unravelling current failures for future success in rural groundwater supply,
    PI: Professor Alan MacDonald, British Geological Survey
  • Groundwater Futures in Sub-Saharan Africa,
    PI: Professor Richard Taylor, University College London

As the Knowledge Broker team, we are excited to be working with these projects over the coming years.

Not the end of the road for the Catalyst Projects

The 14 Catalyst Projects completed so far have produced valuable results and insights and we will continue to share what emerges from all of them. Furthermore, one of the projects “IN-GROUND: Inexpensive monitoring of Groundwater pollution in Urban African Districts” has only just started so there is a lot of exciting groundwater science to come from the Catalysts.

Thank you!

A huge thank you to all the researchers and partners involved in UPGro so far. If you visit the “Publications & Papers” page you will see that it is gradually filling up as new material comes out. Researchers have also been presenting their findings in a series of UPGro-RWSN webinars and you can watch the recordings and download the presentation files on the “Webinars and Films” page.

Please check back regularly to see what is new, or subscribe to the RWSN newsletter, which as a special UPGro new section.