Pictured: Prof. Richard Carter on the UPGro stand at the 7th RWSN Forum
I had the pleasure of recently attending the 7th RWSN Forum, held from 29th November to 2nd December 2016 in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire. The conference is only every five years so I am fortunate that it fell during the third year of my PhD giving me not only the opportunity to attend, but also the chance to contribute some of my own research completed thus far.
The conference delegates came from a mixture of backgrounds, from both local and global scale NGOs to government ministries, and from financiers like the World Bank to pump manufacturers. It was a great opportunity to share experiences and create connections with people outside of the world of academia and consultancies, which dominated many other conferences that I have attended.
The 7th RWSN Forum was a chance for water infrastructure installers and financiers to learn more about the water resources which they are hoping to exploit. The conference also allowed water resource researchers to find out what kind of information NGOs and ministries require in order to plan and manage interventions.
There were a number of oral and poster presentations and company stands at the RWSN Forum expounding solutions to WASH shortfalls and food insecurity, such as manual drilling technologies, solar and foot powered pumps, and smart technology to transmit water point equipment performance. While all of these technologies undeniably have much to offer, without a reliable and renewable water resource their usefulness dwindles. Therefore, the relevance of the UPGro projects in emphasising sustainable management of groundwater is clear.
An UPGro catalyst grant initiated the AMGRAF (Adaptive management of shallow groundwater for small-scale irrigation and poverty alleviation in sub-Saharan Africa) project in 2013. The catalyst grant funded hydrogeological investigations, the setting up of a community‑based hydrometeorological monitoring programme, and gender separated focus groups in Dangila woreda, northwest Ethiopia. My own research has developed from the AMGRAF project and concerns the potential for shallow groundwater resources to be used for irrigation by poor rural communities, lessening the reliance on increasingly inconsistent rains. Research principally focuses on two field sites; Dangila in Ethiopia and in Limpopo province in South Africa. The resilience of the shallow groundwater resources to climate variability and increasing abstraction is being assessed through modelling. To construct the models, it is vital to have data on aquifer parameters as well as time series of rainfall, river flow and groundwater levels for model calibration. The presentation I gave at the forum concerned the computation of these aquifer parameters from pumping tests of hand dug wells and the collection of the aforementioned time series via the community‑based monitoring program.
I enjoyed the week I spent in Côte d’Ivoire, a country that I may never have had the chance to visit without the RWSN Forum. I believe the connections made with groundwater specialists from around sub-Saharan Africa will greatly benefit my PhD in terms of testing the transferability of the research with data from their countries. Leaving Abidjan, I had the same feeling as everyone else I spoke to at the conference: “Please RWSN, why does this only happen every five years!”
David Walker, PhD Candidate, Newcastle University, UK – read his RWSN Forum Paper: “Properties of shallow thin regolith aquifers in sub-Saharan Africa: a case study from northwest Ethiopia “