Phase 2 of the Hidden Crisis fieldwork is underway – right on schedule. The work has started in Ejere, a Woreda about 100 km north of Addis in Ethiopia. In this major survey of 50 poorly functioning rural waterpoints, we spend two days dismantling and testing each water point to work out what the main […]
The physical sciences longitudinal studies have kicked off in Uganda this week. The aim of these longitudinal studies is to capture the time-based hydroclimatic and hydrogeological processes of the groundwater system at selected hand pumped boreholes (HPBs). These temporal datasets provide valuable information to understanding HPB functionality that could not be addressed from the two […]
Dr Galine Yanon presented a paper at the 9th Internationale Conference on Climate Change Impacts and Adaptation: communicating and collaborating for resilient solutions to climate change, at the Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge, UK April 21-22, 2017. The conference had more than 70 participants from 26 countries.
Dr Yanon presented the paper, Local governance of groundwater for Agriculture Livelihoods: Managing Climate change Impacts in West Africa. This paper explores how local capacity and user perceptions of vulnerability to water insecurity in the Sahel are shaped. Research findings are supporting the BRAVE project and its partner communities in future groundwater planning for agriculture and livelihood resilience to climate change impacts.
This conference was a real opportunity to share the BRAVE project approach, methodology, and particularly the work that has been done in project communities in Ghana and Burkina Faso. Research findings are from the scoping stage of the project. Data collection was done in collaboration with the NGOs Partners, CARE Internationale, Ghana, Tamale office, Christian Aid Sahel in Burkina Faso, and Reseau Marp in Burkina Faso. See Conference Presentation here.
Dr Yanon also recently participated at the International Scientific Conference on Climate Risk Management in Nairobi, April 5-9, 2017. The conference was organized by the Kenya Red Cross in collaboration with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), with participants from government, civil society, research academia, the private sector, and NGOs.
The message heard in this pre-scoping meeting was very clear: IPCC wants to move from a 1.0 to a 2.0 version, as this message is more relevant to, applicable to, and representative of people’s lives. This will require new voices and stakeholders to play a fundamental role in the AR6 cycle and beyond. The conclusion and recommendation of this meeting will be presented at the IPCC assessment meeting in Addis Ababa in May 2017.
Furthermore, the conference also allowed Dr Yanon to present the BRAVE project and its interdisciplinary approach as well as the Rainwatch Alliance.
Shallow groundwater wells, are the main source of drinking water in many rural and peri-urban communities.
The quantity and variety of shallow wells located in such communities make them more readily accessible than private or government operated deep boreholes, but shallow wells are more susceptible to faecal contamination, which is often due to leaching pit latrines.
For this reason, online monitoring of water quality in shallow wells, in terms of faecal pollution, could dramatically improve understanding of acute health risks in unplanned peri-urban settlements.
More broadly, inexpensive online faecal pollution risk monitoring is also highly relevant in the context of managed aquifer recharge via the infiltration of either stormwater or treated wastewater into the subsurface for aquifer storage and recovery.
To tackle this challenge, IN-GROUND – an UPGro Catalyst Project – trialled four different types of Microbial Fuel Cell (MFC) water quality biosensor in the lab (Newcastle University, UK) and in the field (Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania).
While further work is needed, the results provided proof-of-concept that these biosensors can provide continuous groundwater quality monitoring at low cost and without need for additional chemicals or external power input.
Full details of the work can be founded in this open access paper: Velasquez-Orta SB, Werner D, Varia J, Mgana S. Microbial fuel cells for inexpensive continuous in-situ monitoring of groundwater quality. Water Research 2017, 117, 9-17.
For more details contact Dr Sharon Velasquez-Orta
We are pleased to share a new UPGro paper from Luke Whaley and Prof. Frances Cleaver (Sheffield University) of the Hidden Crisis study – “Can ‘functionality’ save the community management model of rural water supply?”
It is primarily a literature review paper so many elements will be familiar to rural water practitioners, however, Whaley and Cleaver are coming from a social science perspective so they highlight that previous analysis has focused on community management of water points as a “techno-managerial exercise” that largely ignores from broader social, political and cultural rules and relations around power – which groups and individuals have power over others and how is that used (or not used).
So what? The author’s suggest that current dialogue on water point functionality is not enough to save Community Based Management, because there is often a wider problem in with the under-resourcing of local government (and governance) and that more work is needed to help develop context-specific management, “rather than attempting to tweak the current blueprint of development the next ‘big thing’”
The full open access paper can be read and downloaded from Science Direct
Please take some time to read this and feel free to discuss – and argue! – about it in the RWSN Sustainable Services community
Study shows that over half of global groundwater is over 12,000 years old
Most of the groundwater in the world that is accessible by deep wells is fossil groundwater, stored beneath the earth’s surface for more than 12,000 years, and that ancient water is not immune to modern contamination, as has been widely assumed.
This study, led by Dr. Scott Jasechko (University of Calgary) and co-authored by an international team of researchers including Professor Richard Taylor (UCL Geography & UPGro GroFutures), is published online today (April 25) in Nature Geoscience.
Groundwater is the water stored beneath the earth’s surface in soil pore spaces and within the fractures of rock formations. It provides drinking and irrigation water for billions of people around the world.
Jasechko, Taylor and his co-researchers dated groundwater from over 6,000 wells around the globe. By measuring the amount of radioactive carbon in the water, the team was able to determine the age of the groundwater. They discovered that the majority of the earth’s groundwater is likely fossil groundwater, derived from rain and snow that fell more than 12,000 years ago. The team determined that this fossil groundwater accounts for between 42 to 85 per cent of total fresh, unfrozen water in the upper kilometre of the earth’s crust.
Until now, the scientific community has generally believed that fossil groundwater is safe from modern contamination but this study has proved otherwise.
“Deep wells mostly pump fossil groundwater but many still contain some recent rain and snow melt, which is vulnerable to modern contamination,” says Jasechko.
Rain and snow that fell after the 1950s contains tritium, a radioactive isotope that was spread around the globe as a result of thermonuclear bomb testing. Disturbingly, traces of tritium were found in deep well waters, which indicates that contemporary rain and snow melt can mix with deep fossil groundwater and, in turn, potentially contaminate this ancient water.
According to Taylor, this discovery has important ramifications that should influence the way humans use groundwater in the future,
“Our results reveal not only current use of fossil groundwater but also the potential risks to water quality associated with the use of deep wells. Indeed, we need to better understand how the construction and pumping of deep wells themselves may connect fossil groundwater to the present-day water cycle.”
A new study by UCL researchers exposes substantial limitations in the ability of current metrics to define ‘water scarcity’.
21 March 2017
A new study by UCL suggests the scale of the global water crisis could not be properly known at due to inadequacies with the current metrics used to measure it.
With today being World Water Day, the research, led by the UCL Institute for Sustainable Resources and UCL Geography, exposes substantial limitations in the ability of current metrics to define ‘water scarcity’.
The report finds that the misrepresentation of freshwater resources and demand is particularly severe in low-income countries of the tropics where the consequences of water scarcity are projected to be most severe and where most of the global population now live. Simply put, the authors argue that we do not know the dimensions of the global water crisis.
Ensuring the availability of adequate quantities of freshwater to sustain the health and well-being of people and the ecosystems in which they live, remains one of the world’s most pressing challenges. This question is reflected in UN Sustainable Development Goal 6.4 which seeks to reduce the number of people suffering from water scarcity.
The authors call for a renewed debate about how best to measure ‘water scarcity’ and argue that it be redeﬁned in terms of the freshwater storage required to address imbalances in freshwater supply and demand. Such an approach, they contend, would enable for the explicit consideration of groundwater, the world’s largest accessible store of freshwater which accounts for nearly 50% of all freshwater withdrawals globally.
Further the authors suggest that such a metric could be used pragmatically to explore a wide range of options for addressing freshwater storage requirements beyond dams alone that include use of renewable groundwater, soil water, and trading in virtual water.
Prof Richard Taylor, co-author of the paper says:
“How we understand water scarcity is strongly influenced by how we measure it. Grossly misrepresentative measures of water scarcity can identify scarcity where there is sufficient and sufficiency where there is scarcity. An improved measure of water scarcity would help to ensure that limited resources are better targeted to address where and when water-scarce conditions are identified.”
UPGro GroFutures: http://grofutures.org/
Photo: Irrigated maize crop supplied by groundwater in Zambia – Richard Taylor
Media Release: World Water Day 22 March
New pollution risk maps for Africa to help with achieving safe water for everyone.
Responding to UNICEF/WHO report on Safely managed drinking water
The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the World Health Organisation (WHO) have published a key Joint Monitoring Programme (JMP) report on “Safely managed drinking water”. It explains the way that the progress in improving drinking water will be measured across the world in pursuit of the Sustainable Development Goal Target 6.1 of achieving universal and equitable access to safe and affordable drinking water for all by 2030. This is an immensely challenging target, particularly in many countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, which failed to reach the Millennium Development Goal Target of halving the number of people without access to an “improved” water source between 1990 and 2015.
For governments, aid agencies and citizens, a key question has been – what do we mean by “safe” water? This new JMP report starts to provide some of those answers. They define it to mean water that is “free from pathogens and elevated levels of toxic substances at all times”. For many areas, the most accessible safe water is from the ground – from boreholes, wells and springs. But this is not the case everywhere.
There is no question about the importance of groundwater in sub-Saharan Africa, where it provides drinking water supplies for at least 170 million people. In comparison with surface water, groundwater is widely known for its greater reliability, resilience to climate variations and reduced vulnerability to pollution. However, groundwater contamination does occur when waste from households, municipalities, livestock, agriculture, hospitals and industries (including mining) is able to make its way Inadequate management of household and industrial waste is leading to the pollution of groundwater resources in urban centres in sub-Saharan Africa.
In a new landmark study just published, reviewed all the available data and studies on urban groundwater across the continent and build up a map of aquifer pollution risk (Fig. 1)
The lead researcher, Dr Daniel Lapworth, of the British Geological Survey, said: “Despite the risk to the health of millions of people across the continent, very little is routinely monitored. If there is any chance of achieving the Sustainable Development Goal targets – and adapting to climate change – it is essential that governments and water utilities routinely monitor groundwater quality and take appropriate action to protect their precious water resources.”
“However, we are excited that our research through has developed a low-cost and robust way for measuring groundwater quality, and this approach is being rolled out in our work in Africa and India.”
UPGro is funded by UK Aid; the UK Natural Environment Research Council (NERC); and the UK Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC). Knowledge Broker: Skat Foundation, in partnership with the Rural Water Supply Network (RWSN) www.rural-water-supply.net
For more information:
NERC media office
01793 411939 / 07785 459139 / email@example.com
 Lapworth, D.J., D. C. W. NkhuwaJ. Okotto-OkottoS. PedleyM. E. StuartM. N. TijaniJ. Wright “Urban groundwater quality in sub-Saharan Africa: current status and implications for water security and public health” Hydrogeol J (2017). doi:10.1007/s10040-016-1516-6
 Sorensen J, D.J. Lapworth, B.P. Marchant, D.C.W. Nkhuwa, S. Pedley, M.E. Stuart, R.A. Bell, M. Chirwa, J. Kabika, M. Liemisa, M. Chibesa (2015) “In-situ tryptophan-like fluorescence: A real-time indicator of faecal contamination in drinking water supplies” Water Research, Volume 81, 15 September 2015, Pages 38–46
In a recent Engineering for Change (E4C) article, “Charitable Foundations Have a Unique Opportunity to Change the WASH Sector”, UPGro Hidden Crisis research was cited in making the case for stronger efforts by charities and funders to focus on the sustainability of what they fund:
The Unlocking the Potential for Groundwater for the Poor (UPGro) research project piloted a methodology in Uganda to uncover the causes of water point failure. The pilot study report found that “there is limited data or analysis on why sources are non‐functional and therefore little opportunity to learn from past mistakes” (Bonsor 2015).
The Hidden Crisis consortium project is currently addressing these knowledge gaps in its work in Ethiopia, Malawi and Uganda.
E4C, based in the USA, is a global knowledge & media hub for tech & global development that connects and informs more than 1,000,000+ #tech4dev practitioners worldwide.
An article published yesterday in The Economist has highlighted the role of innovative use of technology to unlock the potential of rural water service delivery in Africa. They report on the work being done by the Gro for GooD team, led by Oxford University, that is showing that by reducing pump downtime from an average of 27 days to less than 3, people’s willingness to pay for the water service increases five fold.
If you would like to know more about the innovative ‘Smart Handpump’, featured in a BBC article this week, and Fundifix enterprise, then you can find links to papers, presentations and films on the Gro for GooD page.