New UPGro studies explore links between groundwater and poverty in rural and urban Africa

Thanks to additional support from NERC at the beginning of 2017, some of the world’s leading experts on groundwater and poverty were brought together to test the assumptions that we make about how much we know and understand about the links between groundwater access and poverty. Does improving groundwater access reduce poverty? Or are their cases where it can increase disparities between rich and poor? There is a lack of data and evidence to make firm conclusions and this challenges the research teams in UPGro and beyond to challenge their assumptions.

Part of the rapid study explored the issues around groundwater dependency of urban areas in tropical Africa.  What is perhaps shocking, is how little municipal water utilities in these areas monitoring, manage and understand the groundwater resources on which millions of people – their customers – depend. Furthermore, there are indication that private, self-supply, boreholes can make it harder for water utilities to get sufficient income from wealthier users to help cross-subsidise piped connections to the poor.

For more details, on these and many other findings, download the UPGro Working Papers:

New – Water point failure in sub-Saharan Africa: the value of a systems thinking approach

The latest output from the UPGro programme comes from Cambridge University as part of the “Hidden Crisis; Unravelling past failures for future success in Rural Water Supply” and examines the role of system-based analysis in understanding the root causes of the success or failure of rural water points. The full open paper is available to download from Practical Action; http://www.developmentbookshelf.com/doi/abs/10.3362/1756-3488.16-00022

Water point failure in sub-Saharan Africa: the value of a systems thinking approach

Thousands of water points have been installed across sub-Saharan Africa over the past four decades; however, a number have been found to be dry/low-yielding, unsafe for human consumption, and in some cases marked with appearance, taste, and odour problems. Subsequently, many users have been unable or unwilling to use these water points and have had to revert to the use of unimproved water sources.

 A number of factors could be causing each of these problems, either directly or indirectly. Furthermore, these factors may be interdependent and these relationships may be marked by non-linearities, feedbacks, and time delays. Deciphering which factors need to be prioritized becomes a confusing and complex task.

 To help understand the impact of different interventions, this paper proposes the adoption of systems-based analysis for looking at water point failure and introduces some of the more common qualitative and quantitative analytical tools that could be used to reveal how these complexities might be managed more effectively.

 While the use of these tools within the WASH sector has been limited to date, they hold potential for helping to identify the most suitable remedies for water point failure. Examples of where such tools have been used in relation to water point failure are reviewed, and the extent to which each approach could be applied is examined from a practitioner perspective, recognizing the limitations arising from the differing data needs and time-consuming nature of each type of analysis.

Africa Groundwater Atlas – your opinion / votre avis

Dear colleagues / Chers/Chères collègues (texte en français ci-dessous)

Some of you may already have seen and used the Africa Groundwater Atlas. This is a new online resource with groundwater information for all African countries. It is linked to the Africa Groundwater Literature Archive – an expanding online repository of documents on groundwater in Africa.

As part of the research programme UPGro, the British Geological Survey (BGS) are now developing the Atlas further, expanding and improving the content, and translating many pages into French. We are also aiming to make it more relevant by connecting the hydrogeology information it already contains to the practical needs of people working with groundwater in Africa.

We are also looking for feedback on the Atlas. We’d be really grateful if you could find time to answer a short questionnaire, which can be found at these web links

English version – https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/Z9DYD9D

French version – https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/ZTQ8MYF

We are also organising a webinar on Wednesday 28 June to get feedback on how the Atlas is working, and what future improvements could be made. If you would like to participate in the webinar, please join up here: https://meetings.webex.com/collabs/#/meetings/detail?uuid=M7GHC6SM0Q76Q2VHKWKB1Q13YT-BUDR&rnd=760558.52747

We will get in touch closer to Wednesday 28 June with more details about the webinar.

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

With best wishes,

**************************

Certains d’entre vous ont probablement déjà vu et utilisé l’ “Africa Groundwater Atlas”. C’est une nouvelle ressource en ligne qui regroupe des informations sur les eaux souterraines de tous les pays d’Afriques. Celui-ci est associé  à l’ “Africa Groundwater Literature Archive” qui est une librairie en expansion regroupant une grande diversité de documents et articles concernant les eaux souterraines en Afrique.

The British Geological Survey (BGS) consacre aujourd’hui une partie du programme de recherche UPGro à améliorer et enrichir le contenu de l’Atlas et à en traduire les pages en francais. Nous tenons par ailleurs à rendre celui-ci plus coherent en liant les données hydrogéologiques aux besoins pratiques des gens travaillant sur les eaux souterraines en Afrique.

Nous avons aussi besoin de vos retours à propos de l’Atlas. Nous vous saurions gré de trouver un moment pour répondre à ce court questionnaire, que vous pouvez retrouver en suivant les liens suivants :

Version anglaise  – https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/Z9DYD9D

Version française – https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/ZTQ8MYF

Nous organisons aussi un webinar (un meeting en ligne) le Mercredi 28 Juin pour connaître votre avis sur le fonctionnement de l’Atlas, et sur les ameliorations à y apporter. Si vous voulez participer au webinar, veuillez vous inscrire ici :

https://meetings.webex.com/collabs/#/meetings/detail?uuid=M7GHC6SM0Q76Q2VHKWKB1Q13YT-BUDR&rnd=760558.52747

Nous vous donnerons plus de details sur le webinar prochainement.

Si vous avez une quelconque question, n’hésitez pas à nous la communiquer.

Merci pour votre attention.

Cordialement,

Brighid

Brighid Ó Dochartaigh
Senior Hydrogeologist

British Geological Survey
The Lyell Centre

 

BRAVE presentation at the 9th Internationale Conference on Climate Change Impacts & Adaptation

re-blogged from BRAVE

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.

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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.

Promising new groundwater pollution sensor – New UPGro paper published

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Field test set-up and data output from the MFC biosensor monitoring. A) The diagram shows an aerial view of the system configuration and distance between sensing system and data collection system. B) MFC1 and MFC2 were biosensors placed on the well; MFC3 and MFC4 were control biosensors placed in a vessel simulating the groundwater well. MFC3 and MFC4 were located in a room close to the well and the arrow indicates when they were intentionally contaminated. Monitoring of the sensors contained in the well lasted for 60 days obtaining the same trend as for the period shown.

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 

New: “Can ‘functionality’ save the community management model of rural water supply?

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

Fossil groundwater vulnerable to modern contamination

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.”

Improved data for better decisions to benefit all

Gro for GooD project has designed and installed an environmental monitoring network to complement existing data gathering by Base Titanium, KMD, WRMA and KISCOL. The environmental monitoring network collects data on the surface and groundwater quantity and quality, handpump abstraction and climate monitoring. There are 21 manual rain gauges, 4 Automatic Weather Stations, 3 automatic in-stream water level monitors (data loggers) and 5 groundwater level loggers. This network builds on the existing network of over 70 monitoring sites operated by Base Titanium Ltd., over 30 monitoring sites operated by KISCOL, and over 10 sites operated by KMD. Additional flow measurements using Current-Velocity Meter has also been undertaken by the project. The WRMA has been responsible for installation and operation of all the main river gauging stations on Ramisi and Mukurumudzi rivers and has been actively collecting data generated by different stakeholders. A message from the WRMA can be found on the facing page.

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Flow Measurement on Ramisi River at Eshu Bridge during short rains in November 2016 using Current Velocity Meter

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Gilbert of TAHMO undertaking regular maintenance of the AWS at Kidongo Gate in Shimba Hills

 

 

Scale of global water crisis could be unknown due to inadequate metrics, study suggests #worldwaterday

Re-posted from UCL

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.”

Click here to download the paper

Authors:

Simon Damkjaer, UCL Institute for Sustainable Resources
Prof Richard Taylor, UCL Department of Geography

UPGro GroFutures: http://grofutures.org/

Photo: Irrigated maize crop supplied by groundwater in Zambia – Richard Taylor

Rain – Kwale’s key resource

Everyone knows rainfall varies from season to season and year to year. Improved understanding of changes in rainfall patterns will help us evaluate the availability of water in rivers and dams, and calculate the amount of water entering into groundwater reserves (aquifers). The project has been working with local partners to combine multiple sources of historical and existing data records to give us more confidence in our understanding of rainfall patterns and variation in Kwale County. We are grateful for the generous support of the Kwale Agricultural Station and the Kenya Meteorological Department for sharing daily rainfall data from recent decades. Preliminary analysis of this data suggests that:

  • Annual rainfall has varied between 500 and 1700 mm with a mean annual average of 977 mm
  • On average there are 60 days of rain per year – though there have been years with few as 35 days of rain and as many as 100 days
  • From 1970 to now, we see no pattern of increase or decrease in annual rainfall or number of rainy days per year

Further analysis is being conducted on other stations.

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Drought data: Actual and average monthly rainfall at Shimba Hills (1-Jan-16 to 31-Jan-17)

 blog2Long term rainfall data from the KMD rain gauge at Kwale Agricultural Station

Base Titanium’s environmental network records show that rainfall at Shimba Hills Centre was significantly below average in 2016. The long term mean annual rainfall at this site is 1,380mm; 2016 rainfall at this gauge was 739mm, which is 54% of the mean. 2016 was the second driest calendar year on record, the driest year being 1974 (with 693mm, 50% of the long term mean).