UPGro T-Group research finds cancer-causing viruses in Kampala and Arusha slum groundwater

by Isaiah Esipisu and Dr Jan Willem Foppen (T-GroUP)

In Summary

  • The study found that most groundwater in the two slums contains traces of herpes virus, poxvirus and papilloma virus.
  • Cancer is one of the top killer diseases in East Africa, blamed for nearly 100,000 deaths every year.

Watch EGU press-conference presentation by Dr Foppen (start 18:00 minutes into recording)

Researchers from IHE Delft Institute for Water Education and their peers from Uganda and Tanzania have found traces of 25 DNA virus families — some of them with adverse health risk for humans — in underground water in the slums of Kampala and Arusha.

The study, whose findings were presented at the Assembly of the European Geosciences Union in Vienna on Monday, found that most groundwater in the two slums contains traces of herpes virus, poxvirus and papilloma virus.

CANCER

The latter could be one of the causes of cancer in East Africa.

“These viruses have never been found on such a large scale in ground water. Perhaps it is because there has never been an in-depth analysis,” said Dr Jan Willem Foppen, one of the lead researchers and a hydrologist at the IHE Delft — the largest graduate water education institution on the planet.

Cancer is one of the top killer diseases in East Africa, blamed for nearly 100,000 deaths every year.

According to the latest report by the International Agency for Research on Cancer, some 32,617 new cases were reported in Uganda last year, with 21,829 deaths.

32,617 DEATHS

In the same period, Kenya recorded 47,887 new cases and 32,987 deaths while there were 42,060 new cases in Tanzania with 28,610 deaths.

Scientists have therefore expressed concerns that the widespread use of groundwater in slums for cooking, cleaning and bathing poses a risk for the residents.

In the two-year study, the scientists analysed surface water (river and drain), spring water, wells and piezometers (groundwater from specific depth) in the three countries.

“We found 25 DNA virus families, of which 14 are from above ground hosts like frogs, mice, rats, cows, horses, monkeys and humans,” Dr Foppen said.

DISEASES

Of the human disease causing pathogens found in the samples, herpes virus and poxviruses can lead to skin infections while the papilloma cause some types of cancers such as cervical, laryngeal and mouth.

“This could be just a tip of the iceberg. We have not found all the viruses. We found the most abundant ones,” Dr Fopen said.

“Let’s do something about sanitation. Let us improve our sources of drinking water and identify new pathways with communities towards sustainability.”

Versions of this article have been published in:

Further papers and data will be published soon.

Going underground at the Africa Water Week

by Isaiah Esipisu at the 7th Africa Water Week, Gabon

Groundwater is one of the most important sources for drinking water, livestock water and irrigation in Africa, representing 15% of the continent’s renewable water resources, according to the UN Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA).

However, its hidden presence under the ground has left it largely under-valued and under-utilised both for social and economic gain. But even worse, scientists have confessed that very little studies have so far been done to unlock the potential of this scarce resource.

gw-P50

“We do not know what we have because we have not done adequate studies yet. Some studies have been constrained by lack of adequate monitoring data, for example data for rainfall,” said Prof Daniel Olago, a Senior Geologists at the University of Nairobi in Kenya.

“We also do not have very good data on river-flows, and how much they contribute to groundwater systems,” he said.

It is based on such understanding that UpGro, in collaboration with the African Ministers’ Council on Water (AMCOW) have decided to convene a daylong session at the 2018 Africa Water Week in Libreville, Gabon, to discuss issues related to groundwater in Africa.

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According to UNECA, groundwater constitute the most important buffer and reserve during surplus periods as well as a source of water for streams and/or direct withdrawals in times of shortage, given the changing climatic conditions.

The UN therefore reckons that groundwater management in Africa can be an essential component of climate change adaptation strategies.

“Renewable groundwater resources in Africa are underutilised, yet groundwater can play a major role in assisting farmers to increase food production and to overcome threats to food security if climate change leads to greater rainfall variability,” reports UNECA in a policy brief.

During the groundwater session at the 7th Africa Water Week, the conveners will take a deeper look at its contribution to Africa’s water security and exploration of aquifers as a key for water security on the continent.

There will also be some focus on operation of the Africa Groundwater Commission (AGWC), which was established in 2008, but 10 years down the line, it has not been as proactive as expected.

To find out more:

  1. Don’t miss Groundwater Thursday at AWW-7!
  2. General introduction to UPGro
  3. Background Paper: Groundwater’s Contribution to Water Security in Africa
  4. Background Paper: Experiences of Research into Use within UPGro
  5. Africa Groundwater Atlas

“They Gave Us Breakfast and a Good Meal”: Roles, Perceptions and Motivations of Water Point Area Mechanics in the Maintenance of Borehole Hand Pumps in Balaka District, Malawi

by Thokozani Mtewa, Evans Mwathunga, Wapumuluka, Mulwafu

Abstract

“In the rural areas of Malawi, water is accessed mostly through boreholes. The borehole and hand pump functionality concept is currently getting a central place in development agenda for the provision of affordable and safe water supply under the Sustainable Development Goals.

A study on area mechanics and borehole functionality was conducted in Balaka district in Malawi in 2017. The study used qualitative research methods of data collection using
political economy analysis to understand the role of Area Mechanics (AMs), their relationships with water point committees and other stakeholders, their perceptions,
motivations and challenges. Questionnaires and an audio recorder were employed to
collect data from individual interviews and focus groups.

The study findings revealed that even though the system of AMs is well defined in
policy, in practice things are done differently. The AMs defined their jobs differently; from entrepreneurs (10%) to community volunteers (90%) and the sizes of catchment areas of AMs are mostly divided informally and unequally which affects service delivery.
The study also found AMs are motivated by both monetary and non-monetary benefits
from the communities under their jurisdictions.

Consequently, overall the level of incentives and disincentives seem to have affected
their maintenance service provision as well as their relationships with other water point
stakeholders. For proper functioning of an AM system as part of groundwater infrastructure, this paper therefore proposes the need to revise the policy and procedures in training, selection and allocation of AMs as well regular short term trainings to area mechanics at district level.”

Source: Conference Abstract

An Analysis of Hand Pump Boreholes Functionality in Malawi

by  Prof T. Mkandawire, E. Mwathunga, A.M. MacDonald, H.C. Bonsor, S. Banda, P.,Mleta, S. Jumbo, J. Ward, D. Lapworth, L. Whaley, R.M. Lark

Abstract

A survey on functionality of boreholes equipped with hand pumps was undertaken in five districts in Malawi in 2016. The survey aimed at developing a robust evidence base and understanding of the complex and multifaceted causes of high failure rates of groundwater supplies in Africa in the wake of climate change. This would guide sustainable future investments in water and sanitation projects.A stratified two-stage sampling strategy was adopted.

The results from the survey indicate that 74% of hand pump boreholes (HPBs) are functional at any one point; 66% of HPBs passed the design yield of 10 liters per minute; 55% passed the design yield and also experienced less than one month downtime within a year; and 43% of HPBs which passed the design yield and reliability, also passed the World Health Organisation (WHO) standards of water quality.

The survey also assessed the village level Water Management Arrangements at
each water point. Results indicate that the majority of the Water Management Arrangements (86%) are functional or highly functional.

The initial exploration of the data shows no simple relationship between the physical functionality and Water Management Arrangements.

Source: Conference Abstract

Photo: SADC-GMI (via Twitter)

Groundwater and African National Development Strategies

Keynote address by Dr Callist Tindimugaya, Ministry of Water & Environment, Uganda (UPGro Ambassador)

[Correction: the co-author of the abstract is Dr Andrew Bullock, not Sean Furey]

“Groundwater is poised to play a key role in Africa’s transformation. Over two-thirds of African nations have made specific reference to groundwater within their National Growth and Poverty Reduction Strategies.

Water is very strongly represented in such National Strategies, and across the pillars. There are three main clusters of pillars at the core of the development strategies namely

(i) unlocking Growth Potential – including water within the productive sectors of agriculture, energy, water transport, mining, business enterprises,

(ii) Social Well Being – including WASH, sanitary urban environments and disease reduction, and

(iii) Governance and Human Capital – around issues of environmental compliance, water policy and management, climate adaptation, decentralisation, private sector, regional integration.

The National Strategies of many countries make explicit reference to groundwater and there is a significant concentration of strategy around groundwater in support of urban centres and rural water supply, amid other governance, policy, financing, institutional and sustainability issues. It is therefore important to get the key players appreciate that a strong connection exists between groundwater and Africa’s politically-owned agenda of national development, inclusive growth and poverty reduction.

It means that research links to poverty can evolve from conceptual frameworks towards the actual political commitments to use groundwater towards poverty reduction in Africa. There is therefore a need to look at a significant African process around the AfricaWater Vision, the Sharm-el-Sheik commitments to delivery, national monitoring and evaluation systems and the associated agenda of key African actors, notably the African Union, African Ministerial Council on Water, the African Development Bank and United Nations Economic Commission for Africa and how they can help move the groundwater agenda forward.

“This paper presents proposals on how the role of groundwater on the continent can be enhanced and appreciated so as to support National Growth and Poverty Reduction Strategies.”

 

Source: Conference Abstract

Photo: SADC-GMI (via Twitter)

Resilience of Rural Groundwater Supplies to Climate Change

Key Note Presentation by Prof. Alan MacDonald @ 1st SADC Groundwater Conference
Keywords: (Drought, Climate, Change, Infrastructure, Groundwater Resources, Resilience).

Alan

“Recent droughts have highlighted the need to understand and forecast the resilience of water supplies to climate variability. Resilience of groundwater supplies is determined by several factors: groundwater storage; long term recharge; permeability; and the infrastructure put in place to abstract groundwater.

“Drawing on recent research from across Africa, mainly funded through the UPGro programme, this talk examines the relative importance of each of these factors for rural drinking water supplies, and attempts to distinguish between the behaviour of the groundwater resource and the water infrastructure.

“A variety of data are presented and evaluated: detailed groundwater level monitoring of springs, wells and boreholes; national survey data of borehole functionality; groundwater residence time indicators; and also information from GRACE and global Land Surface Model.”

Source: Conference Abstract

Photo: SADC-GMI (via Twitter)

Facing the groundwater threats and opportunities in Southern Africa

This week, regional and international water experts have converged on Johannesburg at the 1st Groundwater Conference of the Southern African Development Community (SADC). The event has been convened by the SADC Groundwater Management Institute (GMI) in assocciation with a number of partners including GRIPP

UPGro has a strong presence at the event as part of the build-up to Africa Water Week next month, in Gabon:

  • Opening Keynote: Karen G. Villholth (GroFutures) and Jude Cobbing.
    “Adapting to Climate Change in the SADC Region – A Focus on Groundwater.”
  • Presentation: Theresa Mkandawire (Hidden Crisis) presented “An analysis of hand pump boreholes functionality in Malawi.”
  • Keynote speaker: Alan McDonald. (Hidden Crisis/GroFutures) “Resilience of rural
    groundwater supplies to climate change”
  • Presentation: Thokozani Mtewa,Evance Mwathunga and Wapulumuka Mulwafu.
    (Hidden Crisis) “They gave us breakfast and a good meal’: Roles, perceptions and
    motivations of water point area mechanics in the maintenance of borehole handpumps in Balaka district, Malawi.”
  • Keynote speaker: Dr Callist Tindimugaya “Groundwater and African National Development Strategies”

You can follow the conference on Twitter: #gwconference2018

photo : Prof Theresa Makandawire presenting UPGro Hidden Crisis work in Malawi (credit BGS via Twitter)

 

UPGro leading the groundwater governance and research debate at Africa Water Week

Africa Water Week is held every two years and this year brings it to Libreville, Gabon:

“The Africa Water Week (aww) is convened by the African Ministers Council on Water (AMCOW) in conjunction with the African Union Commission and organized with other development partners. It represents a political commitment at the highest level with over 1000 participants from governments, regional institutions, international partners, the private sector, the scientific community, civil society, and the media from all over the world, and in particular Africa, meeting to discuss and collectively seek solutions to Africa’s water resources, and sanitation challenges.”

UPGro is proud to be a lead convener of Sub-Theme 3 on Water Governance, in partnership with AMCOW.

There will be two UPGro/AMCOW sessions at the week:

No. 10Thurs

1st Nov

 

16.00 – 17.30

 

Title Influencing Policy and Practice – the Africa Groundwater Commission and Research for Development
Convener AMCOW with UPGro (c/o Skat Foundation)
Co-Convener(s) UPGro is a programme of Universities and Research Institutions, together with the Africa Groundwater Network, International Association of Hydrogeologists, in partnership with country-level African water management institutions.
Contacts Dr Andrew Bullock (andybullock61@btinternet.com);
Objectives Based on its past and current status, AMCOW will present a future trajectory for the Africa Groundwater Commission. One key role will be to influence policy and practice around groundwater. UPGro will share experiences of Research for Development with a view to framing support to support operationalisation of the Commission.
Description The Africa Groundwater Commission is mandated by the African Union within the framework of the Africa Water Vision 2025 to help create “An Africa where groundwater resources are valued and utilized sustainably by empowered stakeholders”. On one hand, it is one arm of the established governance of the AU and AMCOW.The session will feature short presentations and panel discussion with leaders from research, government and international cooperation to highlight the key challenges for water management where stronger collaboration on bringing groundwater knowledge into policy and practice can deliver value through this established African instrument.

 

No. 7Thurs

1st Nov

 

09.00 – 10.30

Title Groundwater’s contribution to Africa’s Water Security
Conveners UPGro with AMCOW
Co-Convener(s)
Contacts Dr Andrew Bullock (andybullock61@btinternet.com);
Objectives To establish the relevance of groundwater within the overarching trajectory of Africa’s water security – including the Africa Water Vision, the SDGs, and National Growth and Poverty Reduction Strategies. To complement an authoritative baseline, recent research will highlight how innovation remains important to unlocking knowledge of groundwater’s potential and limits.
Description The session will feature a keynote presentation on Groundwater’s contribution to water security. A convened panel (including representatives from the Africa Groundwater Network and AMCOW) will give their national, sub-regional and pan-African perspectives. An open floor will allow for additional perspectives from the floor.

We hope all those are coming to the conference will make time for these engaging and important sessions. Find out more on the Africa Water Week website: https://africawaterweek.com

Thank you to the AMCOW Secretariat for their support plus the many partners in many different national, regional and global agencies who have supported this initiative.

Africa Groundwater Atlas in Switzerland

On 6 September, the Swiss Water Partnership organised a learning event for partners on “Assessment of Surface and Groundwater” featuring a variety of talks and discussions relating to both domestic water resources and in development cooperation contexts. The event was hosted by the Centre for Development and Cooperation (NADAL) at ETH Zurich.

Sean Furey, from Skat/UPGro Knowledge Broker team, presented the Africa Groundwater Atlas, and discussed issues around groundwater information and assessment, not just for Africa but for development cooperation more generally and the role that organisations in Switzerland, such as Skat, World Vision, SDC, NADAL, University of Neuchatel and others can play in supporting such efforts.

Also presented at the event was Eawag’s Groundwater Assessment Platform, and SDC/University of Neuchatel groundwater mapping and recharge research in Chad. For links to all the presentations visit the Swiss Water Partnership

photo: SWP