Back to school: the future of water starts here


Speed Read:

  • New educational resource developed by the Gro for GooD team launched for secondary schools in Kwale County, Kenya to increase understanding of groundwater and water quality
  • Outreach to schools teaches girls and boys about water science and management
  • Event held on 17th March to celebrate the collaboration between the UPGro team, the schools, local government and private sector partners.

 

“You have a very great opportunity through your water clubs, guided by your teachers who are here and who can support you. We should take this as a very special opportunity for all of us” 
Water Module - Student Resource
Water Module – Student Resource

The UPGro Gro for GooD project has been delivering a programme of engagement to teach young people in Kwale County about water science and management. Water Clubs at 3 secondary schools have been participating in field trips, practical activities, experiments and conducting their own group research projects. This outreach work aims to develop students’ research and communication skills and showcase career options in the water sector.

In the run up to World Water Day 2018, the Gro for GooD project was delighted to welcome Madam Bridget Wambua, Director of Education for Kwale County, Kenya, to provide opening remarks (extract above) at a special event to celebrate the success of the Schools Water Clubs supported by the project over the last year. As the event got going, students listened with great interest to the keynote speech by Prof. Dan Olago from the University of Nairobi, and then took to the stage themselves for a series of presentations about club activities including water quality testing of school waterpoints, the installation and use of rain-gauges on school grounds, and field trips to the Base Titanium mine to see how the mine manages and recycles water in its operation.

Video extract from Prof. Olago’s speech

Other students presented their own mini-research projects into topics such as water conservation in agriculture and strategies for keeping water safe to drink, and one group gave an excellent explanation of artesian wells based on an email exchange with Gro for GooD hydrogeologist Mike Lane.

Students also brought practical demonstrations and posters to show in the teabreak, including a solar still demonstration from a group of students who had just heard that they are through the local round and have been invited to show their improved solar still design at Kenya’s National Science Fair for schools.

Madame Wambua and Professor Dan Olago then presented the schools, water clubs and club patrons with certificates of appreciation for their hard work and dedication to water-related environmental education, and 2 laptops were given to each club. The laptops were provided by the UK charity IT Schools Africa and preloaded with water-related environmental education resources collated by the Gro for GooD team.

Students also received print copies of a newly published Water Module Student Resource which was developed by the Gro for GooD research team with input from students and teachers at the schools. Mr Joseph Kimtai, teacher and club patron at Kingwede Girls Secondary School, said,

“I find this module of activities about water so helpful to the students – it complements what we are teaching in class. It also encourages critical thinking and solving problems related to the environment which is in line with one of the competencies of the incoming competency-based curriculum for Kenyan schools.”

The resource has been published under a Creative Commons licence so that other educational programmes in Kenya can make use of the content.

Co-author of the Water Module, Nancy Gladstone, said:

“It has been a privilege to work with secondary school students in Kwale County and help to meet their really encouraging thirst for knowledge about water. Education has a vital role in achieving the Sustainable Development Goal for water and we are sure that many of these students will put their learning to good use at school and as they go on to jobs and further education.

“The Water Module event also provided us with an opportunity to thank the teachers, headteachers and local partner organisations such as Base Titanium and Rural Focus Ltd. who have all been critical to the success of the clubs this past year, and to contribute to discussions about building the water module into ongoing education programmes in Kwale County, both formal and informal, so as to reach more students and further enhance learning.”

 

 

Further info:

Groundwater is essential for economic growth and can contribute to human development if resources are used sustainably to benefit the poorest in society. The Gro for GooD (Groundwater Risk Management for Growth and Development) project is striving to help government and groundwater users find a management approach that balances human health, economic growth, and resource sustainability demands and benefits everyone. Project partners are University of Oxford, University of Nairobi, Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology, Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya, Rural Focus Ltd., Kwale County Government, the Government of Kenya’s Water Resources Authority, Base Titanium and KISCOL.

For more information please contact:

Photo: Presentation of certificates by Madam Bridget Wambua, Director of Education, Kwale County (Photo: P. Thomson, University of Oxford)

“The borehole is not a madman” Community management of groundwater in rural Uganda

by Dr Luke Whaley, Professor Frances Cleaver and Felece Katusiime (UPGro Hidden Crisis)

In Uganda, waterpoint committees exist more in name than in reality. Many waterpoints have been ‘personalised’. That is to say, they are under the control of one or a small number of individuals. Moreover, where local management arrangements (of any sort) are effective they tend to rely heavily on the authority of the head of the village council, known as the LC1 Chairperson. Indeed, it is often the LC1 Chairperson and not a waterpoint committee who is instrumental in collecting funds, securing maintenance and resolving disputes. Where an apparently functioning committee is in place, this is usually the result of concerted efforts on the part of particular local NGOs, who cannot guarantee this level of commitment in the longer term.

At least, these are the impressions of Felece Katusiime, a social science field researcher working on the UPGro ‘Hidden Crisis’ project, concerned with the sustainability of rural groundwater supply in Ethiopia, Uganda, and Malawi. They are field insights (preceding full data analysis) from someone who has spent many months in the field undertaking research in roughly 200 rural Ugandan villages. The discussion that follows is intended as a provocation and not a promulgation of project findings. We are interested in the extent to which the points made here accord or contrast with the experiences of you, the readers, and we welcome dialogue on these matters.

So, why might it be that in Uganda waterpoint committees,as envisaged on paper, seldom exist as such on the ground?

Continue reading “The borehole is not a madman” Community management of groundwater in rural Uganda

Call for standard approach to assessing water supply functionality

New UPGro paper “The need for a standard approach to assessing the functionality of rural community water supplies”

by  Helen Bonsor,  Alan MacDonald, Vincent Casey, Richard Carter and Paul Wilson. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10040-017-1711-0

The Sustainable Development Goals have set an agenda for transformational change in water access, aiming for secure household connections globally. Despite this goal, communal groundwater supplies are likely to remain the main source of improved water supplies for many rural areas in Africa and South Asia for decades to come.

Understanding the poor functionality of existing communal supplies remains, therefore, a priority. A critical first step is to establish a sector-wide definition of borehole supply functionality and a standard method of its assessment.

Key points

  • Groundwater plays a central role in Increasing safe water access – particularly in Africa and Asia, but has there are long-running challenges in keeping such supplies working.
  • “Functionality” is term often used as a measurable indicator of whether a water point is working or not.
  • The most common definition of “functionality” is a binary “is it working at time of inspection? Yes/No” However, this is just one of six approaches to defining water point functionality.
  • A tiered assessment is recommended based on flow quantity, quality and downtime period(s) over the previous year
  • Having a standardised approach to assessing functionality is important to allow data from different locations and different times to be compared so that the deeper, systematic complexities and failures can be better understood and addressed.

New publication: “Advances in Groundwater Governance”

A major new publication has been released on the vital topic of groundwater governance, which addresses some of the major questions being faced worldwide on how is such a vital common resource managed for the benefit of all.
The issue of unlocking the potential of groundwater for the poor is explored in the chapter on groundwater governance for poverty eradication, social equity and health, by UPGro Knowledge Broker, Sean Furey, from Skat Foundation:

Groundwater use and its governance should serve a purpose that is well defined and has a broadly accepted mandate, without it, there is a risk that benefits will accrue to existing elites only for their own benefits.

Access to safe, affordable water is a recognised Human Right and a Sustainable Development Goal because it is critical for the health and wellbeing of every person in the world. Groundwater represents 96% of all liquid freshwater in the world and so any discussion about groundwater is also a discussion about human rights, development, health and social equity.

Groundwater is used in many different ways, many uncontrolled and unmonitored and this can cause substantial problems – even causing cities to sink below sea level. Recent recommendations on improving groundwater governance may not be adequately aligned with the Human Right to Water or giving sufficient priority to poverty alleviation.

However, groundwater use unlocks the potential of human ingenuity, cooperation and enterprise that can build the foundations for health, resilient livelihoods in the face of growing global uncertainties.

The three areas identified for further focus are:

  • increase understanding of the links between groundwater use and poverty;
  • improve understanding and management of private ‘self supply’ groundwater sources;
  • improve the training and professionalisation around groundwater technology innovation and scaling up.

“Advances in Groundwater Governance” is available  from CRC Press

New UPGro paper: “Risk Factors associated with rural water supply: A 30-year retrospective study of handpumps on the south coast of Kenya”

2018 promises to be really interesting one as the UPGro (Unlocking the Potential of Groundwater for the Poor) reaches maturity. There is already a lot published since 2014 (https://upgro.org/publications-papers/peer-reviewed-journal-papers/) and here is a new one, which will be of interest to RWSN members – as it has been written by active RWSN members:

“Risk Factors associated with rural water supply: A 30-year retrospective study of handpumps on the south coast of Kenya”

By Tim Foster, Juliet Willetts, Mike Lane, Patrick Thomson, Jacob Katuva, Rob Hope

Key Points

  • This paper build on previous handpump & water point functionality work done by RWSN, the UPGro Gro For GooD and UPGro Hidden Crisis projects and recent analysis by the University of North Carolina
  • Research focuses on 337 Afridev handpumps installed in Kwale County, Kenya, under a SIDA financed programme between 1983-1995 that were identified and mapped in 2013 (out of 559 recorded installations by the programme in that area).
  • 64% were still working after 25+ years
  • They conclude that risk of failure increases most significantly in relation to:
    • Salinity of the groundwater
    • Depth of the static groundwater level
    • When the water comes from an unconsolidated sand aquifers
    • Distance to spare parts suppliers

You can read and download the paper here: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0048969717337324

and https://upgro.org/consortium/gro-for-good/

Supplementary info and water point data:

And in case you missed it – this is another recent paper that is readable and useful, albeit more for urban/peri-urban areas and small towns:

Grönwall, J. & Oduro-Kwarteng, Groundwater as a strategic resource for improved resilience: a case study from peri-urban Accra S. Environ Earth Sci (2018) 77: 6. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12665-017-7181-9

 

Figure: Kaplan-Meier estimates of the survival functions for Afridev handpumps in Kwale.

New UPGro paper calls for city planners and utilities in Africa to diversify water supply solutions

A UPGro paper has been published by Dr Jenny Grönwall (SIWI) and Dr Sampson Oduro-Kwarteng (KNUST) of the T-GroUP project, entitled “Groundwater as a strategic resource for improved resilience: a case study from peri-urban Accra”

Water insecurity is a growing concern globally, especially for developing countries, where a range of factors including urbanization are putting pressure on water provisioning systems.

The role of groundwater and aquifers in buffering the effects of climate variability is increasingly acknowledged, but it can only be fully realized with a more robust understanding of groundwater as a resource, and how use of it and dependency on it differ.

Accra, in Ghana, and its hinterland is a good example of an African city with chronic water shortages, where groundwater resources offer opportunities to improve resilience against recurring droughts and general water insecurity.

Based on a mixed-methods study of a peri-urban township, it was found that for end users, particularly poor urban households, resilience is an every-day matter of ensuring access from different sources, for different purposes, while attention to drinking water safety is falling behind.

Planners and decision makers should take their cue from how households have developed coping mechanisms by diversifying, and move away from the focus on large infrastructure and centralized water supply solutions.

Conjunctive use, managed aquifer recharge, and suitable treatment measures are vital to make groundwater a strategic resource on the urban agenda.

Download and read the open paper here

photo: Dr Grönwall

New UPGro paper: Better map-making for manual drilling in West Africa

In a new open paper in the Hydrogeological Journal, Dr Fabio Fussi and his UPGro Catalyst team present work done in Senegal that looks at how improving hydrogeological data, maps and understanding can improve the success of manually drilled boreholes.

In a region where access to safe, affordable water is limited, manual drilling provides a cost-effective way of tapping groundwater resources. However, aquifers are complex and striking fresh water is not guaranteed.

20140625_170547
Manual drilling in Lagos, Nigeria (photo: Dotun Adekile, 2014)

Fussi and his team propose a model that uses analysis of borehole logs for the to characterise shallow aquifers  so that areas suitable for manual drilling can be found. The model is based on available borehole-log parameters: depth to hard rock, depth to water, thickness of laterite (a iron-rich rock type common in the tropics) and hydraulic properties of the shallow aquifer. The model was applied to a study area in northwestern Senegal.

The hydraulic conductivity values – how easily water flows through rock –  were estimated from geological data and  partially validated by comparing them with measured values from a series of pumping tests carried out in large-diameter wells.

The results show that this method is able to produce a reliable interpretation of the shallow hydrogeological context using information generally available in the region.

The research contributes to improving the identification of areas where conditions are suitable for manual drilling, and has the potential to be used throughout Africa, and beyond, using data available in most African countries.

Ultimately, this work will support proposed international programs aimed at promoting low-cost water supply in Africa and enhancing access to safe drinking water for the population.

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.

Promising new groundwater pollution sensor – New UPGro paper published

1-s2.0-S0043135417302233-gr5
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