On the road to resilience in Ethiopia

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by Barry Hague, NERC (re-blogged from NERC Planet Earth)

It’s time to rethink roads. In the vital fields of flood prevention and water supply, they offer incredible potential to enhance and enrich the lives of some of the world’s poorest people. Dr Frank van Steenbergen of the Roads for Water consortium is helping to drive this remarkable revolution.

Continue reading On the road to resilience in Ethiopia

African aquifers can protect against climate change

Groundwater storage for Africa based on the effective porosity and saturated aquifer thickness. Panel (a) shows a map of groundwater storage expressed as water depth in millimetres with modern annual recharge for comparison (Döll and Fiedler 2008). Panel (b) shows the volume of groundwater storage for each country; the error bars are calculated by recalculating storage using the full ranges of effective porosity and thickness for each aquifer, rather than the best estimate. Annual renewable freshwater availability (FAO 2005) generally used in water scarcity assessments is shown for comparison (from MacDonald 2012)

Floods and droughts, feasts and famines: the challenge of living with an African climate has always been its variability, from the lush rainforests of the Congo to the extreme dry of the Sahara and Namib deserts. In north western Europe, drizzle and rain is generally spread quite evenly across the year, as anyone who has gone camping in British summer will tell you. But when annual rainfall happens within just a few months or weeks of the year then it is a massive challenge for farmers, towns and industry to access enough water through long dry seasons and to protect themselves and their land from flooding and mudslides when the rains come.

New research[1] suggests that Africa’s aquifers could be the key to managing water better. Professor Richard Taylor at UCL explains: “What we found is that groundwater in tropical regions – and Sub-Saharan Africa in particular – is primarily replenished from intense rainfall events – heavy downpours. This means that aquifers are an essential way of storing the heavy rain from the rainy season for use during the dry season, and for keeping rivers flowing.”

Continue reading African aquifers can protect against climate change

Collecting Water With Roads – ground-breaking research wins Global Environment Award

Water is short in many places but roads are everywhere – and when it rains it is often along these roads that most water runs, as roads unknowingly either serve as dike or a drain. By harvesting the water with these roads, water shortage can be overcome and impacts of climate change can be mitigated.

This was the idea behind the UPGro Catalyst Grant research[1],[2] project undertaken in 2013-2014 in Tigray Regional State in Ethiopia. The research looked at ways and means of collecting water with the roads – from culverts, drains, borrow pits, road surface, river crossings, as these have massive impact on how rain run-off moves across a landscape.

The idea then scaled up quickly – in 2014 the Tigray Government implemented road water harvesting activities in all its districts.

The results have been spectacular in increased water tables, better soil moisture, reduced erosion from roads, less local flooding and moreover much better crop yields.

It is for this project that MetaMeta of the Netherlands, together with its partners Mekelle University and Tigray Government have been awarded this week the prestigious Global Road Achievement Award for Environmental Mitigation[3] by the International Roads Federation. Among the other award winners are the people who are constructing one of the world‘s largest bridges in China. The potential to scale up the use of water with roads is enormous – with every area having its own solutions.

There is also a compelling economic case: harvesting water with roads if done well greatly reduces water damage to roads. The scaling up of the concept is now being undertaken with support of the Global Resilience Partnership[4] (supported by USAID, Rockefeller Foundation and SIDA), where MetaMeta with its partners are a Stage 2 winner. Programmes to collect the water from the roads are being undertaken in more areas now – such as in Amhara Regional State, where it is part of the massive programme to prepare for the expected El Niño climate event. More than two million people are being mobilised for water harvesting activities, including from the roads.

MetaMeta and Mekelle University would welcome those interested to become part of the learning alliance which will bring together on-going experiences and give access to training materials that are being developed – those interested in the learning alliance can mail to marta@metameta.nl

Further information:[5]

NERC media office 01793 411939 07785 459139 pressoffice@nerc.ac.uk

Press release: 02/07/2015 (a) Example of bad road drainage, Tigray, Ethiopia (Photo: Mekelle University, 2014) (b) Examples of roadside ponds to capture water and protect the road, Tigray, Ethiopia (Photos: Mekelle University, 2014) [1]Optimising Road Development for Groundwater Recharge and Retention” was one of fifteen UPGro ‘Catalyst’ projects. More details on this project can be found at http://roadsforwater.org [2] “UPGro – Unlocking the Potential of Groundwater for the Poor” is a seven-year international research programme (2013-2019) which is jointly funded by UK’s Department for International Development (DFID), Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) and in principle the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC). It focuses on improving the evidence base around groundwater availability and management in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) to enable developing countries and partners in SSA to use groundwater in a sustainable way in order to benefit the poor. UPGro projects are interdisciplinary, linking the social and natural sciences to address this challenge. They will be delivered through collaborative partnerships of the world’s best researchers. The programme’s success will be measured by the way that its research generates new knowledge which can be used to benefit the poor in a sustainable manner. [3] Winners of the 2015 GRAA Competition https://www.irfnews.org/graa/ [4] Connecting Roads, Water and Livelihoods for Resilience: http://www.globalresiliencepartnership.org/teams/roads-water-livelihoods/ [5] More details can be found on http://upgro.org ; The Knowledge Broker for UPGro is Skat Foundation, based in St Gallen, Switzerland. Contact: Sean Furey (sean.furey@skat.ch) for more information.

Roads for Water – new research puts Ethiopian farmers in the driving seat

Media Release

World Water Day is an opportunity to reflect on the immense challenge that faces millions of people every day. Much of Sub-Saharan Africa, in particular, is notably off-track from the Millennium Development Goals[i], which come to an end this year.

Yet hope is emerging from unexpected directions: the UK is leading pioneering research into how the un-tapped potential of Africa’s groundwater can be used sustainably and for the benefit of the poorest and most marginalised peoples.

Farmers diverting water from a culvert into a percolation pond for supplementary irrigation and groundwater recharge in Tigray, Ethiopia
Farmers diverting water from a culvert into a percolation pond for supplementary irrigation and groundwater recharge in Tigray, Ethiopia
Road construction affects the hydrology of an area; causes erosion, flooding, water logging (photo: Meta Meta Research)
Road construction affects the hydrology of an area; causes erosion, flooding, water logging (photo: Meta Meta Research)

Continue reading Roads for Water – new research puts Ethiopian farmers in the driving seat

How to… design roads for water harvesting and groundwater recharge

Farmers diverting water from a culvert into a percolation pond for supplementary irrigation and groundwater recharge in Tigray, Ethiopia
Road construction affects the hydrology of an area; causes erosion, flooding, water logging (photo: Meta Meta Research)
Road construction affects the hydrology of an area; causes erosion, flooding, water logging (photo: Meta Meta Research)

Roads can devastate a landscape – scarring it, creating barriers for wildlife and accelerating stormwater so that valuable farmland, habitats and homes get washed away or polluted. What if didn’t have to be that way? What if roads would work with the grain of nature rather than against it?

One of the UPGro teams, lead by Frank van Steenbergen, at Meta Meta Research, has being doing just that. Over the last year, their UPGro Catalyst project has been researching how roads can be used for rainwater harvesting on a landscape scale to recharge aquifers and ponds for later use in the dry seasons.

Working closely with the Mekelle University and the Government of Ethiopia, Frank and his team (including the Institute for Development Studies) has not only been testing the theory but they have been putting into practice. In the region of Tigray, the methods of road design have captured imaginations as well as water and now the government is keen to roll these ideas out further around the country.

The Catalyst project is now complete and a number of resources are now available online:

The principles have also been explained in a recent RWSN-UPGro webinar on groundwater recharge

Roads for Water: Effecting Change in Tigray, Ethiopia

from the WaterChannel:

Question: How can dusty roads provide water?
Answer: By harvesting and storing rainwater when it falls on them. 

A 30 mm rainfall over a 1-kilometre stretch of road can produce up to 100,000 litres of water. This number points to a huge potential. And not one that has not been adequately tapped (around 7 billion USD are spent on road construction in sub-Saharan Africa alone).

Continue reading Roads for Water: Effecting Change in Tigray, Ethiopia

One Bridge, Multiple Functions

re-blogged from: thewaterblog

Posted by Rossella Alba
May 22, 2014

In Megab, a rather small village in the semi-arid Tigray region in northern Ethiopia, one bridge provides multiple functions to the local community. The bridge is located along the road that connects Hawzien to Abreha-we-Atzeha and Wukro. At first sight, it appears to be just a bridge. But when you look carefully,  you can see it combines multiple functions: access, connection and water harvesting 

Continue reading One Bridge, Multiple Functions

New Paper – Roads for water: the unused potential

Image

A new paper by Diego Garcia-Landarte Puertas, Kifle Woldearegay, Lyla Mehta, Martin Van Beusekom, Marta Agujetas Peréz and Frank Van Steenbergen from the Catalyst Project: Optimising Road Development for Groundwater Recharge and Retention

Download the open access Waterlines paper from Practical Action.

Abstract:

“Roads are generally perceived as infrastructure to deliver transport services, but they are more than that. They are major interventions in the hydrology of areas where they are constructed – concentrating runoff and altering subsurface flows. At present, water-related damage constitutes a major cost factor in road maintenance. Using ongoing research from Ethiopia, this article argues to reverse this and turn water from a foe into a friend and integrate water harvesting with road development.

Continue reading New Paper – Roads for water: the unused potential