:: New UPGro Paper :: Tryptophan-like fluorescence as a measure of microbial contamination

A new paper has been published from the UPGro Gro for GooD project, working in Kenya, which develops the work done under the UPGro Catalyst Project on mapping groundwater quality, which developed an exciting new low-cost, real-time method of measuring microbial contamination of groundwater.

Context:

  • Globally, 25% of people lack access to water that is free from microbial contamination, in some countries the proportion is much higher.  This has major health implications, particularly for children.
  • Monitoring water quality for disease-causing organisms is difficult, and the common method is take water samples to a lab to measure Coli bacteria. Although largely successful, it is an expensive in terms of time and materials, and cannot be relied on for some kinds of biological water quality risks – particularly in groundwater where the absence of E.Coli does not guarantee biological safety of the water.
  • Tryptophan-like fluorescence (TLF) is a relatively new way of rapidly measuring biological water quality in the field, without needing expensive and time-consuming lab equipment and consumables. It is better suited to groundwater than surface water monitoring.

Key Points: –

  • This is the first groundwater study to compare TLF with E. Coli specifically.
  • Tryptophan-like fluorescence (TLF) can complement E. coli as a risk indicator, but it is not proposed as a replacement.
  • Both TLF and coli distinguish low/intermediate, high and very high risk sources.
  • TLF has negligible variability due to the method, unlike bacteriological analyses.
  • TLF is useful for pre-screening, monitoring and demonstrating risk in groundwater.
  • Fieldwork for this research was done in rural Kwale Country, Kenya
  • Next steps include:
    • focus on how TLF relates to pathogens and health, rather than just focusing on the coincidence with E.Coli.
    • better understanding of TLF in different groundwater conditions
    • better computer software of processing and presenting TLF data
    • assess the usefulness of TLF in communicating water risks to groundwater users.

Read the full paper (open access) here:

Nowickia, S.,  D. J.Lapworth, J.S.T. Ward, P. Thomson & K. Charles (2019) Tryptophan-like fluorescence as a measure of microbial contamination risk in groundwater, Science of The Total Environment, Volume 646, 1 January 2019, Pages 782-791 https://doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2018.07.274

If you are interested in finding out more on safe water and water quality monitoring then you watch these RWSN webinar recordings from late last year:

  • Safe water in towns and peri-urban areas: challenges of self-supply and water quality monitoring: https://vimeo.com/266654585
  • La salubrité de l’eau dans les villes et zones péri-urbaines: le défis liés à l’auto-approvisionnement et le suivi de la qualité https://vimeo.com/266649345

Arena meeting participants visited a number of informal settlements in Arusha (Tanzania)

re-posted from Tgroups.science

On May 30, 2018, the participants of the Transition Management process, multiple actors active in different organisations and sectors such as the government, NGOs and the University, visited different informal settlements in Arusha with the aim to learn about local challenges and opportunities (e.g. innovative projects and initiatives).

Continue reading Arena meeting participants visited a number of informal settlements in Arusha (Tanzania)

The Baseflow Detective looking to uncover the secrets of Tanzania’s rivers

Interview with Hezron Philipo, GroFutures by Sean Furey, Skat Foundation

Hezron Philipo has a BSc in Geology (University of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania), MSc in Water Resources and Environmental Management (University of Twente at  ITC, The Netherlands) and is currently doing his PhD research at Sokoine University of Agriculture in Tanzania as part of the UPGro GroFutures project.

I caught up with him at 41st WEDC Conference in Nakuru, Kenya, where he explained the research that he is doing and what new insights him and his colleagues are uncovering.

Continue reading The Baseflow Detective looking to uncover the secrets of Tanzania’s rivers

How is the Transition Management approach applied in Dodowa peri-urban area? Have a look at these short videos!

Re-posted from T-Group.science

The first video shows a number of insights and key moments from the first Transition Management arena meeting organised by the local transition team. Participants first reflected on and discussed the main problems affecting their communities. Their inputs were collected and problems were prioritized. In the majority of the meetings, inadequate sanitation facilities, water contamination and improper waste management were mentioned as priority problems. The participants were then invited to discuss the reasons for the persistence of these problems in order to reflect upon their rooted causes and the interconnections between them.

Continue reading How is the Transition Management approach applied in Dodowa peri-urban area? Have a look at these short videos!

How are multiple actors identifying and discussing the main problems affecting their community? Insights from the Transition Management process in Kawala community, Kampala (Uganda)

Sixteen participants belonging to Kawaala community participated in the first Transition Management arena with the aim to define the most urgent and priority problems in their communities. The participants arrived on time and shared since the beginning of the meeting their motivation to participate. Most of the participants already knew the T-GroUP research team since it has been disseminating its research findings in the community and some researchers participated in some of the meetings organized at community level. The dissemination of information and the continuous engagement of the researchers at community level played a key role in building trust with the community residents and in creating a comfortable atmosphere during the Transition Arena meeting. After an introduction given by the local team coordinator Prof. Robinah Kulabako, the participants discussed in two groups the most important problems in Kawala community.

TGroup1
Figure 1. Participants of the TM arena meeting working in groups.

Participants voiced the following as the main challenges affecting their community: lack of water supply, insecurity, inadequate sanitation facilities, poor infrastructures (e.g. roads and houses), contamination and scarcity of water, unemployment and poor waste management services. Then, participants in each group were invited to discuss the causes of these problems as well as the reasons of persistence. Multiple causes of the problems described above were discussed, such as the low awareness of the residents on how to build proper sanitation facilities or how to collect waste, the corruption and political tensions in the different sectors, and the lack of consultation and participation of local residents in decision-making processes run by local authorities. A representative from each group very enthusiastically presented the main points discussed in their group, as shown in the following picture.

TGroup2
Figure 2. A participant presenting the main insights from the work done in his group.

The other participants actively participated in this last part of the meeting by asking questions, sharing their point of view and adding other examples connected to their experiences. One of the highlight of the meeting is that political tensions should be taken into account in the multi-stakeholder process because they are one of the causes of failure of many projects and initiatives in Kampala. The engagement, participation and collaboration with local authorities like Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) and public utility companies like the National Water and Sewerage Corporation (NWSC) is key for the development of new practices, cultures and policies related to water, sanitation and waste management. Additionally, the unsustainable behavior and practices of local residents regarding water, waste and sanitation management needs to be taken into account and innovative ways of engaging and sensitizing citizens need to be explored.

TGroup3
Figure 3. A woman sharing her point of view during an open discussion.

 

A Malawian researcher takes UPGro knowledge to up-and-coming scientists in college

Interview by Isaiah Esipisu, PAMACC News Agency – www.pamacc.org

Patrick Makuluni is a lecturer in the Mining Department of the University of Malawi, the Polytechnic. Makuluni holds MSc in Mineral Exploration and Mining Geology from Curtin University in Australia and BSc in Civil Engineering from University of Malawi, the Polytechnic.

Recently, the scientist published a paper showing how to recognise where sediments (the exact piece of rock) are coming from by using the geometrical properties of the sediments as opposed to the more expensive methods that have been used previously.

The 30 year old scientist is a family man and his life has always been around his children, work, research and fun. He has developed an interest in Hydrogeology and he would like pursue a PhD in Petroleum Engineering.

[IE] How did you know about the UPGro project, and how did you join the team? Continue reading A Malawian researcher takes UPGro knowledge to up-and-coming scientists in college

Gro for GooD “Smart Handpumps” wins Oxford University Vice-Chancellor’s Award

From: www.ox.ac.uk/research/vice-chancellors-innovation-awards

The Vice-Chancellor’s Innovation Awards seek to recognise and celebrate exceptional research-led innovations and products at all University levels that are having societal or economic impact.

The initiative attracted a total of 78 entries, from which four winners were chosen and a further 13 projects highly commended across four categories: team work, building capacity, inspiring leadership and early career success, before an overall winner was selected from the shortlist.

The overall winner was the Smart Handpumps initiative – an innovative technological response to water shortages and handpump service maintenance issues in Africa.

Led by Professor Robert Hope, Associate Professor at the School of Geography and the Environment, a multi-disciplinary team of academics created and installed an electronic device in the handpump’s handle, which automatically alerts maintenance providers when remote sites are damaged or broken.

UPGro early careers researchers share experiences on an international platform

Compiled by Isaiah Esipisu, PAMAC news agency http://www.pamacc.org 

Five African early career research scientists took to stage at the 41st Water Engineering and Development Centre (WEDC)’s International Conference at the Egerton University in Kenya to showcase ongoing research achievements so far under the UPGro project.

Drawn from Kenya, Uganda, Malawi and Ethiopia, the young researchers discussed some of the complex social science, physical science and practical issues given their experience in two research areas namely Gro for GooD, through which scientists are developing a groundwater risk management tool in Kenya, and Hidden Crisis, which is unravelling current failures for future success in rural groundwater supply.

“Am not shy to say that it is my first time to participate in a research of this magnitude,” said Willy Sasaka, Assistant Hydrogeologist from the Rural Focus Company, which is coordinating the Gro4GooD research in Kenya.

Guided by scientists from the University of Nairobi, Oxford University, the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology, and the University of Barcelona, the research project has led to the discovery of two paleochannels in Kenya’s Kwale County, which is the main source of groundwater that drives the tourism industry along Diani beach, serves residents of Ukunda, and supports a large scale irrigated sugarcane farming initiative in Kwale among others.

Sasaka made his presentation alongside his colleague, Suleiman Mwakuria, who explained how the scientists have been able to involve the local community in the research, including students who help in reading rain gauges among other things.

Patrick Makuluni, a geologist from Malawi talked about functionality and failures of boreholes in his country, showcasing slides to show how scientists have been able to identify reasons why boreholes fail soon after they have been sunk.

“Millions of pounds of investment by water users, charities and tax-payers are wasted each year by water points failing soon after construction,” he told delegates at an event organised by RWSN on the sidelines of the WEDC conference. “Getting a more complete understanding of how to keep water flowing from boreholes will reduce waste and improve water services for Africa’s poorest communities,” said Makuluni.

So far, the Malawi study, through which the scientists dismantled 50 functioning and dead boreholes to examine the underlying causes of failure, has already come up with preliminary findings.

“We found out that one of the causes of borehole failure was vandalism,” said Makuluni. Other boreholes were abandoned due to poor water quality, some due to poor maintenance; others were silted, while in some cases there were governance problems.

However, the young scientist noted that the researchers are yet to do data analysis, compile results, make reports and disseminate the findings.

Yehualaeshet Tadesse, a young female scientists from Ethiopia, presented a similar case, but focusing on social causes for poorly functioning water pumps in her country.

In Ethiopia, 170 water pumps in nine districts were surveyed in the first phase of the research project, where it was found that a lack of village level operation and maintenance skilled manpower was one of the contributing factors for water pump failure.

“We also found out that water pumps located in areas with alternative water sources such as springs, streams, private water scheme were poorly maintained,” said Tadesse.

She pointed out that pumps on non-communal land were often neglected, and as well, communities with limited finance and savings did not manage their boreholes well.

In Uganda, Joseph Okullo from Makerere University talked about rainfall variability, and how it affected groundwater in his country.

“Rainfall chloride concentration was interestingly found to be higher during drier season,” he told the WEDC delegates.

Sean Furey introducing African Early Career schientist at a WEDC side event

Above: Sean Furey (RWSN) introduces the research conducted by the UPGro Early Career Researchers.

The 41st WEDC International Conference is co-hosted with Egerton University, on Egerton main campus (near Nakuru) in Kenya between July 9 and 13, 2018. The conference is a valued and respected platform for reflection, debate and exchange of knowledge and ideas that are rooted in practice.

Photo credits: Isaiah Esipisu

 

 

New paper helps unravel the mysteries of groundwater recharge in Benin

A new paper entitled: Relationships between rainfall and groundwater recharge in seasonally humid Benin: a comparative analysis of long-term hydrographs in sedimentary and crystalline aquifers has been published by the GroFutures team in collaboration with the GRIBA project (Groundwater Resources In Basement rocks of Africa), Belgian NGO – PROTOS, and Via Water in the Netherlands.

Key Points:

  • Groundwater Recharge – the set of processes that govern how rainwater seeps through soils and rocks to replenish aquifers – is not well understood across much of Africa. It is important to understand because it is central to determine the sustainable use of groundwater resources;
  • The authors analyse three rare sets of long-term (19-25 years) groundwater-level observations from three different, but common, geological settings in Benin;
  • The year-to-year changes in groundwater storage correlate well with rainfall patterns, but there were big differences the relate to the type of geology:
    • In the shallow, sand aquifer as much as 40% of the rainfall becomes groundwater
    • In the deeper sandstone and weathered crystalline rocks, a much lower proportion of rainfall becomes groundwater recharge (13% and 4% respectively)
  • Recharge was found to occur on a seasonal basis; however on a daily basis the groundwater fluctuations are best explained with a threshold of 5-15 mm per day – meaning that only more intense rainfall events lead to recharge.
  • These results are consistent with the growing body of evidence that, in Sub-Saharan Africa, intensification of rainfall associated with climate change may increase groundwater recharge.
  • Because the groundwater recharge is so strongly influenced by geology, it is essential for water resource planning that good geological maps are available and used, and that investment is made into long-term groundwater monitoring of strategic aquifers.

 

Young scientist seeks to understand link between access to groundwater and poverty

Interview by Isaiah Esipisu, PAMAC news agency http://www.pamacc.org

Jacob Katuva is a doctoral researcher at the University of Oxford’s School of Geography and Environment.  His research focuses on community groundwater access and poverty in Kenya. Katuva holds a M.Sc. in Environmental and Biosystems Engineering from the University of Nairobi and a B.Sc. in Water and Environmental Engineering from Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology.

Previously, the scientist spent over four years working as a consultant in engineering and development in the Eastern Africa region. He has vast experience in design-construction-operation and management of community rural water supply schemes, hydrological analyses, rainfall-runoff modelling and water balance models.

His experience in water resources management covers water resources assessments, developing and linking Management Information Systems (MIS) and Geographical Information Systems (GIS) and advanced geo-statistics to water resources planning and management as well as hydropower feasibility studies, evaluation and impact studies of WASH programs, rural water supply and pollution studies in the context of the mining, irrigation and the water sectors in rural Kenya.

Q. How did you get involved with the UPGro project?

I joined UPGro back in 2013 when I was consulting with Rural Focus Ltd during the implementation of the catalyst project led by Oxford University. I was heavily involved in the set-up of the environmental monitoring network and the socio-economic surveys. This provided a great deal of natural and social science data regarding groundwater level and quality, water usage, health and welfare indicators paving way for an interdisciplinary study. I ended up applying for the D.Phil. programme at Oxford University to research groundwater and poverty in sub-Saharan Africa with a particular focus on coastal Kenya. I was fortunate to obtain additional funding from Base Titanium, a mining company working in Kenya which is one of the partners in Oxford University’s UPGro consortium project Gro for GooD.

Q. Tell us about your studies at the Oxford University and how it relates to the UPGro project

My research at Oxford University explores the links between groundwater and poverty. Understanding groundwater and poverty linkages is critical to unlocking the potential of groundwater for poverty reduction. Central to accelerating and sustaining Africa’s development is improving the understanding of how improved access to groundwater resources can benefit the poor. This includes identifying the role of groundwater on productive uses such as livestock watering and crop irrigation, examining the relationship between poverty and changes in groundwater levels, and understanding how groundwater dependency and access to sufficient, affordable, reliable, safe, good quality water and physical access are linked to the socio-economic development of households. These dimensions are pertinent to policy and practice in poverty reduction.

Q. What are some of the early findings for your research?Nyumbasita Pump.jpg

There is evidence that the depth of boreholes and poverty are associated: We saw wealthier households being associated with deeper groundwater sources while poorer households were associated with shallower wells and boreholes. However, due to the cumulative nature of the volumetric data from the handpump water data transmitters (http://www.oxwater.uk/technology.html) we could not disassociate the handpump usage per household since the transmitter, similar to a water meter, recorded the volume abstracted for each handpump and not volume abstracted by each household.

Q. What kind of advice would you give to the County Government of Kwale about groundwater, given your experience so far?

The UPGro project has generated pertinent knowledge on water services delivery in Kwale County and has identified pathways to poverty reduction. Two of the preliminary findings in Kwale include the discovery of paleochannels in Msambweni, empirical evidence of the benefits of smart monitoring and privatized professional maintenance and repair services on rural water supply infrastructure.

This discovery of paleochannels by Professor Olago of the University of Nairobi and his team, can accelerate achieving universal and equitable access to safe drinking water services for the County population. County should invest time and resources in understanding this resource and how it can be exploited to meet the ever-growing water needs for the county.

The County government should embrace the professional maintenance and repair services on rural water supply infrastructure to ensure rural communities, health centres and school children enjoy equitable access to safe drinking water.

This model of maintaining rural water services has been developed and tested in Kwale and Kitui County with positive results. The model is called the FundiFix model and more details can be found here: https://reachwater.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/Fundifix-booklet-WEB.pdf. To accelerate poverty reduction, the County government should ensure borehole drilling and equipping standards are adhered to, communities water infrastructure receive preventive maintenance and professionalized repair services to keep water flowing.

Q. What is your message to upcoming scientists who are interested in your area of specialization?

I would urge upcoming scientists in Kenya to progressively broaden their research to incorporate both the social and natural sciences. Integrating the two, thereby widening our understanding of the socio-ecological systems, will lead to the development of much more effective policies informed by the needs of the people.

Q. What are your future plans beyond the UPGro project?

Part of my future plans includes seeing the completion, implementation and operationalization of the findings of the UPGro project here in Kwale so that our groundwater resources can benefit everyone here, in particular the poor. In addition I will be excited to contribute to framing the poverty reduction policies and strategies for the County building on the evidence emerging from the longitudinal socio-economic studies over the last four years.Carrying water

Interview by Isaiah Esipisu; Images by Nancy Gladstone/Gro for GooD project