Groundwater supplies on Kenya’s coast must be managed for people and industry

Photo – Diani Beach, Kenya. Dan Rata/Shutterstock, via The Conversation

Nuria Ferrer Ramos, Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya – BarcelonaTech

Industry is growing along Kenya’s coast, and some of these companies – such as mining and agricultural companies – are water intensive. To meet their demand, most industries are turning to groundwater.

Groundwater is a natural resource that exists beneath the earth’s surface in soil pore spaces and in the fractures of rock formations. It can be stored in, or move through, aquifers: a body of permeable rock – like gravel or sand.

Groundwater has many intrinsic advantages: it can be developed quickly (and at a relatively low cost), it’s easy to find, it’s drought resilient and can meet water needs on demand. This has made it a crucial component in rural water supply, and for industry.

The problem is, even though Kenya has policies, laws, and institutions that are specifically dedicated to managing groundwater, in practice, groundwater is treated as a common pool resource, belonging to whoever owns the land overlying the aquifer. The majority of water users ignore the potential long-term consequences of unregulated use.

This is what’s happening in Kwale county, on the southern coast of Kenya. Over half a billion US dollars in capital investment has been made in two water-reliant industries in Kwale: heavy sands mining and commercial sugarcane. In addition to this Kwale also hosts significant tourism.

Because aquifers in Kenya are not always properly managed, my colleagues and I wanted to know how increased abstraction of groundwater by industries could affect local communities that use groundwater as their main water supply.

We found that, at the moment, the new industries are not affecting the water supply for local communities. What is affecting the community wells are long drought periods, such as the last drought which lasted from 2016 to early 2017. The consequences of dry wells are that people have to walk further to get water, and water becomes more expensive to buy.

For industry, understanding investor risk and liability for groundwater sustainability would seem prudent, if not a legal obligation, before major abstraction starts.

Our research shows that groundwater resources can be significant and resilient to unpredictable but recurrent drought events, if understood and managed properly.

Sustainable use?

We focused our study on the Msambweni aquifer, located on the coast of Kwale county in Kenya. This aquifer system is composed of a shallow aquifer (about 25 metres thick) and a deep aquifer below this shallow aquifer (about 350 metres thick).

The shallow aquifer is recharged by rain through the ground surface and the deep aquifer is recharged by water that flows underground from the Shimba Hills.

The shallow aquifer is mainly exploited by the local rural communities and the hotels located near the coastline. The deep aquifer is exploited by the mining and sugar operations.

The communities rely heavily on shallow groundwater, which they get from wells or by using a handpump in a borehole, because they don’t have piped water, and water from the two main rivers in the area is not considered safe to drink. Also, in the 1980s, the Swedish International Development Agency installed hundreds of handpumps at boreholes in Kwale county.

Industries now also rely on groundwater. But they use new boreholes, equipped with electrical pumps, that reach the deep aquifer. These have higher abstraction rates than traditional dug wells or shallow boreholes equipped with handpumps.

When investigating whether these users are using the groundwater sustainably, it’s important to point out that sustainability is variable through time. Not all water users exploit the same aquifer layers.

At present, the main industries in the area exploit the deep aquifer because it’s more resilient to drought. So the industries aren’t affecting the shallow community wells.

However, this could change. If droughts become more frequent, or last longer, there will be less groundwater stored.

Data challenges

It’s important to highlight the data challenges we faced, and how we reached our findings.

We tried to define the groundwater abstraction of all the main users, but couldn’t. As in many other countries, abstraction data for wells and boreholes is difficult to get.

So we needed to come up with a new methodology to estimate how much abstraction was happening in areas with uncertain or no data.

Collaboration between stakeholders during this study was essential.

Most of the time, water-reliant users such as the industries collect specific hydrogeological information, like aquifer storage or how much they pump, because they’re trying to use the water efficiently.

We also identified hotels, noted the number of their rooms and interviewed hotel managers to estimate tourism abstraction along the coast using easy tools like Google Earth and TripAdvisor.

Alongside this, it was important to develop a monitoring network, covering the whole aquifer area. We used well measurements to get an idea of the aquifer system, its volume and dynamics, and assess the sustainability of abstraction.

Future approaches

While this data pointed to a scenario where industry was having a minimal impact, things could change.

Enterprises and government may find environmental sustainability of secondary importance to advancing economic production, creating local jobs and new sources of taxation. Government leadership is needed to manage the aquifer as a system for all, including environmental services, rather than for the powerful few.

Albert Folch, Mike Lane, Daniel Olago, Jacob Katuva, Patrick Thomson, Sonia Jou, Rob Hope and Emilio Custodio were key contributors to this studyThe Conversation

Nuria Ferrer Ramos, Hydrogeologist, Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya – BarcelonaTech

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

This study was funded from the UK Government via NERC, ESRC and DFID as part of the Gro for GooD project (UPGro Consortium Grant: NE/M008894/1). Nuria Ferrer is affiliated with the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering (DECA), Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya (UPC), Jordi Girona 1-3, 08034 Barcelona, Spain. Associated Unit: Hydrogeology Group (UPC-CSIC), Spain.

 

The Top 4 Welfare Priorities for Kwale County, Kenya

My name is Jacob Katuva and I’m a researcher with Oxford University. I largely work in the water and poverty area. My research has been in Kenya – Kwale County specifically – where I’ve been looking at the links between water and welfare. Kwale County has a population of close to 900,000 people. The majority of the people there – over 70% – live below the poverty line and the main source of water for the community drinking water supplies is groundwater through handpumps.

We did a socioeconomic survey in Kwale County where we interviewed 3500 households or thereabouts in the year 2014. We repeated the same survey on the same households again in the year 2015 and the year 2016. In terms of analysis, we developed a welfare index from about 29 indicators from the socioeconomic survey and we had weights which were informed by Principle Component Analysis and this welfare index was computed for all the three years and we were able to actually see the changes in welfare and we were also able to map all the households and understand where the poor are and what their needs are.

Moving on, we investigated the links between water and welfare and what we found was that water services and here I’m talking about reliability, affordability, safety of water, and proximity to water infrastructure – all this actually accounts for at least 20% of the variation in household welfare which was quite substantial.

Findings from this work have been developed into policy briefs. Different policy briefs have been shared with different departments within the County Government, and also the Governor.

In terms of modelling welfare, we found that there are four priority goals that the County needs to focus on for sustainable development in the county. So if they want to improve people’s welfare they need to focus on four priority goals. Number one: The first goal is to maintain primary education while maintaining access to primary education; Number two is to improve access to reliable, affordable and safe drinking water sources within the county; Number three is to improve access to household energy sources by expanding the national grid or also investing in small scale solar systems; and the final priority goal was to end open defecation as this was the largest cause of reduced welfare in Kwale County.

More information:

Also from Gro for GooD:

Congratulations to Jacob Katuva – the latest UPGro Doctor

Jacob Katuva (left) and his PhD supervisor, Prof Rob Hope (via @rhope06 on Twitter)

Huge congratulations to Dr Jacob Katuva (Gro for GooD/University of Oxford) who yesterday passed his viva to secure his PhD on Groundwater and Welfare!

Jacob has been core part of UPGro since the beginning and has represented the Gro for GooD project and UPGro as a whole many times over the last 6 years.

He follows the success of fellow Gro for GooD Early Career Researcher, Dr Johanna Koehler (below) who received her PhD earlier back in March:

Johanna
Dr Johanna Koehler somewhat pleased to be awarded her doctorate (via @JohannaKoehler  on Twitter)

Here are some highlights from both of them:

Films & Interviews:

A Microsoft film about Oxford’s work on smart handpumps:

Jacob presenting his poster at the UPGro booth at the 2014 IAH Congress in Marrakech, whilst still at Rural Focus Ltd (apologies for poor sound and the caption error)

Presentations:

Papers:

 

Webinar: Communicating groundwater-climate behaviour with African farmers

As part of RWSN webinar series on “Leave No-one Behind” we have webinars tomorrow in English and French on “Communicating groundwater-climate behaviour with African farmers”.

This webinar presents two examples of work from the UPGro: Núria Ferrer and Dr Albert Foch from the Universtat Politéchnica de Catalunya (Gro for GooD project) will show what global and regional climate variability, and climate change, means for soil water and groundwater in coastal Kenya, on which farmers depend. Cristina Talons, from the Lorna Yong Foundation (BRAVE project) will then present their work in Burkina Faso and Ghana to communicate with farmers using radio to provide essential support to their livelihoods in the face of climate challenges.

Register for the English (13:30 British Summer Time) https://zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_fdI-9RUSRciYum2COSP6Kw

Register for the French (11:00 Central European Time): https://zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_ab4HDYCRS5uoCHdanZAw3A

I hope you can join us, and if you can’t the recordings will be available afterwards here https://vimeo.com/ruralwater and here https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC_HF52TbX73xANXQ_ezXrEg/videos

Groundwater in Sub-Saharan Africa – special issue of Hydrogeology Journal

The IAH Hydrogeology Journal has published a special issue focusing on groundwater in Sub-Saharan Africa and good overview is provided in the online Preface.

The main UPGro contributions are:

Prof. Dan Olago (University of Nairobi / Gro for GooD) Constraints and solutions for groundwater development, supply and governance in urban areas in Kenya

Dr Callist Tindimugaya (MWE Uganda / UPGro Ambassador) Review: Challenges and opportunities for sustainable groundwater management in Africa

UPGro Early Career Researchers: Q&A with Suleiman Mwakurya

Suleiman Mwakurya worked as a research assistant on the Gro for GooD project in Kenya, based out of the Rural Focus field office in Kwale. He recently took on a new role working for the Kwale County Government. Gro for GooD Co-I Patrick Thomson caught up with him to find out about his new job.

PT: What is your current job now and how does it links back to your work with Gro for GooD?

SM: I started work as Superintendent Geologist for Kwale County Government at the end of 2018. My main role is carrying out hydrogeological surveys for the county government, and I’m also involved in supervision of the drilling machinery owned by the County, supervising the drilling crew and managing the rig. When I’m not in the field, I’m in the office working on project management and evaluating tenders for drilling of new boreholes. We are overwhelmed with boreholes! Everyone is coming to the county government asking for help with the drilling machine – more people want boreholes – we have a backlog of over 100 boreholes so we have been tendering some of this work to private contractors. I’m involved in designing of programmes of works for these contractors – how and where they are going to drill, installation and how management will be handed over to the county government. I also do some installation of solar pumps, electric pumps and handpumps. I really thank UPGro in general, and the whole Gro for GooD fraternity… as the project certainly equipped me with some of the skills which I’m currently using, including handpump repair and installation.

PT: How has Gro for GooD research influenced the development and management of groundwater resources in Kwale County?

SM: The County doesn’t have a lot of resources for groundwater development and groundwater monitoring. We have been drilling boreholes but we don’t have data. Hydrogeologists like Mike Lane and Professor Dan Olago can help the County with the kind of information, data and expertise that they have in terms of groundwater management. Capacity building and training for county staff is also useful. The County is working on the World Bank funded Kwale County Water Supply Master Plan and we are in the initial stages of this for the three major towns – Ukunda, Msambweni and Kwale—targeting the palaeochannels [water-bearing geological features located by the Gro for GooD project]. We are through with 28 exploratory boreholes and have the results, so are now preparing to drill a number of production boreholes. The timing will depend on the procurement process but hopefully drilling will commence in 2020. The first step will be to drill three boreholes in Kinondo, which are the ones that are going to be used to supply Ukunda town. After that we hope to drill another three boreholes in Msambweni and Milalani to supply Msambweni.

Drilling in Kwale Country (credit: Mike Lane)

PT: Tell us about your time with UPGro.

SM: I worked on the Gro for GooD project for about two and a half years. I was based in the field office in Bomani, Kwale County and was closely involved with the water quality research – sampling and recording data at 49 sampling sites every fortnight. I also assisted on the geophysical surveys, household surveys and surface water monitoring. Actually the skills I acquired at UPGro have made a big improvement in my career, particularly the experience of working on geophysical surveys and groundwater monitoring. I also had training and experience with organisation and interpretation of data as the project collected a large volume of data on groundwater, rainfall, surface water and water quality. Calvince [Wara – Research Manager at the Bomani field office] was a very good mentor for me and helped me develop skills in data management and analysis. Working with the Gro for GooD project has also inspired me on the welfare side – the household surveys made me aware of issues for people around here who face difficulty with water supplies. In densely populated areas, we see many people queueing up to use the same handpump. I have been developing proposals to upgrade some handpumps to solar pumps.

PT: What are your plans for the future?

SM: I have a passion for hydrogeology and I’m happy that the Gro for GooD project helped me develop this passion. I graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Geology from the University of Nairobi in 2013. I started working as a drilling supervisor and then I joined the UPGro project and it has really opened up how I look at hydrogeology and groundwater. I learnt a lot of things from it. I’ve been looking into applying for an MSc programme maybe in Hydrogeology, or perhaps Geophysics or Hydrogeochemistry.

3 new UPGro papers + Groundwater to be the UN-Water theme for 2022

We are delighted to report that UN-Water, the coordinating body for water issues across the United Nations, in a meeting this week agreed to make the theme of the 2022 World Water Development Report and World Water Day: “Groundwater: making the invisible visible” http://enb.iisd.org/water/un/30/html/enbplus82num34e.html

Meanwhile three new UPGro papers have recently been published:

“Groundwater hydrodynamics of an Eastern Africa coastal aquifer, including La Niña 2016–17 drought”

Núria Ferrera; Albert Folch; Mike Lane; Daniel Olago; JuliusOdida; Emilio Custodio  (Gro for GooD)

Key Points

  • An East African costal aquifer was characterized before and during La Niña 2016/17.
  • The recharge was reduced 69% compared to average annual rainfall.
  • Lower recharge during first and nil recharge during the second wet season
  • No important groundwater quality changes observed inland
  • Increase of seawater intrusion even during the wet season

This paper is accessible from here: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0048969719302177?dgcid=coauthor until 13 March

“A case for urban liveability from below: exploring the politics of water and land access for greater liveability in Kampala, Uganda”

Maryam Nastar, Jennifer Isoke, Robinah Kulabako & Giorgia Silvestri (T-GroUP) https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/13549839.2019.1572728

Key Points

  • Despite efforts of local governments and NGOs to put public service delivery systems in place, there is a gap between goals and actual impacts on citizens’ quality of life
  • Decentralisation has faced challenges from the emergence of national partisan political struggles in local areas.
  • Pre-paid standpipes were installed with magnetic charge cards handed out for free. Initially a UGX25 card top-up bought 4 jerry cans (20l), overtime this reduced to 3 jerry cans. If a card was lost or stolen then a replacement cost users UGX15,000-25,000, which was unaffordable to many slum dwellers who then bought water from the standpipe caretakers for UGX 100-250/jerry can. Intermittent water supply from pre-paid meters is another factor making residents seek alternative water sources – generally unsafe springs, or from vendors and resellers at UGX 200-1,000 per jerry can.
  • Water is just one problem for residents – access roads, waste disposal, expensive school fees and high youth unemployment also mentioned in interviews.
  • Local elections have not happened as mandated because the government fears they will lead to social unrest. This has contribute to resident distrust of local government. 
  • Land ownership is a major barrier to water access and sustainability: there are no clear land records and there are many layers of complexity involving landlords, tenants, the city and traditional authorities.  Changing the land title from private to communal for WASH facilities is essential.
  • Political parties do sometimes co-opt community leaders and demobilise communities, but they can also create political spaces for debate on governance, rules and policies.
  • Strong social capital/networks and trust can help mobilise community power and resources, but can exclude some residents from decision-making processes.
  • NGOs, universities and social movements can play a crucial role in magnifying the ability of communities to act together and achieve liveability goals.

Transition Management for Improving the Sustainability of WASH Services in Informal Settlements in Sub-Saharan Africa—An Exploration. 

Silvestri, G.; Wittmayer, J.M.; Schipper, K.; Kulabako, R.; Oduro-Kwarteng, S.; Nyenje, P.; Komakech, H.; Van Raak, R. (T-GroUP) https://www.mdpi.com/2071-1050/10/11/4052

Key points:

  • “Transition Management” is a participatory planning technique developed for addressing sustainability issues in Europe. The UPGro T-GroUP project is one of the few examples of trying to apply the method in another context: Kampala (Uganda), Arusha (Tanzania), Dodowa (Ghana).
  • The authors identify five contextual factors that account for unsustainable WASH services:
    • Access to water and sanitation in informal settlements comprises a mosaic of formal and informal practices, water sources, sanitation facilities, behaviours and actors.
    • Fragmented and low governance capacity. Low levels of trust between actors.
    • Landownership: unequal and skewed. In Kampala, water and sanitation projects failed due to land conflict; landowners ‘donated’ land for the facilities but after some years later they would take back possession of the land and deny access to the facilities without paying.
    • Public participation in general and WASH services in particular:  more vulnerable community members are excluded
    • Unequal access to WASH services, for example water price varying on social status, with women being disproportionately disadvantaged. Low access to education plays a crucial role.
  • Transition Management was developed based on liberal representative democracies, but this experience in Sub-Saharan Africa suggests that here it needs to be about enlarging and strengthening democratic space  – as a method it is not neutral or universal but shaped by cultural norms and expectations.

:: New UPGro paper :: Rainfall and groundwater use in rural Kenya

Thomson, P.; Bradley D,;Katilu;Katuva J.;Lanzonia, M.; Koehler J.; Hope, R. Rainfall and groundwater use in rural Kenya, Science of The Total Environment, Volume 649, 1 February 2019, Pages 722-730

Key Points

  • As part of the Gro for GooD study in Kwale County, Kenya, UPGro researchers noticed then when comparing data collected from 266 Smart Handpumps and 19 raingauges that:
    • there was a 68% reduction in pump use on the day immediately following heavy rain, as well as
    • a 34% reduction in groundwater use during the wet season compared to the dry season, suggesting a large shift from improved to unimproved sources in the wet season.
  • This data was compared to household survey data collected by the researchers, and the relationship between rainfall and pumping was modelled and tested.
  • In this area rainwater harvesting was widespread and only 6% of households reported handpumps as their sole source of drinking water in the wet season, compared to 86% in the dry season.
  • Whilst rainwater harvesting can be a safe source of water it requires the collection and storage to be well designed and built.
  • This work provides empirical evidence that the existence of improved water supplies does not guarantee their use and health benefits may not be as expected.

:: 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

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.