New paper: No evidence found of large scale groundwater depletion in major African aquifers

A new paper has been published by the GroFutures team as part of a Special Issue “Remote Sensing of Groundwater from River Basin to Global Scales”

Key Points : –

  • GRACE (Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment) satellite can be used to estimate changes in water storage on time resolution of 1 month and a spatial resolution of about 450 x 450 km.
  • GRACE can be used to estimate groundwater storage changes where it is the dominant water mass. It is therefore useful in many areas of Sub-Saharan Africa where there are relatively few direct groundwater level measurements.
  • The paper focuses on the major sedimentary aquifers basins, where the majority of Africa’s groundwater resources are to be found. Away from these basins, groundwater storage is 1-2 orders of magnitude less.
  • There is no evidence of continuous long-term declining trends of Total Water Storage (mostly groundwater) in any of the major sedimentary aquifers, which indicates that none are stressed by current abstraction rateshowever it is important to stress that local scale depletion may be occurring but is beyond the resolution of GRACE to detect.

There are also some interesting findings in regard to the combination of GRACE and Land Surface Modelling and how well (or not) they represent groundwater recharge processes in the different basins.

Read the full paper here:

Bonsor, H.C.; Shamsudduha, M.; Marchant, B.P.; MacDonald, A.M.; Taylor, R.G. Seasonal and Decadal Groundwater Changes in African Sedimentary Aquifers Estimated Using GRACE Products and LSMs. Remote Sens. 201810, 904. http://www.mdpi.com/2072-4292/10/6/904

photo: Well for cattle, Songho, Mali, Credit: Emeline Hassenforder. Well for cattle and domestic use. , Songho, Mali.

 

Water monitoring upgraded in Upper Great Ruaha, Tanzania

re-posted from GroFutures

The GroFutures Team, working with the Tanzanian Ministry of Water and Irrigation, expanded monitoring infrastructure in the Upper Great Ruaha Observatory (UGRO) to include interactions between groundwater and surface water.

An outstanding question regarding the sustainability of groundwater withdrawals for irrigation and drinking-water supplies is whether groundwater in the agriculturally intensive lowlands is replenished by river flow, sustains river flow, or both depending upon the season.

Continue reading Water monitoring upgraded in Upper Great Ruaha, Tanzania

GroFutures team bring rain to Niger in the dry season! (maybe…)

re-posted from GroFutures news


Speed Read:

  • Information collected through physical and social science methods was shared and discussed at the GroFutures Annual Workshop in Niger, with partners in and outside the study.
  • Open-source modelling software under FREEWAT platform was successfully piloted for ‘stress testing’ the sustainability of Groundwater Development Pathways accounting for climate and land-use change.
  • New water monitoring has been established to help manage the Iullemmeden Basin, which is shared by Niger and Nigeria

Continue reading GroFutures team bring rain to Niger in the dry season! (maybe…)

“Groundwater is the key to Unlocking Green Growth in Africa”

On 25th October, the prestigious keynote Ineson Lecture 2017 at the Geological Society in London was given by Dr Callist Tindimugaya, head of Water Resource Planning and Regulation in Uganda’s Ministry of Water & Environment, and one of four UPGro Ambassadors. In his speech he highlighted the importance understanding and managing groundwater well, not for its own sake but because it is a natural resource that underpins most, if not all, African societies and economies.

However, he expressed his frustration that the economic contribution of this resource has not yet been properly quantified so that its invisible contribution is made plain to all, from ordinary citizens to political leaders. Nevertheless, he was encouraged by the many initiatives across the continent to address the knowledge gaps and to improve the visibility and use of groundwater – in particular the importance of the UPGro programme and GRIPP. He concluded: “You cannot milk a cow, if you do not feed it”, likewise if the potential benefits of Africa’s aquifers are to be realised, then investment is needed in research, monitoring, regulation and – most of all – in education and training.

The day-long event was well attended and as well as a lively debate and a presentation by Guy Howard, DFID WASH policy team leader, there were numerous inputs from across UPGro, including: presentations by Prof. Richard Taylor about GroFutures and the Chronicles Consortium; from Brighid Ó Dochartaigh about the Africa Groundwater Altas; from Prof. Alan MacDonald about the Hidden Crisis project; and an array of posters from UPGro Catalyst and Consortia research, including a poster on the AMGRAF project by David Walker (Newcastle University) supported by UPGro and REACH, which had won the award for best Early Career Researcher poster at the recent 44th IAH Congress in Dubrovnik.

A huge thank you to Brighid Ó Dochartaigh and all the organisers at  IAH BGS, and Geol. Soc.

 

GRIPP: Invisible treasures – Groundwater for Africa

This piece is from an original coverage  in April 2017, in German in the magazine Africa Wirtschaft (Africa Economy) 

Reliable access to water is still a problem in Africa. The Groundwater Solutions Initiative for Policy and Practice (GRIPP), a group of 30 international partners, is committed to providing greater security of supply and sustainable management. The focus: groundwater. 

Africa’s economy is growing. Technical developments, a broader middle class and a lively start-up scene are used in the media and in countless panel discussions to document the popular “Africa Rising” narrative. What many people forget, however, are the smallholder farmers who are, in fact, the driving force of the continent. No economic activity in Africa is more important than agriculture and none is so fragile.

The main reason is water – especially when it is missing. Already, 17 countries, many of them in the east and south of the continent, are struggling with drought for the second year in a row, writes the international media organization IRIN. If there is no regular and sufficient rainfall, the farmers can neither feed their cattle nor farm the fields. Harvest failures and famines are often the result. According to IRIN, more than 38 million people are directly affected. “In a drought, all we see is dried-up riverbeds and withered fields everywhere. Often, however, the solution is so close,” says Jeremy Bird, former Director General, International Water Management Institute (IWMI), an international research institution that addresses food security, poverty and the effects of climate change through better water management. One aspect that is becoming more and more important: groundwater.

Lack of Resources to Access Groundwater

More than 30% of the world’s freshwater reserves are stored below the Earth’s surface. The demand for the valuable resource keeps growing continuously. A study by the University College London and the British Geological Survey (BGS) determined that up to 660,000 km³ of groundwater is located under African soil – more than 100 times the renewable surface water resources of the continent. Using this hidden treasure responsibly and sustainably is particularly important for the world’s dry zones. One of the biggest hindrances to raise awareness about the enormous importance of groundwater is that it is invisible. “Rivers or reservoirs are visible when they dry out or become polluted. If the same happens to groundwater, hardly anybody takes notice,” explains Bird.

Dr. Karen Villholth, Principal Researcher, IWMI, says “Water scarcity has to be considered in a relative context in Africa. On the one hand, water resources are lacking in many places, but, often, it is actually the financial resources which are lacking to access existing groundwater resources.” The expert from IWMI, Pretoria, South Africa, attended the 8th Water Research Horizon Conference in Hamburg in mid-September, a conference with leading water scientists from around the world. There, she spoke not only as a groundwater specialist, but also as the international GRIPP Coordinator.

GRIPP, short for Groundwater Solutions Initiative for Policy and Practice, is a consortium of 30 international research institutions, companies and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), founded in 2016. It is working across the world to improve groundwater management, particularly in rural and agricultural areas in developing and emerging countries. In sub-Saharan Africa alone, there are plans for the implementation of various research-for-development projects for groundwater-based irrigation systems. The overall investment catalyzed partly through GRIPP is aimed to exceed USD 1 billion until 2030. The goal is to irrigate an additional area of 600,000 hectares. In addition to technical solutions, the focus also lies on issues of ‘good governance’, ensuring long-term water management on a local, national and international level, which is better adapted to the needs of the population.

IWMI is leading GRIPP, with several United Nations organizations and partners from Africa and Germany participating, including the Africa Groundwater Network; the Association of Water Well Drilling Rig Owners and Practitioners (AWDROP), Nigeria; the Center for Advanced Water Research (CAWR) with experts in Dresden and Leipzig, Germany; and the Federal Institute for Geosciences and Natural Resources (BGR), Germany.

Importance for the Economy

Dr. Ralf Klingbeil, Senior Expert, Department of Groundwater and Soils, BGR, is the contact person for GRIPP. “As a scientific institute, we naturally have very close ties to relevant research organizations and can, in addition to our technical expertise, also provide numerous contacts to institutions, authorities and companies in the partner countries,” explains Klingbeil. In the past, BGR has been active in groundwater projects in Botswana, Cameroon, Namibia and Zambia. Currently, projects are under way in Burundi, the Maghreb countries and also with the river and lake basin organizations of the Niger River and Lake Chad.

Klingbeil emphasizes the great importance of the subject for the private sector. After all, any company that invests in Africa would want to secure basic location factors such as reliable energy and water supplies. “For German companies, there are various opportunities to get involved,” says Klingbeil. Companies could support local multiple use (for agriculture and drinking) water supplies, or contribute to the financing of infrastructure for groundwater monitoring or artificial recharge. If the operations are in the vicinity of their facilities, the companies stand a better chance of being successful.

Currently, one of the main problems is the lack of functionality and maintenance of already installed well systems, reports Seifu Kebede, Professor of Earth Sciences, Addis Ababa University, Ethiopia. “In rural areas, on average, not even half of the systems are working properly when they are needed. If you additionally consider the water quality, the quota falls below 30%,” says Kebede. An approach for long-term solutions can only be developed with an interdisciplinary approach with a mix of innovative technological developments, trained specialists, and willingness to cooperate for lasting and long-term commitment at governmental level, as well as a stronger awareness in society. The very same approach that GRIPP pursues. “I’m looking forward to the results of this important initiative,” says Kebede.

Read original Afrika Wirtschaft magazine 4/2017 coverage in German here

  • Seifu Kebede, Professor of Earth Sciences, Addis Ababa University, Ethiopia
  • Jeremy Bird, former Director General, International Water Management Institute (IWMI), Sri Lanka
  • Karen Villholth, Principal Researcher, Research Group Leader and international GRIPP Coordinator, International Water Management Institute (IWMI), South Africa
  • Ralf Klingbeil, Senior Expert, Department of Groundwater and Soils, Federal Institute for Geosciences and Natural Resources (BGR), Germany

Florian Sturm works as a freelance journalist for JournAfrica! – a multilingual media agency that is committed to a modern African image: journafrica.de

Related links:
gripp.iwmi.org
bgr.bund.de

UPGro at 44th IAH Congress

Once again, UPGro has a strong presence at the annual congress of the International Association of Hydrogeologists, which this year is in Dubrovnik, Croatia. UPGro highlights this year include:

T2.2. THE ROLE OF GROUNDWATER IN REDUCING POVERTY
Conveners: Alan Macdonald (BGS/Hidden Crisis) and Viviana Re

With presentations by:

T2.2.1 Tim Foster: “A Multi-Decadal Financial Assessment of Groundwater Services For Low-Income Households in Rural Kenya” (Gro For Good)

T2.2.4 Fabio Fussi: “Characterization Of Shallow Aquifers In Guinea Bissau To Support The Promotion Of Manual Drilling At Country Level” (Remote Sensing For Manual Drilling Catalyst)

T2.2.5 David Walker: “Comparison Of Multiple Groundwater Recharge Assessment Methods For A Shallow Aquifer: Why Are The Results So Varied?” (AMGRAF Catalyst)

T2.2.6 Adrian Healy: “Exploiting Our Groundwater Resource: Choices And Challenges In Managing The Water Commons”  (Upgro Spin-Off Project)

T2.2.9 Richard Taylor: “Large-Scale Modelling Of Groundwater Resources: Insight from The Comparison Of Models And In-Situ Observations In Sub-Saharan Africa” (GroFutures)

T2.2.11 Jade Ward: “Rapid Screening for Pathogens In Drinking Water: Preliminary Results From A National Scale Survey In Malawi” (Hidden Crisis)

T2.2.13 Alan Macdonald: “Hand Pump Functionality: Are The Rural Poor Getting A Raw Deal ?” (Hidden Crisis)

And in other sessions:

T2.3.3 Núria Ferrer: “How Do New Development Activities Affect Coastal Groundwater Systems In Africa? The Case Of Kwale, Kenya” (Gro for GooD)

T4.4.6 Richard Taylor: “Recent Changes in Terrestrial Water Storage In The Upper Nile Basin: An Evaluation Of Commonly Used Gridded Grace Products” (GroFutures)

T4.4.3 Albert Folch: “Combining Different Techniques To Monitor Seawater Intrusion Integrating Different Observation Scales” (Gro for GooD)

T2.6.1 Johanna Koehler: “A Cultural Theory of Groundwater Risks And Social Responses In Rural Kenya” (Gro for GooD)

Posters:

T2.2.14 Jacob Katuva: “Groundwater and Poverty – Evidence From Kwale, Kenya” (Gro for GooD)

T2.2.15 David Walker: “Investigating the Resilience of Shallow Groundwater Resources in Sub-Saharan Africa: A Case Study from Ethiopia” (AMGRAF Catalyst)

T2.3.14 Moshood N. Tijani: “Hydrogeological and Hydraulic Characterization of Weathered Crystalline Basement Aquifers of Ibarapa Area, Southwestern Nigeria” (GroFutures)

Uncovering how groundwater is used, in Tanzania

re-posted from: Grofutures.org

The GroFutures team in Tanzania has just completed the data collection component of the Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA) exercise in the Great Ruaha Basin of Tanzania. The team comprised Andrew Tarimo, Devotha Mosha Kilave, Gebregziabher Gebrehaweria and Imogen Bellwood-Howard. Following initial training at Sokoine University of Agriculture, the team moved to the study site in Mbarali District and worked in three villages (Matebete, Ubaruku and Nyeregete) between 23rd August and 2nd September 2017. During the PRA exercise the team carried out a range of activities including seasonal calendars development, long-term trend analyses, wealth indexes, technology rankings and a well inventory (see photos below).

The team documented a range of groundwater and other water use strategies involving dug wells, shallow and deep groundwater wells alongside surface water and natural springs. With the well inventory, the team was able to locate geographically groundwater sources within the study areas. The PRA exercises allowed the team to make qualitative characterisation of different water sources. Preliminary data include the observation that wealthier people were often beginning to invest in more expensive, private infrastructure. Quality was a concern as much as quantity, which was highly relevant in the light of recent health scares. A detailed analysis of the entire survey dataset is curently being carried out by the team.

UPGro research on cover of Ambio

5GroFutures water scarcity article featured on journal cover

A critical review of water scarcity metrics written by UCL PhD student, Simon Damkjaer, and GroFutures PI, Richard Taylor, is featured on the cover of this month’s issue of Ambio. The article argues that current metrics including those used to track progress toward the UN Sustainable Development Goal 6.4, substantially reduce the number of people suffering from water scarcity by 2030, are inadequate as they misrepresent freshwater resources and demand, particularly in low-income countries of Sub-Saharan Africa. The authors highlight the critical role played by groundwater storage in addressing seasonal or perennial water shortages that is entirely disregarded by current metrics.

The cover photo, taken by UPGro Catalyst PI. Willy Burgess (UCL Earth Sciences), shows the role of groundwater in sustaining dry-season irrigation of boro rice in the Barind area of Bangladesh.

Groundwater monitoring established in the Upper Great Ruaha Basin, Tanzania

Re-posted from GroFutures.org

The GroFutures team at Sokoine University of Agriculture (SUA, Tanzania), led by Japhet Kashaigili (SUA) with support from PhD students, Hezron Philipo (SUA) and David Seddon (UCL), established in July (2017) a groundwater-level monitoring network in the Upper Great Ruaha Basin Observatory in southern highlands of Tanzania.  This area is part of the Southern Agricultural Growth Corridor of Tanzania (SAGCOT) where increased use of groundwater and surface water is anticipated to support agricultural production.  Constructed monitoring wells at depths ranging from 18 to 32 m below ground were drilled using a PAT-DRILL 421 rig. The team also instrumented monitoring wells recently constructed by project partners at the Rufiji Basin Water Board (RBWB) in the Tanzanian Ministry of Water and Irrigation.

The new monitoring network comprises an upstream location at Chimala at the base of an escarpment and a downstream location at Mbarali within the alluvial plain. A monitoring well at Chimala Secondary School was installed into coarse unconsolidated sands and gravels to a depth of 26 m. This monitoring well is linked to both an additional monitoring well at Usangu Secondary School and a river gauge. Both monitoring wells are equipped with automated dataloggers providing hourly groundwater-level measurements. A third borehole was constructed at Chimala Primary School though no groundwater was encountered up to a depth of 30 m. At Mbarali, two monitoring wells were constructed on the St. Ann’s Secondary School and now form a transect of 4 monitoring wells as the team also instrumented two monitoring wells recently constructed by the RBWB at Rujewa at Mbarali Secondary School and Jangurutu Primary School.

The new infrastructure is expected to reveal for the first time the dynamics between groundwater and surface water in the Upper Great Ruaha sub-catchment of the Rufiji Basin and answer key questions around the nature of groundwater recharge and whether seasonal river flow recharges  groundwater or groundwater sustains river flow. Further work will also seek to ensure that this observatory is equipped with both tipping-bucket rain gauges to record sub-daily (hourly) rainfall intensities and soil-moisture probe arrays to better understand how intense rainfalls are transmitted through alluvial soils.