Is the Cape Town Time-bomb coming your way? Water Ministries and Operators need to do more to keep the water flowing

by Sean Furey (Skat) & Dr Anne Bousquet (GWOPA/UN-Habitat)

With water shortages in Cape Town, South Africa, hitting headlines worldwide, it was timely that the African Water Association (AfWA) convened their 19th Congress in Bamado, Mali around the theme of “Accelerating access to sanitation and water for all in Africa amidst the challenges of climate change”.

We were extremely fortunate that Dr Anne Bousquet of the Global Water Operators’ Partnerships Association (GWOPA) was able to attend and present the UPGro urban groundwater  study led by Prof. Stephen Foster last year. Her presentation was entitled “Groundwater – rational use to enhance urban water security under global change” [download presentation] .

Anne reflects on the presentation and the discussion with participants: Continue reading Is the Cape Town Time-bomb coming your way? Water Ministries and Operators need to do more to keep the water flowing

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

UPGro takes advice from leading African experts

The day before the 2017 Ineson Lecture, a meeting was held in the Council Chamber of the Geological Society in London at which the project leaders, programme board members from NERC and DFID, and the Knowledge Broker team met with three of the UPGro Ambassadors: Dr Callist Tindimugaya, Ministry of Water & Environment, Uganda; Prof. Moustapha Diene, U. Cheikh Anta Diop, Senegal; Prof. Muna Mirghani, Technische Universität Berlin.

Prof. Richard Carter made opening remarks on behalf of the Knowledge Broker team welcoming everyone to the event followed an icebreaker exercise so that everyone in the room got to know each other.

The aim of the workshop was to bring together representatives from the UPGro Consortia, the Knowledge Broker team, the Programme Executive Board (PEB), and the UPGro Ambassadors to reflect on the progress of the UPGro programme to date and to set the priorities for maximising the impact of the research over the next 2 years. It was the first opportunity for the Ambassadors to share their experiences of the challenges and opportunities facing groundwater resources across Sub-Saharan Africa, particularly in relation to improving opportunities for the poor.

The three UPGro Ambassadors who were present gave a short overview of their backgrounds, their current role and their personal and professional interests in African groundwater research, development and management. They were all co-founders of the African Groundwater Network.

Prof. Dr Moustapha Diene

  • Senior Assistant Professor
  • Started in surface water
  • Interested in capacity development and practical knowledge of groundwater (manager of AGW-Net)
  • Groundwater is mysterious and difficult to illustrate

Prof. Dr Muna Mirghani

  • Visiting Professor lecturing in IWRM and runs WaterTrac consultancy in Sudan
  • Started in civil engineering
  • Interested in groundwater within IWRM implementation and governance (including catchment frameworks and transboundary issues) and drought governance.

Dr Callist Tindimugaya

  • Commissioner for Water Resources Planning & Regulation
  • Has worked for the Government since 1990 on water and groundwater in particular.
  • Interested in getting groundwater high on the agenda of political leaders and funders.

Each Ambassador presented an overview of what they see as the key issues facing the understanding, use and management of groundwater in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Using posters that had been created at a previous UPGro workshop (in Montpellier, Sept 2016), members from each of the five projects, plus Brighid from the Africa Groundwater Atlas, gave concise overviews of what each study is trying to achieve and summary of some of the early findings that are emerging.

After the presentations in the morning, the afternoon focused on discussions that pulled together the various strands of the conversation so far and some important questions to the Ambassadors on ways that the UPGro research can create more impact:

How do we move beyond conventional dissemination pathways and in what form do we deliver that information?

  • Be ready to share now what is being done, not waiting until the end. Otherwise, there is a danger that stakeholders think you have an agenda. Use national fora like Joint Sector Reviews and sector working groups to get some feedback and build appetite for your research. Remember to use simple language but not to over-simplify your message.
  • Politicians need to be approached indirectly. Decisions are made at a technical level. Build confidence in the results. Politicians learn through their assistants.

Other observations on research into action:

  • An important role for the Knowledge Broker is to interpret results and make them as non-technical as possible, without misrepresenting the extent to which the results answer the questions that decision-makers may have;
  • Corruption: can lead to evidence being completely ignored, and is difficult to deal with;
  • Political leaders have to make socially acceptable trade-offs, and are aware that citizens en masse have power through votes and demonstrations;
  • It is important to be neutral and not to frame evidence to push a specific gender;
  • Where are the influencing opportunities on the horizon?
  • Peer-to-peer learning between countries, River Basin Organisations, governments, donors can be an important uptake mechanism for new evidence;
  • Good short, punchy stories are important because they can be used as anecdotes to explain why UPGro is a great programme. These stories should not be afraid to cut-across projects where there is a common topic, such as finance, gender, climate change or governance.

Sum-up by Richard Carter

1. Integration of social and physical sciences : each project is taking a slightly different approach;

2. Synthesising: We need to get the messages right; there are some assumption about groundwater responses to wider changes (population growth, climate change) that shouldn’t be taken for granted;

3. There are variety of non-specialist audiences and we need to cater for that, from school children to senior government advisors;

4. We need to elevate the conversation beyond groundwater to the wider issues around food security, environment, industrialisation and employment.

5. We should be more confident about the positioning of groundwater – most of the world’s fresh water is groundwater so our communication should be too shy about that.

From the left – Moustapha Diene; Brighid Ó Dochartaigh, Muna Mirghani, Callist Tindimugaya, Richard Taylor, Alan MacDonald, Rob Hope, Kirsty Upton, Mohammad Shamsudduha, Tom Doyle, Michelle Truman, Jan Willem Foppen. (Not in the picture: Richard Carter, Ken Wright, Ken de Souza, Sean Furey)

UPGro Knowledge Broker, Kerstin Danert, wins IAH Award

Dr Kerstin Danert, Skat Foundation, who is a member of the UPGro Knowledge Broker team and Chairs UPGro’s Programme Coordination Group (PCG) has been given the “Distinguished Associate Award, 2017” by the International Association of Hydrogeologists (IAH) for her outstanding contribution improving the use of groundwater worldwide.

Kerstin has been a driving force behind the Rural Water Supply Network, and in particular the promotion of drilling professionalisation and documentation of manual drilling practices. In addition to working on UPGro, she is currently leading an RWSN collaboration between UNICEF and Skat Foundation on professionalising water well drilling in Africa, which includes capacity development activities in Angola, Burkina Faso and Zambia.

Africa Rocks! @WEDC 40

Over the last year, the UPGro Knowledge Broker and RWSN team has been on tour promoting the potential of Africa’s groundwater as a catalyst for tackling poverty and the practical challenges of improving scientific understand and professionalism of implementation. These “Africa Rocks!” sessions in Dar es Salaam (Tanzania), Abidjan (Cote d’Ivoire), Livingstone (Zambia) have showcased the Africa Groundwater Atlas, major findings from UPGro research, the new UNICEF Guidance on Drilling Professionalisation and brought in a variety of guest presentations from friends and colleagues working in related fields – whether it is drillers from Zambia, government regulators from Uganda, or international partners like BGR who are doing similar research. It has also become an opportunity to build momentum, not just for UPGro but for initiatives like GRIPP, the Africa Groundwater Network and the Africa Groundwater Commission.

It’s a lot to fit in, but the Africa Rocks! Session at this years’ WEDC Conference in Loughborough, was a great opportunity to share and pick up new ideas from WASH practitioners and researchers from all over Africa, and the world. Professor Richard Carter chaired the session and made opening remarks followed by a mix of presentations (see below) from UPGro and RWSN.

Time ran out for a full discussion, however, in the corridors and coffee areas afterwards it was apparent that one of the big issues that needs to be addressed is the growing uptake – and impact – of solar pumping. Is it the future for rural water supply, replacing the humble handpump? If so how will such systems be maintained and paid for, and what is there to stop unregulated solar-powered groundwater pumping leading to the kind of groundwater depletion that is wreaking havoc across the Indian sub-continent?

These kind of discussions are really helpful as we plan the next three years for the network and the research programme. If you have ideas or suggestions, then get in touch, either by email, by leaving a comment on this post, or come and find us at SIWI World Water Week in Stockholm, the IAH Congress in Dubrovnik, or the Ineson lecture in London.

Chair: Prof Richard C Carter

Presentations (files will be added)

  • The Africa Groundwater Atlas and Literature Archive

An overview of an extensive, unique and valuable database of groundwater information for the entire continent
Brighid Ó’Dochartaigh, British Geological Survey

Recent work with UNICEF to raise the standards of drilling and borehole construction
Sean Furey, Skat Foundation

Jacob Katuva, Oxford University, UPGro Gro for Good

  • Groundwater and Poverty – an UPGro Scoping Study: An overview of a recent review of the links between groundwater and poverty

Richard Carter, Consultant

Geraint Burrows, Groundwater Relief

Sean Furey, Skat Foundation

Other presentations at the conference by UPGro and related partners included:

 

Groundwater – the earth’s renewable wealth

By Sean Furey, Skat Foundation/RWSN/UPGro

Where does wealth come from? At its most basic, it is the difference between how much you invest in a product or service and how much you get from selling it. If the difference is positive you get wealth, if it is negative then you get trouble.

For a country like Zambia, the biggest source of wealth comes from underground: copper, oil and many other minerals and metals. Every aspect of our lives, from fertilisers, to homes, to solar panels depends on what can be dug from the ground. The scale on which mining and quarrying is done varies from a single person digging a hole, to the world’s largest machines demolishing mountains. Mining is also an economic activity that stretches from the very local to the most globalised trade.

In that context, groundwater can also be seen as a mineral resource on which the wealth of a country depends, so it was great that UPGro and RWSN were invited by the University of Zambia to run a special session on hydrogeology in Africa at the International Conference on Geology, Mining, Mineral and Groundwater Resources of the Sub-Saharan Africa, held in Livingstone, Zambia, in July.

The conference was opened by the President of Zambia, HE Edgar Lungu, who stressed the importance of groundwater and mineral resources to the economy, society and environment of Zambia and Africa more widely.

He was followed by a keynote speech by UPGro Ambassador, Dr Callist Tindimugaya of the Ministry of Water & Environment Uganda who gave the 400+ audience an overview of exciting groundwater initiatives happening across Africa, in particular highlighting UPGro, GRIPP, RWSN’s work on drilling professionalisation,the Africa Groundwater Network and the re-boot of the AMCOW Africa Groundwater Commission which took place the following week in Dar es Salaam.

One of the eye-opening facts that was presented by the government during the event that more than half of electricity generated in Zambia is used by the mining industry and most of that is used for de-watering mines – pumping water out of the ground and dumping it – contaminated – into rivers. Clearly a change in mindset is needed to see groundwater as a source of wealth to be used wisely for the benefit of all, not a problem that sends money pouring down the drain.

photos: Dr Callist Tindimugaya gives a keynote presentation on Groundwater Resources Management in Sub-Saharan Africa: Status, Challenges and Prospects.

UPGro-RWSN Special Session on Hydrogeology in Africa and Drilling Professionalisation

Morning:

Afternoon:

Prof. Richard Carter scoops IAH Award

We are delighted that Professor Carter, a member of the UPGro Knowledge Broker team and Hidden Crisis project, received the first ever “Applied Hydrogeology Award” from the International Association of Hydrogeologists:

‘for “a groundwater professional who has made an outstanding contribution to the application of hydrogeology, preferably in developing countries or in support of international development”. Seven nominations were received and we are grateful to the panel of Johannes Barth, Jane Dottridge and Callist Tindimugaya for their careful considerations.

The award to Richard Carter recognises that he has practiced, taught and championed applied hydrogeology in developing countries throughout his career and continues to do so with energy, passion and wisdom. He communicates sound hydrogeological science and knowledge to governments, NGOs, donors and communities, and inspires young hydrogeologists to develop practical solutions to groundwater and water supply problems.

Three specific areas that fit him for this award stand out. Firstly, his work on applied hydrogeological science in Africa, including the use of shallow groundwater for small scale irrigation and the development and testing of low cost drilling methods. Secondly, his lifelong support for NGOs, ensuring that good hydrogeological science and practice is made known and available to practioners and policy makers. Thirdly, at Cranfield Richard has been instrumental for more than 20 years in teaching and motivating students from around the world to appreciate and take up the same practical approaches to their work. In his reply, Richard urged those starting out on a career in hydrogeology to apply their expertise in an inter-disciplinary manner to the big problems of poverty and water and food insecurity as a highly worthwhile and fulfilling vocation. He remarked that he was humbled to receive the award, being aware just how many other African and international hydrogeologists are equally or more deserving than himself and finally thanked his unknown nominator and the panel of judges.’

Sanitation and Water for All? a view from the SWA partner meeting

Last week, I attended the Sanitation & Water for All (SWA), partnership meeting in The Hague, Netherlands.

Skat Foundation is a member of the Research & Learning constituency of SWA and I was there, among other things, to represent RWSN, both to raise relevant issues from our network with SWA partners, but also to find out what SWA is doing that is relevant for those working in rural water services and groundwater management.

Continue reading Sanitation and Water for All? a view from the SWA partner meeting

Upcoming UK event – Groundwater, poverty and development

ODI Logo

Save the date: Friday 28th November 2014
Timing: 0900 – 1700, lunch provided.
Place: Overseas Development Institute, 203 Blackfriars Road, London SE1 8NJ, UK

To register to attend, or watch online, visit: www.odi.org/events/4037-groundwater-poverty-development and click on “Register”

This one-day meeting, jointly convened by the UPGro Knowledge Broker Team and ODI’s Water Policy Programme, will showcase current research and practice concerning groundwater and its role in poverty alleviation and development. The meeting will highlight research needs and identify good practices.

Continue reading Upcoming UK event – Groundwater, poverty and development