Gro for GooD: Groundwater Risk Management for Growth and Development

groforgood-logo-webTHE BIG IDEA

Groundwater is essential for economic growth and can contribute to human development if resources are used sustainably to benefit the poor. New approaches need to be found to balances growth and development goals.


To develop Groundwater Risk Management Tool that will help government and groundwater users balance the demands of human development and better health, economic growth and groundwater sustainability so that the poorest benefit.


Africa’s groundwater systems are a critical but poorly understood socio-ecological system. Central to accelerating and sustaining Africa’s development is improved understanding of groundwater risks and institutional responses to competing growth and development goals is needed. Explosive urban growth, irrigated agricultural expansion, industrial pollution, untapped mineral wealth, rural neglect and environmental risks converge to increase the complexity and urgency of groundwater governance across Africa.

The research will focus on tackling the following questions:

  1. How can risks to groundwater quality and quantity for drinking water security be identified and reduced?
  2. How can groundwater governance be designed to balance growth and development?
  3. What are the most significant and uncertain future scenarios affecting sustainable groundwater use for the poor?

The study will focus on the Kwale County area of South East Kenya where the poverty rate is high (7th most deprived out of 47 Counties in Kenya) and there is intensive use of groundwater for urban water supply, sugar cane irrigation and mining. Tackling the three questions above will involve detailed data collection, including the use of innovative ‘Smart Handpumps’ developed by University of Oxford that measure handpump use. The research brings together rigorous analysis and modelling of environmental, social, economic and governance systems and processes. A risk management tool will be developed and then tested. While sensitive to context of Kwale, the Groundwater Risk Management Tool will be designed to be flexible so that it can be scaled-up across Kenya and can be adapted to other countries and contexts.



OU: Dr Robert Hope (PI), Dr Katrina Charles, Dr David Clifton, Dr Caitlin McElroy, Patrick Thomson, Jacob Katuva, Johanna Koehler, Farah Colchester, Prof David Bradley, Heloise Greeff ,  Dr. Achut Manandhar, Saskia Nowicki, Nancy Gladstone

JKUAT: Prof Bancy Mati, Prof John Gathenya.

UoN: Prof Daniel Olago, Julius Odida

UPC: Dr Albert Folch, Dr Daniel Fernàndez-Garcia, Dr Xavier, Sanchez-Vila, Prof Emilio Custodio, Prof Jesus Carrera, Núria Ferrer Ramos

RFL: Michael Thomas, Mike Lane


  • Kenya


Peer-reviewed articles and book chapters

Koehler, J., Thomson, P., Goodall, S., Katuva, J. and Hope, R., 2021. Institutional pluralism and water user behavior in rural Africa. World Development, 140, p.105231.

Thomson, P., 2020. Remote monitoring of rural water systems: A pathway to improved performance and sustainability?WIREs Water, 8(2).

Katuva, J., Hope, R., Foster, T., Koehler, J. and Thomson, P., 2020. Modelling Welfare Transitions to Prioritise Sustainable Development Interventions in Coastal KenyaSustainability, 12(17), p.6943.

Ramos, N., Folch, A., Fernàndez-Garcia, D., Lane, M., Thomas, M., Gathenya, J., Wara, C., Thomson, P., Custodio, E. and Hope, R., 2020. Evidence of groundwater vulnerability to climate variability and economic growth in coastal KenyaJournal of Hydrology, 586, p.124920.

Manandhar, A., Greeff, H., Thomson, P., Hope, R., Clifton, D. (2020) Shallow aquifer monitoring using handpump vibration data, Journal of Hydrology X,
Volume 8, August 2020, 100057.

Katuva, J., Hope, R., Foster, T., Koehler, J. and Thomson, P. (2020) Groundwater and welfare: A conceptual framework applied to coastal KenyaGroundwater for Sustainable Development, 10. doi: 10.1016/j.gsd.2019.100314.

Hope, R., Thomson, P., Koehler, J. and Foster, T. (2020) Rethinking the economics of rural water in AfricaOxford Review of Economic Policy, 36(1): 171-190. doi: 10.1093/oxrep/grz036.

Charles, K.J., Nowicki, S., Thomson, P. and Bradley, D. (2019) Water and Health: A Dynamic, Enduring Challenge. Chapter 6 in, Dadson, S.J., Garrick, D.E., Penning-Rowsell, E.C., Hall, J.W., Hope, R. and Hughes, J. (eds.) Water Science, Policy, and Management: A Global Challenge. John Wiley and Sons Ltd. pp. 97-116. ISBN: 9781119520603.

Dadson, S.J., Hirpa, F., Thomson, P. and Konar, M. (2019) Monitoring and Modelling Hydrological Processes. Chapter 7 in, Dadson, S.J., Garrick, D.E., Penning-Rowsell, E.C., Hall, J.W., Hope, R. and Hughes, J. (eds.) Water Science, Policy, and Management: A Global Challenge. John Wiley and Sons Ltd. pp. 117-137. ISBN: 9781119520603.

Hope, R., Foster, T., Koehler, J. and Thomson, P. (2019) Rural Water Policy in Africa and Asia. Chapter 9 in, Dadson, S.J., Garrick, D.E., Penning-Rowsell, E.C., Hall, J.W., Hope, R. and Hughes, J. (eds.) Water Science, Policy and Management: A Global Challenge. John Wiley and Sons Ltd. pp. 159-179. ISBN: 9781119520603.

Sharma, P., Manandhar, A., Thomson, P., Katuva, J., Hope, R. and Clifton, D. (2019). Combining Multi-Modal Statistics for Welfare Prediction Using Deep LearningSustainability, 11(220), p.6312. doi: 10.3390/su11226312.

Mati, B. and Thomas, M. (2019). Overview of Sugar Industry in Kenya and Prospects for Production at the Coast. Agricultural Sciences 10, 11. 1477-1485. doi: 10.4236/as.2019.1011108.

Hope, R. and Ballon, P. (2019) Global water policy and local payment choices in rural Africanpj Clean Water 221. doi:10.1038/s41545-019-0045-y.

Ferrer, N., Folch, A., Masó, G., Sanchez, S., Sanchez-Vila, X. (2019) What are the main factors influencing the presence of faecal bacteria pollution in groundwater systems in developing countries? Journal of Contaminant Hydrology.

Ferrer, N., Folch, A., Lane, M. et al. (2019). How does water-reliant industry affect groundwater systems in coastal Kenya? Science of the Total Environment

Ouédraogo, W., Gathenya, J. & Raude, J. (2019). Projecting Wet Season Rainfall Extremes Using Regional Climate Models Ensemble and the Advanced Delta Change Model: Impact on the Streamflow Peaks in Mkurumudzi Catchment, KenyaHydrology 6 (3): 76.

Greeff, A. Manandhar, P. Thomson, R. Hope and D. A. Clifton (2019). Distributed Inference Condition Monitoring System for Rural Infrastructure in the Developing WorldIEEE Sensors Journal 19 (5): 1820-1828.

Wara, C., Thomas, M., Mwakurya, S. and Katuva, J. (2019). Development of River Rating Curves for Simple to Complex Hydraulic Structure Based on Calibrated HEC-RAS Hydraulic Model, in Kwale, Coastal KenyaJournal of Water Resource and Protection, 11, 468-490.

Ferrer, N., Folch, A., Lane, M., Olago, D., Odida, J., and Custodio, E., (2019). Groundwater hydrodynamics of an Eastern Africa coastal aquifer, including La Niña 2016-17 droughtScience of the Total Environment, 661: 575-597.

Thomson, P.. Bradley, D., Katilu, A., Katuva, J., Lanzoni, M., Koehler, J., and Hope, R. (2019). Rainfall and groundwater use in rural KenyaScience of the Total Environment. 649: 722-730.

Nowicki, S., Lapworth, D., Ward, J., Thomson, P., and Charles, K. (2019). Tryptophan-like fluorescence as a measure of microbial contamination risk in groundwaterScience of The Total Environment646: 782-791.

Olago, D. (2018). Constraints and solutions for groundwater development, supply and governance in urban areas in KenyaHydrogeology Journal

Koehler, J., Rayner, S., Katuva, J., Thomson, P. and Hope, R. (2018).A cultural theory of drinking water risks, values and institutional change. Global Environmental Change, 50, pp.268-277.

Koehler, J. (2018). Exploring policy perceptions and responsibility of devolved decision-making for water service delivery in Kenya’s 47 county governments. Geoforum, 92, pp.68-80

Foster, T., J. Willets, M. Lane, P. Thomson, J. Katuva, R. Hope (2018) Risk factors associated with rural water supply failure: A 30-year retrospective study of handpumps on the south coast of Kenya. Science of the Total Environment 626 (2018) 156-154.

Garrick, D., Hall, J., Dobson, A. et al. (2017) Valuing water for sustainable development. Science 358 (6366); 1003-1005.

Foster, T. (2017). A critical mass analysis of community-based financing of water services in rural Kenya. Water Resources and Rural Development 10, 1-13.

Foster, T., and Hope, R. (2017). Evaluating waterpoint sustainability and access implications of revenue collection approaches in rural Kenya. Water Resources Research 53(2), 1473-1490.

Colchester, F. E. , Marais H. G. , Thomson P., Hope, R., Clifton D. A. (2017) Accidental infrastructure for groundwater monitoring in AfricaEnvironmental Modelling & Software 91 (2017) 241 – 250

Thompson, P. & Koehler J. (2016) Performance-oriented Monitoring for the Water SDG – Challenges, Tensions and OpportunitiesAquatic Procedia 6: 87-95.

Colchester, F.E., Greeff, H., Thomson, P., Hope, R., and Clifton, D.A. (2014). Smart Handpumps: A Preliminary Data Analysis. IET Appropriate Healthcare Technologies (AHT), London, 2014, pp. 1-4.


Koehler, J. (2019). Water risks and institutional change in Kenya. DPhil thesis. University of Oxford

Katuva, J. (2019). Water and Welfare in Coastal Kenya. DPhil thesis. University of Oxford.

Ferrer, N. (2019). Assessment of a groundwater system under global change scenarios: the case of Kwale (Kenya). PhD thesis. Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya.

Nowicki, S. (2017). Variability in Drinking-water Microbial Contamination Risk: Exploring short-term hazard and exposure dynamics in rural Kwale County, Kenya. MSc thesis. School of Geography and the Environment. University of Oxford.

Jou, S. (2017). Importància I dinàmica de la intrusion marina en aigües subterrànies a la costa de Kwale, Kènia. MSc thesis. Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya.

School resource

The Water Module Student Resource, and Water Module Educator Guide. School of Geography and the Environment, University of Oxford (2018)




Media Coverage


Presentations and posters from UPGro and related research


  1. We see a good range of studies, which is excellent. Though I am still missing the primary issue, which is what are the REAL long-term average costs for the users while using these handpumps. The focus is now on technology, monitoring, and institutional settings, but most of our studies and experiences show that at the end of the day, there are only two deciding factors for sustainability, which are:

    (1) average yearly cost per family and
    (2) average breakdowns per year per pump.

    As long as policymakers do not have any idea about these figures, it is impossible to make right decisions on how to improve Community Water Supply and to achieve the SDGs.

    The trap is that the donor community may be just fooling itself with excellent reports, while not realizing that most if not all of these results have been made with substantial (hidden) subsidies, which is of course not sustainable. You even don’t know how much subsidies went in. Even worse, the REAL cost is therefore not exposed, which makes planning even more difficult.

    Paul van Beers

  2. Hi Paul,

    Thanks for your comments. In Kwale, water committee records suggest a typical community spends between $150-200 per year on O&M (all handpumps in Kwale are Afridevs). About $100-$150 per year is spent on repairs, with most of the remainder covering the pump attendant’s wage. The average household pays $7.20 per year (if they pay on a monthly basis), or equivalent to $1.30 per cubic meter if they pay per bucket. Based on self-reported data, the handpumps break down 2-3 times per year. You can see a detailed analyses of revenues and expenditures for water committees in Kwale here:

    Hope that helps!
    Tim Foster

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