THE BIG IDEA

Millions of pounds of investment by water users, charities and tax-payers are wasted each year by water points failing soon after construction. 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.

RESEARCH AIM / HYPOTHESIS

The underlying causes of rapid failure of approximately a third of African rural groundwater sources are complex and multi-faceted, but with interdisciplinary approaches can be understood, diagnosed and ultimately anticipated and mitigated.

STUDY DESCRIPTION

Water point failure is a long standing problem – around 30-40% of water points, are estimated to be out of action at any one time and this failure rate has remained stubbornly high for decades. An UPGro catalyst study showed that there are many inter-related causes of failure, which depend on context. It is not a simple problem, so simple solutions, such as a new type of pump or more capacity development will not work on their own.

The study has five main objectives:

  1. To provide a nuanced definition of functionality of water points and water user groups which accounts for seasonality, quality and expectations, and is fit for purpose for tracking future progress towards new Sustainable Development Goals.
  2. To apply this new definition to 3 countries, Ethiopia, Uganda and Malawi, carry out field surveys for a statistically significant sample of water points, and relate results to larger ongoing studies of functionality to help update WASH coverage figures.
  3. To unravel the multifaceted factors governing source failure and success through detailed novel interdisciplinary science exploring the inter-relations between water point governance arrangements, engineering choice/performance, demographic, and groundwater conditions within a broader institutional and hydrogeological framework.
  4. To examine and forecast future rural water supply coverage by modelling the impact on water points of different future pathways, including groundwater recharge scenarios, different development approaches, and future rural water demand scenarios.
  5. To develop a dynamic approach for building resilience into future rural water supply programmes, through detailed interdisciplinary analysis of the datasets developed in 1 – 3, publish in a manual, and develop several pathways for uptake within the WASH community.
hidden crisis
Some of the many primary, secondary and underlying reasons for water source failure.


CATALYST PHASE →

RESEARCH ORGANISATIONS

RESEARCH TEAM


Working in:

  • Ethiopia
  • Malawi
  • Uganda

Find out more:

5 thoughts on “Hidden Crisis: unravelling current failures for future success in rural groundwater supply

  1. This is a very interesting project and I am keen to follow the progress of your work. I am working in South Africa and we are faced with similar challenges in rural water supply, which is also heavily dependent on groundwater in some parts. We also have some other issues in addition to the ones indicated on the diagram so I am keen to see what this project comes up with and how it would apply this side

    1. We would be really interested to potentially work with you to share our knowledge from the field in Malawi or potentially look at planning an event together in the future reflecting on these issues. The project is certainly very valuable and we look forward to seeing the results.

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