News and Blog

a BRAVE new world…now online

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The UPGro Consortium project, BRAVE has launched a brand new website to show case the fantastic work that the team – led by Reading University, in the UK is doing. BRAVE, or to use its more descriptive-but-not-so-catchy name: “Building understanding of climate variability and environmental change into planning of groundwater supplies from low storage aquifers in Africa” is focusing research on aquifers in Ghana and Burkina Faso.

The big idea behind BRAVE is  that we can build better ways to model and communicate the complex environmental changes in the Sahel region of West Africa and use that to improve the long term planning of groundwater supplies and provide early warnings of groundwater shortages so that the most vulnerable families and communities are more resilient to drought.

The team held their 2017 Annual General Meeting between 24 – 26 January and you can find full details on the new website, so be BRAVE and dive in!

Presentations:

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How far has devolution come in Kenya?

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There is more to UPGro than rocks… for groundwater to benefit the poor, African governments need evolve and improve. Johanna Koehler, a doctoral researcher at Oxford University (Gro for GooD), reports on her experiences last year with Kenya at The Third Annual Devolution Conference,  Meru, Kenya, April 2016

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Johanna Koehler giving a statement (Photo: Oxford)

Devolution is here to last! This message was delivered loud and clear at the Third Annual Devolution Conference in Kenya, organised by the Council of Governors. In three years this conference has become an important gathering of national and county government representatives, academia, private sector and civil society to discuss the benefits and challenges of devolution. A brief I wrote on water policy choices of Kenya’s 47 county governments sparked interest among national and county governments and led to an invitation to share key findings at the conference to an audience of over 6,000 people.

Continue reading How far has devolution come in Kenya?

On the road to resilience in Ethiopia

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by Barry Hague, NERC (re-blogged from NERC Planet Earth)

It’s time to rethink roads. In the vital fields of flood prevention and water supply, they offer incredible potential to enhance and enrich the lives of some of the world’s poorest people. Dr Frank van Steenbergen of the Roads for Water consortium is helping to drive this remarkable revolution.

Continue reading On the road to resilience in Ethiopia

Looking back: 2016 Kenya fieldwork

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from Gro for Good newsletter 2

A comprehensive and efficient environmental monitoring network has been set up for the study area collecting relevant, timely and cost-effective data on rainfall, river flow and groundwater level and recharge. Data will be used in the development and running of a Groundwater Risk Management Tool, which will include a hydrogeological model. The model will be able to simulate and predict the effects of different levels of extraction and rainfall on the system, helping Kwale County to make plans to ensure that it has a good and sustainable water supply for people and industry.

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The project is making use of data on temperature, rainfall, humidity, air pressure, wind speed and direction from a number of automatic weather stations (AWS) installed in the project region. Much of the instrumentation has been provided by the Trans-African Hydro Meteorological Observatory (TAHMO) project, hosted in this region by Kenya Meteorological Services.

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River Flow Monitoring and Measurement

To understand the amount of water available in rivers and dams in the study area, various water level and discharge monitors have been installed. In particular, streamflow on the Mukurumudzi and Ramisi Rivers is being monitored to determine the water balance of the rivers at different points, enabling the researchers to understand and model groundwater inputs along these water courses.

River monitoring has been a great example of cooperation between project partners. As well as the existing staff gauge used by WRMA and Base Titanium to monitor flow in the Mukurumudzi River, the project has installed automatic water level loggers (Heron Logger) at two locations on the Mukurumudzi ((3KD06 – Shimba Hills – upstream and Irrigation Intake Works near Bomani Shopping Centre – downstream) and one on the Ramisi River at Eshu Bridge. These are complemented with manual staff gauges provided by WRMA Sub-regional Office in Mombasa. The instruments and staff gauges were installed jointly with WRMA/WRUA, Base Titanium, KENHA and the community. Flow in Ramisi River used to be monitored at Mwachande Bridge (3KD01) stage gauge by WRMA but the gauge has been vandalized and is not in operation.

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River Cross Section and Topographical Survey

A topographical survey was carried out at the river flow monitoring points at the Irrigation Intake Works (on the Mukurumudzi River) and at Eshu Bridge (on the Ramisi River) and measurements of cross section of the river were taken.

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The information will be used to facilitate flow measurement and permit the researchers to develop a Flow Rating Equation and Curve for each site, a key element of the hydrological model.

Surveyors and Survey Equipment at Eshu Bridge during cross section and topographical survey, May 2016 Cross-section of 3KD06 Weir on Mukurumudzi River, Shimba Hills. The figure below is the result of the river cross-section survey at the weir where water
flow is monitored and estimated for the Mukurumudzi River (by Base Titanium, WRMA
and Gro for Good) to aid water resources planning and decision-making. The weir structure also enables the consented abstraction of water by Shimba Hills Community Water Supply project which provides water to Shimba Hills shopping centre and its environs.

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Groundwater hydrochemistry

The chemical composition of groundwater provides useful information about the flow of water into and through the underground aquifers. Chemical and biochemical analysis also allow us to monitor substances which affect the safety and taste of drinking water. Three groundwater sampling campaigns have now been completed, involving the collection and analysis of water from open wells, rivers, handpumps and deep boreholes.

The first campaign was in September 2015 (wet season after the short rains; 81 sampling sites), the second was in March 2016 (dry season, fewer points sampled due to some wells/boreholes being dry) and the final sampling campaign in June 2016 at the end of the wet season (long rains), thus providing information about seasonal variation in water quality and on the process by which the aquifers are recharged following rain. A total of 43 groundwater sites are under fortnightly monitoring for groundwater static level, pH, temperature and conductivity.

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Sample pH, electrical conductivity, temperature, dissolved oxygen and redox potential (ORP) were measured during fieldwork using a flow cell so that the water did not come into contact with air. Other parameters analysed in situ were alkalinity, ammonia levels and faecal bacteria. Samples were also taken to Spain for laboratory analysis to indicate major ions, trace metals, water isotopes (deuterium and oxygen 18) and Total Organic Carbon.

Only very few points contained ammonia, nitrates or trace metals. However, most of the open wells contained high levels of faecal bacteria. The results will be explained in detail in the next newsletter.

Geophysics

by Julius Odida, PhD candidate, University of Nairobi

Geophysical methods (ground-based physical sensing techniques) are used to provide information about sub surface geology. The Gro for GooD project is using both electrical resistivity tomography (ERT) and vertical electric sounding (VES) to identify and characterize the aquifers (water-saturated sub-surface rocks) which lie beneath Kwale County. Over the past year, a number of geophysical surveys have been conducted by a team from University of Nairobi, WRMA and Rural Focus Ltd. The study involved four phases: planning/desktop studies, reconnaissance, actual data acquisition and report writing. Lower resistivity may indicate water saturation and/or fracture zones in the rock. We present a preliminary interpretation of some results below.

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GroFutures at the Association of Tanzanian Water Suppliers (ATAWAS)

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reposted from: http://grofutures.org/article/grofutures-at-awac-2016-in-tanzania/

Professor Japhet Kashaigili presented recent research from the GroFutures Site Observatory in Tanzania (Makutapora) at the 4th Annual Conference (AWAC 2016) of the Association of Tanzanian Water Suppliers (ATAWAS) held on 8th and 9thNovember 2016 in Dodoma, Tanzania. Under the theme of “Knowledge, Capacity and Learning in the Water and Sanitation Sector,” the development of water supplies and sanitation as well as the current challenges faced by organisations across Tanzania were discussed by professionals working in water sector including policy makers and those involved water governance.

Professor Japhet Kashaigili, based at Sokoine University of Agriculture (SUA), presented a paper entitled, Assessing the sustainability of groundwater-fed water supplies to intensive pumping and climate variability: evidence from detailed monitoring of the Makutapora Wellfield, drawing on collaborative research conducted by SUA, University College London, University of Sussex (UK), and the WamiRuvu Basin Water Board within the Ministry of Water and Irrigation. Key stakeholders including the Dodoma Regional Administrative Secretary and Technical Manager of the Dodoma Urban Water Supply and Sanitation Authority (DUWASA) expressed great interest in the GroFutures Team’s evaluation of the sustainability of intensive groundwater abstraction from the Makutapora Wellfield, which is currently the sole perennial supply of freshwater to the rapidly growing capital city, Dodoma. Japhet’s presentation highlighted the bias in wellfield replenishment (recharge) to heavy rainfall and the observed dependence of recharge on the duration of ephemeral river discharge to the wellfield. He also reported on the establishment of telemetry-based, high-frequency (hourly) monitoring of groundwater levels in boreholes enabling the WamiRuvu Basin Water Board and GroFutures team to download real-time monitoring of groundwater levels for wellfield management and research.

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Policy: Devolution & Water Services in Kenya

from Gro for GooD newsletter 2

Johanna Koehler, Gro for GooD researcher (University of Oxford) reports from Kenya’s Third Annual Devolution Conference, April 2016

Devolution is here to last! This message was delivered loud and clear at the Third Annual Devolution Conference in Kenya, organised by the Council of Governors. In three years this conference has become an important gathering of national and county government representatives, academia, private sector and civil society to discuss the benefits and challenges of devolution.

This year’s conference marked the end of the three-year transition period in March 2016, when all functions outlined in the 2010 Constitution became fully devolved. It is also a critical time politically as Kenya’s 2017 national and gubernatorial elections are approaching fast and competition over the Governors’ seats is rising.

The delegates passed 18 resolutions to reinforce devolution and hand over all devolved functions to county governments. Some of the contested functions were the water, health and irrigation sectors.

Water is one of the mandates divided between national and county governments; it remains a national resource, but water service delivery is now a county responsibility. As water crosses county boundaries, it is clear that national-level institutions are needed to navigate conflicts and regulate water service provision. However, counties are asking for more autonomy and there is a need to avoid duplication of efforts between the national and county institutions.

The research I shared at the conference shows that the water service mandate is interpreted differently by Kenya’s 47 counties. Counties do not equally acknowledge their responsibility for the human right to water, which entitles everyone to sufficient, safe, acceptable, physically accessible and affordable water. This suggests a need for county water policies to be streamlined so that regional disparities don’t grow and transformative development is sustained.

These findings come from the unique opportunity I had to survey all 47 county water ministries in Kenya at a summit organised by the Water Services Trust Fund to develop a prototype County Water Bill. I found that while counties are making major investments in new infrastructure for water services (where the majority spend more than 75% of their water budgets), maintenance provision and institutional coordination are often neglected. This raises a concern about the sustainability of water services and could slow down progress towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goal for water.

Overall, the conference provided an important platform for the key political actors to share progress made in Kenya’s devolution process, and also to flag new or existing challenges as county governments manifest their power. It is remarkable to see such a transformation in Kenya’s political system within the short timeframe of only three years. It seems the water sector will gain from these changes, but only the future will tell if these benefits are equitably shared.

Hidden Crisis team reveal themselves in Edinburgh

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reposted from: https://upgro-hidden-crisis.org/2016/12/07/2nd-project-workshop-meeting-edinburgh-21-24-nov-2016/

Overview and aims of the workshop

Since our last project workshop, held in Addis Ababa Ethiopia in September 2015, the first main survey phase of the project (to survey the functionality and performance of a sub-sample of water points and committees) has been completed within each of the three countries, alongside a rapid political economy analysis studies for Ethiopia and Malawi (Uganda to happen within the next few months).

The aim of the workshop was to bring the project team together to foster our growing working relationships, and to:

1. Review Survey 1 – key challenges and successes – and to review the initial analysis of the data and plan for more detailed final analysis
2. Planning of Survey 2  – location and site selection criteria, the research approach and aims, methods and logistics
3. Planning of the Longitudinal studies in the 3 countries for both physical and social science surveys
4. Interdisciplinary research – to review and discuss our approaches to interdisciplinary science in the Hidden Crisis project and lessons learned from other UPGro Projects
5. Discuss ongoing stakeholder engagement and a Publication Strategy – for both the country research teams, and for the project as a whole.

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Attendees and meeting programme

The workshop was held at the British Geological Survey (BGS) office in Edinburgh, UK, over four days – from 21st to 24th November 2016.  Representatives from all institutions and from each country involved in the research consortium attended the workshop – 23 people in total.

Day 1 was focused to reviewing the work of Survey 1 across the three countries and the initial data analysis; on Day 2 the key logistics and research aims of Survey 2 happening  in 2017 were discussed, as well as the political economy work completed so far; Day 3 explored interdisciplinary research in the project, and the key aims and logistics for the longitudinal studies; and, Day 4, was used to identify and review the key priorities and planning actions for the next few months across the project team for the next main research survey phases. Several short “Ted talks” were also given throughout the week.

Summary of discussions

Presentations were made by Dessie Nedaw (Ethiopia), Michael Owor (Uganda) and Evance Mwathunga (Malawi) of the successes and challenges in completing Survey 1 across the three countries.    The project database and QA process which has been developed to store all the data collected by the project (both physical science and social science) from Survey 1, and subsequent surveys.

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A preliminary analysis of Survey 1 data from Ethiopia was presented by Dessie Nedaw and Seifu Kebebe.  The analysis used the project approach of examining the impact of using different definitions of water point functionality.  These include: working at the time of visit, having an acceptable yield, passing national inorganic chemistry standards, and whether they contained total thermal tolerant coliforms.

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The initial results of the rapid political economy analysis (PEA) work from Malawi and Ethiopia were presented by Naomi Oates and Florence Pichon of ODI, respectively.

There were detailed discipline group discussions and wider project team discussions to identify the main methods, key criteria for site selection and the main challenges and logistics for planning Survey 2.  Discussion was given to logistical and ethical challenges of repair of water points visited, risk of damage of the water points, and management of community expectations and follow-up during the mobilisation phases.  Key timescales for planning were identified by the project team.

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A half day of the workshop was focused on a wider project team discussion of our approach to interdisciplinary science – and the key challenges and opportunities of doing this in the next phases of the project.  Kirsty Upton (of the UPGro programme co-ordination group) gave a presentation of an external MSc research paper, which has reviewed the different approaches to interdisciplinary science across the 5 UPGro consortium projects.  Lissie Liddle (PhD student Cambridge University) presented the systems dynamics analysis she will be conducting for the Hidden Crisis project, bringing together physical and social science data, as part of her PhD within a Bayesian network analysis; and, Richard Carter then led a facilitated project discussion on our different perceptions of physical and social science factors to HPB failure.

Field update from Kenya

by Prof. Dan Olago, University of Nairobi in Gro for Good newsletter 2 2016

Welcome to the second edition of our project newsletter. There has been a lot of activity in recent months including: the completion of the installation and commissioning of the climate and hydrological monitoring network; two groundwater sampling campaigns in March and June; geophysical surveys to define the aquifer geometry and structure using both electrical resistivity tomography (ERT) and vertical electric sounding (VES) approaches; an anthropological survey related to determinants of use/non-use of the shallow wells installed with smart hand-pumps; compilation of a list of data sets for the project; and stakeholder engagement, both within the county and with stakeholders such as the Kenya Meteorological Department (KMD) and Water Resources Management Authority (WRMA) at the national level. I will, however, here focus on the geophysical surveys.

The project team has been collaborating with WRMA personnel in carrying out the geophysical survey. The WRMA kindly made its ABEM SAS1000 Terrameter available to enable this exercise to proceed. The ERT surveys which were carried out in three phases in December 2015, January 2016 and May 2016 are now completed. The VES survey which started in mid July will be completed in early August. The main aim of the geophysical survey is to get a better handle on the aquifer geometry and structure, with a focus on where geological understanding is poor, and to delineate the shallow and deep groundwater systems. The outcomes of this activity will provide critical inputs to the hydrogeological flow model that is already under development. This model will be integrated into the groundwater risk management tool to promote improved groundwater governance balancing economic growth, groundwater sustainability and poverty reduction, and taking into account the competing demands for domestic, agricultural and industrial uses of the resource.

The fieldwork has not been without incident; some unknown person cut off and went away with about 70m of cable and this slowed down the working pace, and we had to take on more local personnel to guard the cable layout to avoid any further losses. Heavy rains at times also meant that work had to be delayed or stopped altogether on some days. Overall, these incidents notwithstanding, it has been a great team building experience. The daily interaction between the team members fostered valuable knowledge exchanges and lifelong skills enhancement in geophysical surveying.

From Tyneside to Abidjan: UPGro @ 7th RWSN Forum

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Pictured: Prof. Richard Carter on the UPGro stand at the 7th RWSN Forum

I had the pleasure of recently attending the 7th RWSN Forum, held from 29th November to 2nd December 2016 in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire.  The conference is only every five years so I am fortunate that it fell during the third year of my PhD giving me not only the opportunity to attend, but also the chance to contribute some of my own research completed thus far.

The conference delegates came from a mixture of backgrounds, from both local and global scale NGOs to government ministries, and from financiers like the World Bank to pump manufacturers.  It was a great opportunity to share experiences and create connections with people outside of the world of academia and consultancies, which dominated many other conferences that I have attended.

The 7th RWSN Forum was a chance for water infrastructure installers and financiers to learn more about the water resources which they are hoping to exploit.  The conference also allowed water resource researchers to find out what kind of information NGOs and ministries require in order to plan and manage interventions.

There were a number of oral and poster presentations and company stands at the RWSN Forum expounding solutions to WASH shortfalls and food insecurity, such as manual drilling technologies, solar and foot powered pumps, and smart technology to transmit water point equipment performance.  While all of these technologies undeniably have much to offer, without a reliable and renewable water resource their usefulness dwindles.  Therefore, the relevance of the UPGro projects in emphasising sustainable management of groundwater is clear.

An UPGro catalyst grant initiated the AMGRAF (Adaptive management of shallow groundwater for small-scale irrigation and poverty alleviation in sub-Saharan Africa) project in 2013.  The catalyst grant funded hydrogeological investigations, the setting up of a community‑based hydrometeorological monitoring programme, and gender separated focus groups in Dangila woreda, northwest Ethiopia.  My own research has developed from the AMGRAF project and concerns the potential for shallow groundwater resources to be used for irrigation by poor rural communities, lessening the reliance on increasingly inconsistent rains.  Research principally focuses on two field sites; Dangila in Ethiopia and in Limpopo province in South Africa.  The resilience of the shallow groundwater resources to climate variability and increasing abstraction is being assessed through modelling.  To construct the models, it is vital to have data on aquifer parameters as well as time series of rainfall, river flow and groundwater levels for model calibration.  The presentation I gave at the forum concerned the computation of these aquifer parameters from pumping tests of hand dug wells and the collection of the aforementioned time series via the community‑based monitoring program.

I enjoyed the week I spent in Côte d’Ivoire, a country that I may never have had the chance to visit without the RWSN Forum.  I believe the connections made with groundwater specialists from around sub-Saharan Africa will greatly benefit my PhD in terms of testing the transferability of the research with data from their countries.  Leaving Abidjan, I had the same feeling as everyone else I spoke to at the conference: “Please RWSN, why does this only happen every five years!”

David Walker, PhD Candidate, Newcastle University, UK – read his RWSN Forum Paper: “Properties of shallow thin regolith aquifers in sub-Saharan Africa: a case study from northwest Ethiopia [061]

UPGro at the RWSN Forum

Groundwater is critical to rural water supply – for many uses and in many parts of the world, not just in Africa. Therefore understanding of aquifers and how to use them sustainably is essential to tackling rural poverty.

So that is why we will be at the 7th RWSN Forum next week in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire, to present the work of UPGro and to network with delegates from all over Africa (and the world) on how interdisciplinary research in African groundwater can deliver tangible benefits.

Highlights to look out for:

We look forward to seeing you there!