News and Blog

Ethiopia Phase 2 – Survey Update

Phase 2 of the Hidden Crisis fieldwork is underway – right on schedule. The work has started in Ejere, a Woreda about 100 km north of Addis in Ethiopia. In this major survey of 50 poorly functioning rural waterpoints, we spend two days dismantling and testing each water point to work out what the main […]

via Ethiopia Phase 2 – Survey Update — UPGro: Hidden Crisis

Uganda lift off!

The physical sciences longitudinal studies have kicked off in Uganda this week. The aim of these longitudinal studies is to capture the time-based hydroclimatic and hydrogeological processes of the groundwater system at selected hand pumped boreholes (HPBs). These temporal datasets provide valuable information to understanding HPB functionality that could not be addressed from the two […]

via UpGro Hidden Crisis Physical Sciences Longitudinal Studies – Uganda Lift Off! — UPGro: Hidden Crisis

BRAVE presentation at the 9th Internationale Conference on Climate Change Impacts & Adaptation

re-blogged from BRAVE

Dr Galine Yanon presented a paper at the 9th Internationale Conference on Climate Change Impacts and Adaptation: communicating and collaborating for resilient solutions to climate change, at the Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge, UK April 21-22, 2017.  The conference had more than 70 participants from 26 countries.

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Dr Yanon presented the paper, Local governance of groundwater for Agriculture Livelihoods: Managing Climate change Impacts in West Africa. This paper explores how local capacity and user perceptions of vulnerability to water insecurity in the Sahel are shaped.  Research findings are supporting the BRAVE project and its partner communities in future groundwater planning for agriculture and livelihood resilience to climate change impacts.

This conference was a real opportunity to share the BRAVE project approach, methodology, and particularly the work that has been done in project communities in Ghana and Burkina Faso.  Research findings are from the scoping stage of the project.  Data collection was done in collaboration with the NGOs Partners, CARE Internationale, Ghana, Tamale office, Christian Aid Sahel in Burkina Faso, and Reseau Marp in Burkina Faso.  See Conference Presentation here.

Dr Yanon also recently participated at the International Scientific Conference on Climate Risk Management in Nairobi, April 5-9, 2017.  The conference was organized by the Kenya Red Cross in collaboration with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), with participants from government, civil society, research academia, the private sector,  and NGOs.

The message heard in this pre-scoping meeting was very clear: IPCC wants to move from a 1.0 to a 2.0 version, as this message is more relevant to, applicable to, and representative of people’s lives. This will require new voices and stakeholders to play a fundamental role in the AR6 cycle and beyond. The conclusion and recommendation of this meeting will be presented at the IPCC assessment meeting in Addis Ababa in May 2017.

Furthermore, the conference also allowed Dr Yanon to present the BRAVE project and its interdisciplinary approach as well as the Rainwatch Alliance.

Promising new groundwater pollution sensor – New UPGro paper published

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Field test set-up and data output from the MFC biosensor monitoring. A) The diagram shows an aerial view of the system configuration and distance between sensing system and data collection system. B) MFC1 and MFC2 were biosensors placed on the well; MFC3 and MFC4 were control biosensors placed in a vessel simulating the groundwater well. MFC3 and MFC4 were located in a room close to the well and the arrow indicates when they were intentionally contaminated. Monitoring of the sensors contained in the well lasted for 60 days obtaining the same trend as for the period shown.

Shallow groundwater wells, are the main source of drinking water in many rural and peri-urban communities.

The quantity and variety of shallow wells located in such communities make them more readily accessible than private or government operated deep boreholes, but shallow wells are more susceptible to faecal contamination, which is often due to leaching pit latrines.

For this reason, online monitoring of water quality in shallow wells, in terms of faecal pollution, could dramatically improve understanding of acute health risks in unplanned peri-urban settlements.

More broadly, inexpensive online faecal pollution risk monitoring is also highly relevant in the context of managed aquifer recharge via the infiltration of either stormwater or treated wastewater into the subsurface for aquifer storage and recovery.

 To tackle this challenge, IN-GROUND – an UPGro Catalyst Project – trialled four different types of Microbial Fuel Cell (MFC) water quality biosensor in the lab (Newcastle University, UK) and in the field (Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania).  

While further work is needed, the results provided proof-of-concept that these biosensors can provide continuous groundwater quality monitoring at low cost and without need for additional chemicals or external power input.

 Full details of the work can be founded in this open access paper: Velasquez-Orta SB, Werner D, Varia J, Mgana S. Microbial fuel cells for inexpensive continuous in-situ monitoring of groundwater quality. Water Research 2017, 117, 9-17. 

 For more details contact Dr Sharon Velasquez-Orta 

New: “Can ‘functionality’ save the community management model of rural water supply?

We are pleased to share a new UPGro paper from Luke Whaley and Prof. Frances Cleaver (Sheffield University) of the Hidden Crisis study – Can ‘functionality’ save the community management model of rural water supply?”

It is primarily a literature review paper so many elements will be familiar to rural water practitioners, however, Whaley and Cleaver are coming from a social science perspective so they highlight that previous analysis has focused on community management of water points as a “techno-managerial exercise” that largely ignores from broader social, political and cultural rules and relations around power – which groups and individuals have power over others and how is that used (or not used).

So what? The author’s suggest that current dialogue on water point functionality is not enough to save Community Based Management, because there is often a wider problem in with the under-resourcing of local government (and governance) and that more work is needed to help develop context-specific management, “rather than attempting to tweak the current blueprint of development the next ‘big thing’”

The full open access paper can be read and downloaded from Science Direct

Please take some time to read this and feel free to discuss – and argue! – about it in the RWSN Sustainable Services community

Fossil groundwater vulnerable to modern contamination

Study shows that over half of global groundwater is over 12,000 years old

Most of the groundwater in the world that is accessible by deep wells is fossil groundwater, stored beneath the earth’s surface for more than 12,000 years, and that ancient water is not immune to modern contamination, as has been widely assumed.

This study, led by Dr. Scott Jasechko (University of Calgary) and co-authored by an international team of researchers including Professor Richard Taylor (UCL Geography & UPGro GroFutures), is published online today (April 25) in Nature Geoscience.

Groundwater is the water stored beneath the earth’s surface in soil pore spaces and within the fractures of rock formations. It provides drinking and irrigation water for billions of people around the world.

Jasechko, Taylor and his co-researchers dated groundwater from over 6,000 wells around the globe. By measuring the amount of radioactive carbon in the water, the team was able to determine the age of the groundwater. They discovered that the majority of the earth’s groundwater is likely fossil groundwater, derived from rain and snow that fell more than 12,000 years ago. The team determined that this fossil groundwater accounts for between 42 to 85 per cent of total fresh, unfrozen water in the upper kilometre of the earth’s crust.

Until now, the scientific community has generally believed that fossil groundwater is safe from modern contamination but this study has proved otherwise.

“Deep wells mostly pump fossil groundwater but many still contain some recent rain and snow melt, which is vulnerable to modern contamination,” says Jasechko.

Rain and snow that fell after the 1950s contains tritium, a radioactive isotope that was spread around the globe as a result of thermonuclear bomb testing. Disturbingly, traces of tritium were found in deep well waters, which indicates that contemporary rain and snow melt can mix with deep fossil groundwater and, in turn, potentially contaminate this ancient water.

According to Taylor, this discovery has important ramifications that should influence the way humans use groundwater in the future,

“Our results reveal not only current use of fossil groundwater but also the potential risks to water quality associated with the use of deep wells. Indeed, we need to better understand how the construction and pumping of deep wells themselves may connect fossil groundwater to the present-day water cycle.”

Monitoring people’s welfare: where are the poor?

Gro for GooD collected data from over 3,000 households each year in 2014, 2015 and 2016 with the support of over 20 local staff trained by Oxford University. These data provide insights into who is poor, where people suffering poverty live and what is changing people’s welfare over time. The sampling strategy spans across Matuga, Msambweni and Lunga Lunga constituencies.

The latest round of the household survey took place in September to November 2016. The survey captures information on demographic and socio-economic, health, water sources, waterpoint management, water payments, water resources management as well as governance issues. In addition to the face-to-face interviews Gro-for-GooD has successfully piloted a mobile-based socio-economic survey instrument that can be used for rapid updating of the social component of the Groundwater Risk Management Tool.

Where are the poor? Welfare change 2014-2015

Kwale County Government is responding to the need to improve the lives of 7 out of 10 Kwale County residents who live below the poverty line of USD1.25 a day. To achieve this, the County needs to know who the poor are, where they are and the likely impacts of different poverty interventions. In an effort to answer some of these questions, data from the three household surveys were used to evaluate and map welfare between 2014 and 2015.

Households experiencing declining welfare in this period were observed to be in regions largely influenced by the tourism (Ukunda/Diani) and fishing (coastal strip) industries. However, some pockets within the coastal strip (Kinondo and Vingujini) were observed to have a positive change in welfare. Households that experienced a large positive change in welfare were observed to be around Lukore, Shimba hills, Mivumoni, Mbegani, Majimboni, Mangawani, Mzizima, Kinondo and Mwaluvanga, among others. The majority of households in Lunga Lunga experienced a decline in welfare.

A message from WRMA: our support for the Gro for GooD project

The Water Resource Management Authority (WRMA) is a State Corporation under the Ministry of Water and Irrigation. WRMA was established in the year 2003 pursuant to the enactment of Water Act number eight of 2002. WRMA is the lead agency in the regulation and management of water resources nationally.

One of WRMA’s core functions is to ensure that there is fair, transparent and participatory allocation and apportionment of water resources to all users, so that everyone who needs water can access it now and for generations to come. Communities are directly affected by the state of water resources. Livelihoods depend not only on water availability but also on the quality of available water, which may be affected by organic pollution from sewage, animal and human waste as well as inorganic pollution from transport, agriculture or industry. The quality of groundwater resources may also be affected by seawater intrusion.

Kwale’s groundwater resources have attracted several major abstractors in recent years. Recognising the importance of balancing competing demands for domestic, agricultural and industrial uses of groundwater, the Water Resources Management Authority (WRMA) has been collaborating closely with the Gro for GooD project since its inception. We have been involved directly in a number of activities, including provision of the ABEM SAS1000 Terrameter and participation in the geophysical survey and installation of water level recorders and other monitoring equipment. Data generated from these activities will provide critical inputs to the hydrogeological flow model for Kwale County that is under development by the project and will form the basis of the Groundwater Risk Management Tool. The tool, once developed, will prove most useful in decision-making by WRMA as we allocate the groundwater resources in Kwale County. WRMA is ISO 9001: 2008 Certified.

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WRMA staff Susan Mwangi and David Shokut undertake borehole monitoring at Tiwi BH 6

 

Improved data for better decisions to benefit all

Gro for GooD project has designed and installed an environmental monitoring network to complement existing data gathering by Base Titanium, KMD, WRMA and KISCOL. The environmental monitoring network collects data on the surface and groundwater quantity and quality, handpump abstraction and climate monitoring. There are 21 manual rain gauges, 4 Automatic Weather Stations, 3 automatic in-stream water level monitors (data loggers) and 5 groundwater level loggers. This network builds on the existing network of over 70 monitoring sites operated by Base Titanium Ltd., over 30 monitoring sites operated by KISCOL, and over 10 sites operated by KMD. Additional flow measurements using Current-Velocity Meter has also been undertaken by the project. The WRMA has been responsible for installation and operation of all the main river gauging stations on Ramisi and Mukurumudzi rivers and has been actively collecting data generated by different stakeholders. A message from the WRMA can be found on the facing page.

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Flow Measurement on Ramisi River at Eshu Bridge during short rains in November 2016 using Current Velocity Meter

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Gilbert of TAHMO undertaking regular maintenance of the AWS at Kidongo Gate in Shimba Hills

 

 

Scale of global water crisis could be unknown due to inadequate metrics, study suggests #worldwaterday

Re-posted from UCL

A new study by UCL researchers exposes substantial limitations in the ability of current metrics to define ‘water scarcity’.

 

21 March 2017

A new study by UCL suggests the scale of the global water crisis could not be properly known at due to inadequacies with the current metrics used to measure it.

With today being World Water Day, the research, led by the UCL Institute for Sustainable Resources and UCL Geography, exposes substantial limitations in the ability of current metrics to define ‘water scarcity’.

The report finds that the misrepresentation of freshwater resources and demand is particularly severe in low-income countries of the tropics where the consequences of water scarcity are projected to be most severe and where most of the global population now live. Simply put, the authors argue that we do not know the dimensions of the global water crisis.

Ensuring the availability of adequate quantities of freshwater to sustain the health and well-being of people and the ecosystems in which they live, remains one of the world’s most pressing challenges. This question is reflected in UN Sustainable Development Goal 6.4 which seeks to reduce the number of people suffering from water scarcity.

The authors call for a renewed debate about how best to measure ‘water scarcity’ and argue that it be redefined in terms of the freshwater storage required to address imbalances in freshwater supply and demand. Such an approach, they contend, would enable for the explicit consideration of groundwater, the world’s largest accessible store of freshwater which accounts for nearly 50% of all freshwater withdrawals globally.

Further the authors suggest that such a metric could be used pragmatically to explore a wide range of options for addressing freshwater storage requirements beyond dams alone that include use of renewable groundwater, soil water, and trading in virtual water.

Prof Richard Taylor, co-author of the paper says:

“How we understand water scarcity is strongly influenced by how we measure it. Grossly misrepresentative measures of water scarcity can identify scarcity where there is sufficient and sufficiency where there is scarcity. An improved measure of water scarcity would help to ensure that limited resources are better targeted to address where and when water-scarce conditions are identified.”

Click here to download the paper

Authors:

Simon Damkjaer, UCL Institute for Sustainable Resources
Prof Richard Taylor, UCL Department of Geography

UPGro GroFutures: http://grofutures.org/

Photo: Irrigated maize crop supplied by groundwater in Zambia – Richard Taylor