News and Blog

Get a GRIPP on groundwater: response to the UN-Water SDG 6 Synthesis Report

UN-Water is presently seeking feedback on their SDG 6 Synthesis Report, which will help inform the assessment by the High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF) of the progress of achieving the Sustainable Development Goal 6 (SDG 6) on Clean Water and Sanitation. The assessment of SDG 6 is part of a larger effort by the HLPF to assess a number of SDGs on a revolving basis. SDG 6, among four other SDGs, including on energy, cities, consumption and land, will be discussed at the HLPF summit in New York during 09-18 July 2018. It is critical that the SDG 6 Synthesis report properly reflects the progress achieved and outstanding challenges going forward. On the latter, groundwater comes in as crucial. There is no doubt that the majority of the global population depends on groundwater, either directly from drinking it and using it in households, but also indirectly through the food they eat, as almost half of the world’s food production today derives from groundwater, a figure that keeps increasing.

However, the immense societal value of groundwater is not captured commensurately in management efforts on water. And we see the consequences now. Depleted aquifers, salt and seawater appearing in our groundwater, and farmers being squeezed because they cannot afford to access groundwater anymore, with broader scale impacts on food and international security, from local to global levels – among other socio-economic, health and environmental consequences. Groundwater underpins invaluable ecosystems, which we only see when it surfaces as lakes, perennial rivers or springs. Groundwater is fundamental in achieving safe and adequate water supply to all, leaving no-body behind and providing water and services that support a significant number of other SDGs. Hence, getting groundwater management and monitoring done more comprehensively for the achievement of the SDGs is absolutely crucial.

Responding to this urgency, GRIPP submitted a commentary and plea to UN-Water to appreciate their increased attention to groundwater in their assessment of SDG 6 progress, while also highlighting the gaps that remain. One aspect is to increase the awareness of the intrinsic, but also direct economic value of groundwater. Another is to ensure that the resource is used efficiently and sustainably, and meeting basic needs of everybody. As part of this, more efforts are required to collect information on the resource status on a regular basis and feed this into the relevant SDG indicators, e.g. on water quality, water stress, integrated water resource management, transboundary cooperation, and water related ecosystems.

GRIPP, as a consortium of about 30 institutions with dedicated expertise on groundwater, stand prepared to help on these intricate, but critical challenges related to groundwater. The sooner this is done concertedly, the sooner, we can start turning the tide, and finding solutions, which will require partnerships, efforts and investments at all levels, from local users to governments to the HLPF. If we start now, we still stand a chance of succeeding, and of handing over a planet that keeps supporting life from below.

Young scientist seeks to understand link between access to groundwater and poverty

Interview by Isaiah Esipisu, PAMAC news agency http://www.pamacc.org

Jacob Katuva is a doctoral researcher at the University of Oxford’s School of Geography and Environment.  His research focuses on community groundwater access and poverty in Kenya. Katuva holds a M.Sc. in Environmental and Biosystems Engineering from the University of Nairobi and a B.Sc. in Water and Environmental Engineering from Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology.

Previously, the scientist spent over four years working as a consultant in engineering and development in the Eastern Africa region. He has vast experience in design-construction-operation and management of community rural water supply schemes, hydrological analyses, rainfall-runoff modelling and water balance models.

His experience in water resources management covers water resources assessments, developing and linking Management Information Systems (MIS) and Geographical Information Systems (GIS) and advanced geo-statistics to water resources planning and management as well as hydropower feasibility studies, evaluation and impact studies of WASH programs, rural water supply and pollution studies in the context of the mining, irrigation and the water sectors in rural Kenya.

Q. How did you get involved with the UPGro project?

I joined UPGro back in 2013 when I was consulting with Rural Focus Ltd during the implementation of the catalyst project led by Oxford University. I was heavily involved in the set-up of the environmental monitoring network and the socio-economic surveys. This provided a great deal of natural and social science data regarding groundwater level and quality, water usage, health and welfare indicators paving way for an interdisciplinary study. I ended up applying for the D.Phil. programme at Oxford University to research groundwater and poverty in sub-Saharan Africa with a particular focus on coastal Kenya. I was fortunate to obtain additional funding from Base Titanium, a mining company working in Kenya which is one of the partners in Oxford University’s UPGro consortium project Gro for GooD.

Q. Tell us about your studies at the Oxford University and how it relates to the UPGro project

My research at Oxford University explores the links between groundwater and poverty. Understanding groundwater and poverty linkages is critical to unlocking the potential of groundwater for poverty reduction. Central to accelerating and sustaining Africa’s development is improving the understanding of how improved access to groundwater resources can benefit the poor. This includes identifying the role of groundwater on productive uses such as livestock watering and crop irrigation, examining the relationship between poverty and changes in groundwater levels, and understanding how groundwater dependency and access to sufficient, affordable, reliable, safe, good quality water and physical access are linked to the socio-economic development of households. These dimensions are pertinent to policy and practice in poverty reduction.

Q. What are some of the early findings for your research?Nyumbasita Pump.jpg

There is evidence that the depth of boreholes and poverty are associated: We saw wealthier households being associated with deeper groundwater sources while poorer households were associated with shallower wells and boreholes. However, due to the cumulative nature of the volumetric data from the handpump water data transmitters (http://www.oxwater.uk/technology.html) we could not disassociate the handpump usage per household since the transmitter, similar to a water meter, recorded the volume abstracted for each handpump and not volume abstracted by each household.

Q. What kind of advice would you give to the County Government of Kwale about groundwater, given your experience so far?

The UPGro project has generated pertinent knowledge on water services delivery in Kwale County and has identified pathways to poverty reduction. Two of the preliminary findings in Kwale include the discovery of paleochannels in Msambweni, empirical evidence of the benefits of smart monitoring and privatized professional maintenance and repair services on rural water supply infrastructure.

This discovery of paleochannels by Professor Olago of the University of Nairobi and his team, can accelerate achieving universal and equitable access to safe drinking water services for the County population. County should invest time and resources in understanding this resource and how it can be exploited to meet the ever-growing water needs for the county.

The County government should embrace the professional maintenance and repair services on rural water supply infrastructure to ensure rural communities, health centres and school children enjoy equitable access to safe drinking water.

This model of maintaining rural water services has been developed and tested in Kwale and Kitui County with positive results. The model is called the FundiFix model and more details can be found here: https://reachwater.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/Fundifix-booklet-WEB.pdf. To accelerate poverty reduction, the County government should ensure borehole drilling and equipping standards are adhered to, communities water infrastructure receive preventive maintenance and professionalized repair services to keep water flowing.

Q. What is your message to upcoming scientists who are interested in your area of specialization?

I would urge upcoming scientists in Kenya to progressively broaden their research to incorporate both the social and natural sciences. Integrating the two, thereby widening our understanding of the socio-ecological systems, will lead to the development of much more effective policies informed by the needs of the people.

Q. What are your future plans beyond the UPGro project?

Part of my future plans includes seeing the completion, implementation and operationalization of the findings of the UPGro project here in Kwale so that our groundwater resources can benefit everyone here, in particular the poor. In addition I will be excited to contribute to framing the poverty reduction policies and strategies for the County building on the evidence emerging from the longitudinal socio-economic studies over the last four years.Carrying water

Interview by Isaiah Esipisu; Images by Nancy Gladstone/Gro for GooD project

New paper: No evidence found of large scale groundwater depletion in major African aquifers

A new paper has been published by the GroFutures team as part of a Special Issue “Remote Sensing of Groundwater from River Basin to Global Scales”

Key Points : –

  • GRACE (Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment) satellite can be used to estimate changes in water storage on time resolution of 1 month and a spatial resolution of about 450 x 450 km.
  • GRACE can be used to estimate groundwater storage changes where it is the dominant water mass. It is therefore useful in many areas of Sub-Saharan Africa where there are relatively few direct groundwater level measurements.
  • The paper focuses on the major sedimentary aquifers basins, where the majority of Africa’s groundwater resources are to be found. Away from these basins, groundwater storage is 1-2 orders of magnitude less.
  • There is no evidence of continuous long-term declining trends of Total Water Storage (mostly groundwater) in any of the major sedimentary aquifers, which indicates that none are stressed by current abstraction rateshowever it is important to stress that local scale depletion may be occurring but is beyond the resolution of GRACE to detect.

There are also some interesting findings in regard to the combination of GRACE and Land Surface Modelling and how well (or not) they represent groundwater recharge processes in the different basins.

Read the full paper here:

Bonsor, H.C.; Shamsudduha, M.; Marchant, B.P.; MacDonald, A.M.; Taylor, R.G. Seasonal and Decadal Groundwater Changes in African Sedimentary Aquifers Estimated Using GRACE Products and LSMs. Remote Sens. 201810, 904. http://www.mdpi.com/2072-4292/10/6/904

photo: Well for cattle, Songho, Mali, Credit: Emeline Hassenforder. Well for cattle and domestic use. , Songho, Mali.

 

New Research Digests – get up to speed…fast

If missed recent papers published from the UPGro Gro for GooD study, then you can get up to speed with the key points in these new briefs from Oxford University:

Risk factors associated with rural water supply failure: A 30-year retrospective study of handpumps on the south coast of Kenya
A critical mass analysis of community-based financing of water services in rural Kenya
Evaluating waterpoint sustainability and access implications of revenue collection approaches in rural Kenya

and from related non-UPGro research:

A multi-decadal and social-ecological systems analysis of community waterpoint payment behaviours in rural Kenya

Great potential for groundwater irrigation in Sub-Saharan Africa: Policy Brief by IWRA

re-posted from GRIPP

A new policy brief titled  Sustainable Groundwater Development for Improved Livelihoods in Sub-Saharan Africa was published by the International Water Resources Association (IWRA). Based on work carried out by IWMI and partners through the support of the Rockefeller Foundation and WLE, the brief describes the potential and constraints of groundwater irrigation Sub-Saharan Africa.

At least 400 million people in Sub-Saharan Africa source their domestic water supply from groundwater. Yet, this often abundant resource only accounts for around 20% of total irrigation. More widespread irrigation could help reduce rural poverty, improve food security, and counter droughts. The policy brief outlines why this water is untapped, and expands on three key policy messages:

  • There is great potential for groundwater irrigation in much of Sub-Saharan Africa
  • Smallholder farmers are eager to tap reliable new irrigation sources
  • The most critical constraints lie in developing supply chains, finance, and other essential infrastructure.

IWRA also identifies key Issues that need to be addressed:

  • Decentralized supply and maintenance of pumps
  • Smallholder access to reasonable financing options
  • Smallholder access to reliable and low-cost energy sources, particularly solar energy

The brief is based on research by International Water Management Institute (IWMI) and CGIAR Research Program on Water, Land and Ecosystems (WLE) and other partners. Download here.

Responding to UN-Water SDG6 synthesis on water and sanitation – value of groundwater needs stronger representation

by Sean Furey, RWSN Secretariat/UPGro Knowledge Broker Team, re-posted from RWSN

UN Water, the body that coordinates water issues across the United Nations, is currently running a consultation in its draft report: “SDG 6 Synthesis Report 2018 on Water and Sanitation”. You can read the report and add give your feedback. Below are some comments that I have posted in the dialogue section:

Continue reading Responding to UN-Water SDG6 synthesis on water and sanitation – value of groundwater needs stronger representation

Safe water in towns and peri-urban areas: challenges of self-supply and water quality monitoring

Millions of people in towns and cities across Sub-Saharan Africa depend on groundwater day-to-day – but is it safe to drink? How can we measure the safety quickly, cheaply and accurately?  In this RWSN-UPGro webinar, Dr Jenny Grönwall (SIWI/T-GroUP) and Dr Dan Lapworth (BGS) present the latest updates on their research into urban groundwater monitoring and use, and how it can be improved.

Water monitoring upgraded in Upper Great Ruaha, Tanzania

re-posted from GroFutures

The GroFutures Team, working with the Tanzanian Ministry of Water and Irrigation, expanded monitoring infrastructure in the Upper Great Ruaha Observatory (UGRO) to include interactions between groundwater and surface water.

An outstanding question regarding the sustainability of groundwater withdrawals for irrigation and drinking-water supplies is whether groundwater in the agriculturally intensive lowlands is replenished by river flow, sustains river flow, or both depending upon the season.

Continue reading Water monitoring upgraded in Upper Great Ruaha, Tanzania

Debating real-world community-based management of water points

Community-management has been the mainstay of rural water supplies in Africa, and in many other parts of the world, but is it the only way? Are there better alternatives? In this lively webinar, researchers from the UPGro Hidden Crisis project discuss their research with RWSN members:

Do you have anything to add? Leave your comments below.

Participants of the Arena in Arusha, Tanzania, identified a multitude of interconnected problems

by Jan Willem Foppen, re-posted from T-GroUP

Arusha is one of the faster-growing cities in Tanzania. The urbanization process is causing multiple interconnected problems. The first arena meeting organized as part of the T-Group Arusha Transition Management process was held by the local transition team with the aim to identify the existing community problems in Arusha. Below we briefly describe the findings from the first Arena meeting.

Continue reading Participants of the Arena in Arusha, Tanzania, identified a multitude of interconnected problems