News and Blog

Live Now: #AfWAGroundwater2020

photo: Dr Kerstin Danert facilitating this morning’s opening session of the UPGro Study Tour, Kampala, from @amcowafrica
We are really excited that today, in Kampala, is the kick-off a week of activities to promote, show and discuss the opportunities and challenges of using groundwater for rural and urban water supply, and for environmental and economic sustainability. This is part of the African Minister’s Council on Water (AMCOW) new Pan-African Groundwater Program, which was launched in Nairobi in October last year, in partnership with UPGro (Unlocking the Potential of Groundwater for the Poor), GRIPP, BGR and the Africa Groundwater Network and the Sustainable Groundwater Development Theme of RWSN.

The aim of these coordinated activities is to build a strong and lasting connection between researchers, policy-makers and implementers, not just in Uganda, but across Africa. If you are any of those, then we hope to create opportunities for you to get involved over the coming months and years.

For live updates follow the #AfWAGroundwater2020 on Twitter and follow

What’s happening and where:

Thursday 20 Feb: UPGro Study Tour – Day 1 (closed event)

  • Learning with UPGro – delegates meet and brief
  • Group A: Learning from the adaptation of Transition Management approach in Bwaise Community, Kampala
  • Group B Learning from the adaptation of Transition Management approach in Bwaise community, Makerere Community, Kampala

Friday 21 Feb: UPGro Study Tour – Day 2 (closed event)

  • Group C: Rural Water Supply Functionality: beyond the numbers, Luwero District
  • Group D: Unlocking the Potential of Groundwater through Resource Assessment, Management and Regulation, Ministry of Water and Environment Headquarters, Luzira, Kampala
  • Closing event – sharing of experiences, debriefing and take-away messages

Saturday 22 Feb: AMCOW APAGroP Working Group Meeting (closed event)

AIM:  Building on the progress made at the launch of APAGroP in Nairobi in October 2019, the aim of this one-day meeting is for APAGroP to be taken forward and the APAGroP Working Groups to be operationalised, with a programme of activities for the next 12 months.

OBJECTIVES

  1. Consolidate and build on the momentum set in Nairobi
  2. Strengthen groundwater networks
  3. Key short-term priorities and deliverables for APAGroP set out and agreed
  4. “Action Groups” under each Working Group established
  5. Draft Action Plans for each Action Group developed, with a designated Champion to lead the group, and ways of collaborating over the next 12 months set out
  6. Milestones for 8th Africa Water Week and the 9th World Water Forum 2021 and other key events identified and agreed

Sunday 23rd Feb: AMCOW Groundwater Policy Dialogue (closed meeting)

AIM:  The African Ministers’ Council on Water (AMCOW) launched its Pan-African Groundwater Program (APAGroP) with a major meeting in Nairobi October 2019. The programme, with its crucial target being that groundwater is better represented in the continent’s major strategic programs around water, intends to improve the policy and practice of groundwater in Africa for better lives and livelihoods. The initiative is intended to contribute to the achievement of the continent’s commitment to the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goal 6 – Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all.

The purpose of the Groundwater Policy Dialogue is to:

  1. Inform AMCOW TAC Members of background and forward-looking dimensions of the APAGroP, including a roadmap through AWW8 in Windhoek, November 2020, to the WWF9 in Dakar, March 2021;
  2. Share experiences and messages between AMCOW TAC and groundwater networks;
  3. Bridge the gap between science, policy and practice; and
  4. Build a cadre of groundwater ambassadors at the political representation level among AMCOW Member States.

Monday – Thursday: African Water Association (AfWA) Congress, Kampala (open to delegates)

  • High-level Ministerial Dialogue
  • Keynote: Dr Kerstin Danert
  • Groundwater exhibition stand, convened by UPGro (I will be there, to answer questions)
  • Groundwater sessions through the week:
Topic/Title Convenors Chair
1.     Groundwater Governance: The AMCOW Pan-African Groundwater Program as a Catalyst for Intra- and Cross-country Groundwater ‘Resource-to-Tap’ Management AMCOW/GRAN/BGS/IWMI

(Dr Karen Villholth)

Dr Kerstin Danert

Programme Coordination Group Chair – UPGro

Skat Foundation, Switzerland

2.     Where does your water come from? 5 ways to increase water security and inclusive access in cities, towns and villages UPGro

(Prof. Richard Taylor)

 

Dr. Simeon Dulo

University of Nairobi, Kenya

 

3.     Insights in the adaptation of transition management in order to increase sustainable urban groundwater management UPGro
(Prof. Jan Willem Foppen – T-GroUP/ IHE Delft)
Dr Robinah Kulabako

Makerere University, Uganda

4.     Off Grid: the opportunities and challenges of safe and sustainable water points UPGro

(Prof. Alan MacDonald)

Co chairs

Alan MacDonald, British Geological Survey, UK  & Chikondi Shaba, Chancellor’s College Malawi

5.     Manage, recharge, protect – Groundwater for resilient urban water supply BGR/IWA GM SG

(Michael Eicholz)

Ramon Brentführer

Federal Institute for Geosciences and Natural Resources (BGR), Germany

6.     Drilling dialogues: a conversation about professionalism, groundwater mapping and off-grid cities Cardiff University, Skat Foundation, Uganda Drilling Contractors Association, Ministry of Water and Environment

(Adrian Healy)

Dr Adrian Healy

UKRI Future Leader Fellow

Cardiff University, UK

7.     Unlocking Groundwater: from data to knowledge. What’s needed to manage groundwater for society, economy and environment AMCOW/GRAN/BGS/IWMI

(Kirsty Upton)

 

Paul Orengoh,

Director of Programmes

African Ministers Council on Water (AMCOW), Nigeria

 

 

 

Africa Groundwater Atlas for Nigeria wins prestigious national award

The Nigerian Mining & Geosciences Society (NMGS) and Nigeria Geological Survey Agency (NGSA) have awarded Prof. Moshood Tijani, Dr Kirsty Upton, Brighid O‘Dochartaigh and Imogen Bellwood-Howard their 2020 Okezie Prize for ‘Africa Groundwater Atlas: Hydrogeology of Nigeria’. .

The NMGS/NGSA/OKEZIE PRIZE, endowed by the Nigeria Geological Survey Agency (NGSA), is in honour of the first Nigerian Director of the NGSA. The Prize instituted for a published or unpublished original work in the Earth Sciences, which is adjudged to be a landmark contribution to the development of the profession of mining and geosciences in Nigeria. The Prize is open to all Geoscientists/Mining Engineers.

The prize is worth N100,000.00 (£200) and a plaque, and will be given at the 56th Annual International Conference of NMGS in Ibadan, Nigeria from 22nd to 27th March, 2020.

From a dream of becoming a Medical Doctor to a Civil Engineer – the Career Journey of Jennifer Isoke

Interview by Isaiah Esipisu

Jennifer Brenda Isoke is a Ugandan female Civil Engineer with a purpose. Besides being a public servant, Isoke has spent invaluable amount of time in different universities since 2003, preparing and delivering lecture presentations to students pursuing Construction Technology, Concrete Technology and Mechanical Plant.

She has lectured at the Uganda Technical College Kichwamba, at the Department of Water Engineering, and at Ndejje University College. To date, she is a part time lecturer at the Uganda Christian University Mukono, and she also works at the Uganda Technical College Elgon as a senior lecturer.

J-Isoke
Jennifer Brenda Isoke (photo courtesy of: J B Isoke)

Besides her dedication to imparting of knowledge to upcoming civil engineers, she is a public servant working at the Uganda Business and Technical Examinations Board, which is a government Agency under the Ministry of Education Responsible for the national assessment of tertiary institutions in Uganda.

Given her vast knowledge and experience, Isoke has been part of the UPGro team of researchers under the T-Group. As a result, she has made a number of presentations in major conferences not limited to a presentation at the plenary session at the 2019 UMI conference, which was done in the presence of former South Africa’s president Thabo Mbeki.

UPGro Knowledge Broker team caught up with her, to find out what drives her enthusiasm.

[main photo: Jennifer Isoke sharing a copy of the UPGro research with residents of Bwaise, Kampala; Photo courtesy of J B Isoke]

Continue reading From a dream of becoming a Medical Doctor to a Civil Engineer – the Career Journey of Jennifer Isoke

Dodowa residents prone to diseases from contaminated wells – Research

by Gifty Amofa/Christabella Arkvi, Ghana News Agency 

More than 12,000 people are likely to contract water-borne diseases if they continue to use water from their contaminated dug wells in Dodowa, in the Greater Accra Region, according to a research report.

Samples of water were tested for rotavirus, bacteriological quality and others, with about 27 percent of the dug wells testing positive for Rotavirus in the Zongo, Wedokum, Obom and Apperkon communities, where the research was conducted.

Professor Sampson Oduro-Kwarteng, an Associate Professor of the Department of Civil Engineering, of the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), who shared the findings, said the groundwater, located near toilet facilities and refuse dumps had been contaminated with human and animal excreta.

Continue reading Dodowa residents prone to diseases from contaminated wells – Research

Dr Robinah Kulabako: A new vision for empowered communities and safe water in Kampala

Dr Robinah Kulabako of Makerere University describes the research work of T-GroUP – one of five projects in the UPGro (Unlocking the Potential of Groundwater for the Poor) and her work on Transition Management to trigger community action to improve access to safe water.

Listen to the interview with her by Isaiah Esipisu on Soundcloud

Find out more here: t-group.science
and here: UPGro/T-GroUP

Photo: Dr. Kulabako at Africa Water Week 2018 (I. Esipisu)

Groundwater – a hidden resource that has always evaded UN climate talks

By Isaiah Esipisu

A new study that was recently published in the Nature scientific journal shows that groundwater is one of the most climate resilient natural resources especially for the African continent. This is contrary to the earlier understanding by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)’s Fifth Assessment Report , that groundwater was susceptible to climate change in dryland areas.

Though it has not been a subject for major discussions at the 2019 UN Conference of Parties (COP25) on climate change in Madrid, experts believe that groundwater will be at the centre of climate adaptation particularly for African countries.

Richard Taylor, a Professor of Hydrogeology from University College London (UCL) and one of the lead researchers of the Nature study explained why groundwater should be a focal point for climate discussions.

IE: How important is groundwater to climate change adaptation especially in Africa?

RT: Groundwater plays a fundamental role in enabling communities in Africa to adapt to climate change. As our world warms, rainfall becomes less frequent but more intensive resulting in longer droughts and worsening floods – changes that occur most strongly in the tropics.

Adapting to this greater variability in water resources relies on the ability to draw water from stores such as groundwater or to store water in dams for example.

Groundwater, which comprises 99 percent of the Earth’s liquid water, amounts to more than 100 times that of annual river discharge in Africa.

For cities in Africa that have recently experienced severe droughts such as Cape Town and Dar es Salaam, groundwater has played a critical role in enabling residents in those cities to adapt to water scarcity.

Less frequent rainfalls also reduce crop yields. Increasing cropland irrigation is a critical strategy to improve food security in Africa under climate change. As smallholder farmers account for the vast majority of food production in Sub-Saharan Africa, distributed groundwater supplies are often the most cost-effective and sustainable sources of water for irrigation.

IE: How resilient or vulnerable is groundwater to climate change?

RT: Groundwater resources are generally resilient to climate change. Recent evidence from a pan-African study shows that replenishment of groundwater occurs preferentially from heavy rainfalls so that changes in rainfall brought about by climate change favour groundwater replenishment. Alas, these same changes in rainfall reduce soil moisture and lead to greater and more frequent flood events.

IE: Why do you think this subject has not been able to attract the attention of climate change negotiators for the past 25 years of negotiation?

That is a good question. Groundwater is often called the hidden or invisible resource as it lies unseen beneath our feet. Limited understanding of groundwater by both policy makers and engineers means that it is often considered mysterious or unknowable.

The impact of climate change on groundwater resources has been largely ignored by the climate change community until last year when it was captured in the IPCC Fifth Assessment Report.

This is surprising in light of the critical role groundwater plays in sustaining rivers, lakes and other aquatic ecosystems during low or absent rainfall.

IE: What do you think should be done to bring the groundwater subject to the helm of climate negotiations?

RT: There is need for raising awareness of the critical role of groundwater to improving the resilience of water and food systems in Africa in relation to climate change.

It is in that regard that scientists from different parts of the world are issuing a Call to Action this week, through a statement published in the Nature journal, which argue that we are not doing enough to protect and manage global groundwater resources, which will have long-term effects on the planet’s drinking water, food production, and adaptation to a rapidly changing climate.

This statement focuses on the global role of groundwater in relation to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, the Framework for Action on Groundwater Governance, and the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction.

It builds on previous important declarations and statements, including the Valencia declaration on Intensive Groundwater Use (2002), the Kampala statement on Groundwater and Climate in Africa (2008), ISMAR9 call to Action on Sustainable Groundwater Management Policy Directives (2016).

This call has so far been endorsed by over 700 scientists and practitioners in over 80 countries and is timed to coincide with the United Nations (UN) Climate Change Conference in Madrid (COP 25) and the beginning of the Decade of Action on the UN Agenda 2030.

IE: What kind of policies should African governments put in place in order to ensure sustainable use of groundwater?

RT: African governments could do two things. One, they could increase investment in understanding their groundwater resources through the training of staff and the monitoring and evaluation of their groundwater resources.

Two, they could integrate groundwater into its evaluation and governance of water resources more holistically that is currently dominated by concern for surface waters.

In light of the central importance of groundwater to adaptation to climate change, African governments could use support under the Green Climate Fund to finance the implications of these policy recommendations.

Photo: Richard Taylor, UCL

The climate is changing – we need groundwater more than ever

UPGro Ambassador, Dr Callist Tindimugaya, attended last month’s COP meeting in Madrid – the United Nations global negotiation meeting to try an agree ways forward to tackle climate change.

He was attending as part of the Government of Uganda delegation to bring forward opportunities and challenges – in particular the key role of groundwater as a resource that can help buffer against some of the effects of shifting rainfall patterns across Eastern Africa.

In this interview with Isaiah Esipisu, he explains why African groundwater needs to be on the lips of the climate negotiators.

Policy priorities for the boom in urban private wells – IWA The Source

Rapid urban population growth has led to a boom in private well construction to access groundwater supplies. Evidence from four Indian cities highlights the need for coherent public policy to harmonise private and public investment in urban water supply. By Mohammad Faiz Alam and Stephen Foster.

Read on: https://www.thesourcemagazine.org/policy-priorities-for-the-boom-in-urban-private-wells/

Trickle-down effect: why groundwater recharge processes matter for climate resilience

by Sean Furey (Skat/UPGro Knowledge Broker) in GeoDrilling International

Drilling for water is only useful if there is good water to be had now and into the future. Since 2013, researchers in the UK-funded programme Unlocking the Potential of Groundwater for the Poor, have been working all over Africa to understand better the continent’s aquifers and how their hidden wealth can be used to benefit everyone. Now after years of patient work, exciting results and resources are emerging.

One is that the Africa Groundwater Atlas, curated by the British Geological Survey now has downloadable GIS maps for 38 countries. They are quite large scale, so not detailed enough for individual borehole siting, but a good starting point for identifying where major aquifers are. This supports the wealth of other useful information, in English and French, on the soils, climate and groundwater use in all 52 of Africa’s countries.

Continue reading Trickle-down effect: why groundwater recharge processes matter for climate resilience

Groundwater supplies on Kenya’s coast must be managed for people and industry

Photo – Diani Beach, Kenya. Dan Rata/Shutterstock, via The Conversation

Nuria Ferrer Ramos, Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya – BarcelonaTech

Industry is growing along Kenya’s coast, and some of these companies – such as mining and agricultural companies – are water intensive. To meet their demand, most industries are turning to groundwater.

Groundwater is a natural resource that exists beneath the earth’s surface in soil pore spaces and in the fractures of rock formations. It can be stored in, or move through, aquifers: a body of permeable rock – like gravel or sand.

Groundwater has many intrinsic advantages: it can be developed quickly (and at a relatively low cost), it’s easy to find, it’s drought resilient and can meet water needs on demand. This has made it a crucial component in rural water supply, and for industry.

The problem is, even though Kenya has policies, laws, and institutions that are specifically dedicated to managing groundwater, in practice, groundwater is treated as a common pool resource, belonging to whoever owns the land overlying the aquifer. The majority of water users ignore the potential long-term consequences of unregulated use.

This is what’s happening in Kwale county, on the southern coast of Kenya. Over half a billion US dollars in capital investment has been made in two water-reliant industries in Kwale: heavy sands mining and commercial sugarcane. In addition to this Kwale also hosts significant tourism.

Because aquifers in Kenya are not always properly managed, my colleagues and I wanted to know how increased abstraction of groundwater by industries could affect local communities that use groundwater as their main water supply.

We found that, at the moment, the new industries are not affecting the water supply for local communities. What is affecting the community wells are long drought periods, such as the last drought which lasted from 2016 to early 2017. The consequences of dry wells are that people have to walk further to get water, and water becomes more expensive to buy.

For industry, understanding investor risk and liability for groundwater sustainability would seem prudent, if not a legal obligation, before major abstraction starts.

Our research shows that groundwater resources can be significant and resilient to unpredictable but recurrent drought events, if understood and managed properly.

Sustainable use?

We focused our study on the Msambweni aquifer, located on the coast of Kwale county in Kenya. This aquifer system is composed of a shallow aquifer (about 25 metres thick) and a deep aquifer below this shallow aquifer (about 350 metres thick).

The shallow aquifer is recharged by rain through the ground surface and the deep aquifer is recharged by water that flows underground from the Shimba Hills.

The shallow aquifer is mainly exploited by the local rural communities and the hotels located near the coastline. The deep aquifer is exploited by the mining and sugar operations.

The communities rely heavily on shallow groundwater, which they get from wells or by using a handpump in a borehole, because they don’t have piped water, and water from the two main rivers in the area is not considered safe to drink. Also, in the 1980s, the Swedish International Development Agency installed hundreds of handpumps at boreholes in Kwale county.

Industries now also rely on groundwater. But they use new boreholes, equipped with electrical pumps, that reach the deep aquifer. These have higher abstraction rates than traditional dug wells or shallow boreholes equipped with handpumps.

When investigating whether these users are using the groundwater sustainably, it’s important to point out that sustainability is variable through time. Not all water users exploit the same aquifer layers.

At present, the main industries in the area exploit the deep aquifer because it’s more resilient to drought. So the industries aren’t affecting the shallow community wells.

However, this could change. If droughts become more frequent, or last longer, there will be less groundwater stored.

Data challenges

It’s important to highlight the data challenges we faced, and how we reached our findings.

We tried to define the groundwater abstraction of all the main users, but couldn’t. As in many other countries, abstraction data for wells and boreholes is difficult to get.

So we needed to come up with a new methodology to estimate how much abstraction was happening in areas with uncertain or no data.

Collaboration between stakeholders during this study was essential.

Most of the time, water-reliant users such as the industries collect specific hydrogeological information, like aquifer storage or how much they pump, because they’re trying to use the water efficiently.

We also identified hotels, noted the number of their rooms and interviewed hotel managers to estimate tourism abstraction along the coast using easy tools like Google Earth and TripAdvisor.

Alongside this, it was important to develop a monitoring network, covering the whole aquifer area. We used well measurements to get an idea of the aquifer system, its volume and dynamics, and assess the sustainability of abstraction.

Future approaches

While this data pointed to a scenario where industry was having a minimal impact, things could change.

Enterprises and government may find environmental sustainability of secondary importance to advancing economic production, creating local jobs and new sources of taxation. Government leadership is needed to manage the aquifer as a system for all, including environmental services, rather than for the powerful few.

Albert Folch, Mike Lane, Daniel Olago, Jacob Katuva, Patrick Thomson, Sonia Jou, Rob Hope and Emilio Custodio were key contributors to this studyThe Conversation

Nuria Ferrer Ramos, Hydrogeologist, Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya – BarcelonaTech

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

This study was funded from the UK Government via NERC, ESRC and DFID as part of the Gro for GooD project (UPGro Consortium Grant: NE/M008894/1). Nuria Ferrer is affiliated with the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering (DECA), Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya (UPC), Jordi Girona 1-3, 08034 Barcelona, Spain. Associated Unit: Hydrogeology Group (UPC-CSIC), Spain.