News and Blog

Groundwater Science meets Policy at AfWA Congress

Day 2 of the AfWA Congress in Kampala, and the UPGro-convened stream of groundwater sessions got underway. First up was  session focusing on the AMCOW Pan-African Groundwater Program (APAGroP), with an opening by AMCOW Executive Secretary, Dr Canisius Kanangire, followed by a panel, featuring Tim Sumner from DFID

This was followed by two further sessions with lively presentations and Q&A on UPGro research from GroFutures and T-GroUP. Tomorrow, further sessions will include presentations from UPGro researchers and other close groundwater partners, including BGR.  These few days have been a culmination of many years work to bring UPGro researchers close to others working on African groundwater and to policy makers at the continental and national levels.

Afterwards, Isaiah Esipisu caught up with Dr Paul Orengoh who explained the aims and progress of APAGRoP:

(Photos; Isaiah Esipisu/Kirsty Upton)

Groundwater could be the solution to contaminated Kampala slum water crisis

by Isaiah Esipisu

After a recent study discovered traces of dangerous viruses including cancer causing pathogens in shallow groundwater in Kampala slums, residents of Makerere 2 Zone C can finally breathe a sigh of relief as further studies indicate that deeper groundwater in their area could be safe for drinking.

In collaboration with a community based organisation known as MAK H2O Project, scientists from IHE Delft Institute for Water Education together with their counterparts from Makerere University have been working with communities to find out the best way of managing their groundwater in a sustainable manner.

“As a short term measure, we have been encouraging community members to boil the water from slum springs before drinking,” said Brian Lutaaya, the Chair – MAK H2O Project.

Most of the water springs in Makerere 2 Zone C are just a few meters from pit latrines, a clear indication that the water, which appears to be sparkling clear, is likely contaminated with fecal matter. The water is fetched from an open earth surface. This makes it susceptible to all manners of waste contamination brought around by wind, rainfall runoff water and even malicious individuals.

“We are fully aware of the dangers involved, but we have no alternative source of water for drinking and for domestic use,” Edith Kansiime, one of the area residents said during a field visit by UPGro delegation to the 2020 Africa Water Association (AfWA) International Congress.

Taps in most parts of the slum went dry some years ago. The only available alternative is to buy mineral water from the shops, which is too costly for most of the slum dwellers.

As a result, the surface water has exposed them to several disease causing pathogens, some which are life threatening.

A recent study by IHE Delft Institute for Water Education in collaboration with scientists from universities in Uganda and Tanzania discovered traces of 25 different harmful viruses in surface water in the slums of Kampala and Arusha.

The study, whose findings were presented at the Assembly of the European Geosciences Union (EGU) in Vienna, Austria, found that most groundwater in the two slums contained traces of herpes viruses, poxviruses, and papilloma-virus. The latter could be one of the causes of different types of cancers in the region.

Cancer is one of the lead killer diseases in the East African region, claiming about 100,000 lives every year.

According to Lutaaya, the condition of spring water in Bwaise in Kampala, where the study was conducted is not different from the situation in lower Makerere slums.

“To our knowledge, these viruses have never been found in groundwater before on such a large scale, perhaps because there has never been an in-depth analysis,” said Dr Jan Willem Foppen, one of the researchers.

To support the communities, the scientists have been conducting experiments to understand the nature and safety of groundwater in these slums.

In lower Makerere slum for example, the research scientists through the UKaid funded UPGro programme, in a project known as T-GroUP, the scientists have sunk two boreholes, one with a shallow depth of just three metres, and another with a depth of 25 metres.

The researchers have been monitoring the water quality in both boreholes for a number of months, and the early indication is that the deeper borehole has much safer water compared to the three metre shallow borehole.

“We have not concluded this study, but there is an indication that deeper groundwater is likely going to be the solution for thousands of residents in this slum,” said Dr Foppen.

Through the T-GroUP, the scientists have been experimenting with practical transition groundwater management strategies for the urban poor in Sub Saharan Africa. They employ the Transition Management theory to find radically new and collaborative ways of using and managing urban groundwater.

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 IWMI, GRAN (Groundwater for Resilience in Africa Network), UPGro (Unlocking the Potential of Groundwater for the Poor), GRIPP, BGR and support from 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/