Water is short in many places but roads are everywhere – and when it rains it is often along these roads that most water runs, as roads unknowingly either serve as dike or a drain. By harvesting the water with these roads, water shortage can be overcome and impacts of climate change can be mitigated.
This was the idea behind the UPGro Catalyst Grant research, project undertaken in 2013-2014 in Tigray Regional State in Ethiopia. The research looked at ways and means of collecting water with the roads – from culverts, drains, borrow pits, road surface, river crossings, as these have massive impact on how rain run-off moves across a landscape.
The idea then scaled up quickly – in 2014 the Tigray Government implemented road water harvesting activities in all its districts.
The results have been spectacular in increased water tables, better soil moisture, reduced erosion from roads, less local flooding and moreover much better crop yields.
It is for this project that MetaMeta of the Netherlands, together with its partners Mekelle University and Tigray Government have been awarded this week the prestigious Global Road Achievement Award for Environmental Mitigation by the International Roads Federation. Among the other award winners are the people who are constructing one of the world‘s largest bridges in China. The potential to scale up the use of water with roads is enormous – with every area having its own solutions.
There is also a compelling economic case: harvesting water with roads if done well greatly reduces water damage to roads. The scaling up of the concept is now being undertaken with support of the Global Resilience Partnership (supported by USAID, Rockefeller Foundation and SIDA), where MetaMeta with its partners are a Stage 2 winner. Programmes to collect the water from the roads are being undertaken in more areas now – such as in Amhara Regional State, where it is part of the massive programme to prepare for the expected El Niño climate event. More than two million people are being mobilised for water harvesting activities, including from the roads.
MetaMeta and Mekelle University would welcome those interested to become part of the learning alliance which will bring together on-going experiences and give access to training materials that are being developed – those interested in the learning alliance can mail to email@example.com
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Press release: 02/07/2015 (a) Example of bad road drainage, Tigray, Ethiopia (Photo: Mekelle University, 2014) (b) Examples of roadside ponds to capture water and protect the road, Tigray, Ethiopia (Photos: Mekelle University, 2014)  “Optimising Road Development for Groundwater Recharge and Retention” was one of fifteen UPGro ‘Catalyst’ projects. More details on this project can be found at http://roadsforwater.org  “UPGro – Unlocking the Potential of Groundwater for the Poor” is a seven-year international research programme (2013-2019) which is jointly funded by UK’s Department for International Development (DFID), Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) and in principle the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC). It focuses on improving the evidence base around groundwater availability and management in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) to enable developing countries and partners in SSA to use groundwater in a sustainable way in order to benefit the poor. UPGro projects are interdisciplinary, linking the social and natural sciences to address this challenge. They will be delivered through collaborative partnerships of the world’s best researchers. The programme’s success will be measured by the way that its research generates new knowledge which can be used to benefit the poor in a sustainable manner.  Winners of the 2015 GRAA Competition https://www.irfnews.org/graa/  Connecting Roads, Water and Livelihoods for Resilience: http://www.globalresiliencepartnership.org/teams/roads-water-livelihoods/  More details can be found on http://upgro.org ; The Knowledge Broker for UPGro is Skat Foundation, based in St Gallen, Switzerland. Contact: Sean Furey (email@example.com) for more information.