Collecting Water With Roads – ground-breaking research wins Global Environment Award

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[1],[2] 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[3] 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[4] (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 marta@metameta.nl

Further information:[5]

NERC media office 01793 411939 07785 459139 pressoffice@nerc.ac.uk

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) [1]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 [2] “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. [3] Winners of the 2015 GRAA Competition https://www.irfnews.org/graa/ [4] Connecting Roads, Water and Livelihoods for Resilience: http://www.globalresiliencepartnership.org/teams/roads-water-livelihoods/ [5] 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 (sean.furey@skat.ch) for more information.

Roads for Water – new research puts Ethiopian farmers in the driving seat

Media Release

World Water Day is an opportunity to reflect on the immense challenge that faces millions of people every day. Much of Sub-Saharan Africa, in particular, is notably off-track from the Millennium Development Goals[i], which come to an end this year.

Yet hope is emerging from unexpected directions: the UK is leading pioneering research into how the un-tapped potential of Africa’s groundwater can be used sustainably and for the benefit of the poorest and most marginalised peoples.

Farmers diverting water from a culvert into a percolation pond for supplementary irrigation and groundwater recharge in Tigray, Ethiopia
Farmers diverting water from a culvert into a percolation pond for supplementary irrigation and groundwater recharge in Tigray, Ethiopia
Road construction affects the hydrology of an area; causes erosion, flooding, water logging (photo: Meta Meta Research)
Road construction affects the hydrology of an area; causes erosion, flooding, water logging (photo: Meta Meta Research)

Continue reading Roads for Water – new research puts Ethiopian farmers in the driving seat

How to… design roads for water harvesting and groundwater recharge

Road construction affects the hydrology of an area; causes erosion, flooding, water logging (photo: Meta Meta Research)
Road construction affects the hydrology of an area; causes erosion, flooding, water logging (photo: Meta Meta Research)

Roads can devastate a landscape – scarring it, creating barriers for wildlife and accelerating stormwater so that valuable farmland, habitats and homes get washed away or polluted. What if didn’t have to be that way? What if roads would work with the grain of nature rather than against it?

One of the UPGro teams, lead by Frank van Steenbergen, at Meta Meta Research, has being doing just that. Over the last year, their UPGro Catalyst project has been researching how roads can be used for rainwater harvesting on a landscape scale to recharge aquifers and ponds for later use in the dry seasons.

Working closely with the Mekelle University and the Government of Ethiopia, Frank and his team (including the Institute for Development Studies) has not only been testing the theory but they have been putting into practice. In the region of Tigray, the methods of road design have captured imaginations as well as water and now the government is keen to roll these ideas out further around the country.

The Catalyst project is now complete and a number of resources are now available online:

The principles have also been explained in a recent RWSN-UPGro webinar on groundwater recharge

Roads for Water: Effecting Change in Tigray, Ethiopia

from the WaterChannel:

Question: How can dusty roads provide water?
Answer: By harvesting and storing rainwater when it falls on them. 

A 30 mm rainfall over a 1-kilometre stretch of road can produce up to 100,000 litres of water. This number points to a huge potential. And not one that has not been adequately tapped (around 7 billion USD are spent on road construction in sub-Saharan Africa alone).

Continue reading Roads for Water: Effecting Change in Tigray, Ethiopia

One Bridge, Multiple Functions

re-blogged from: thewaterblog

Posted by Rossella Alba
May 22, 2014

In Megab, a rather small village in the semi-arid Tigray region in northern Ethiopia, one bridge provides multiple functions to the local community. The bridge is located along the road that connects Hawzien to Abreha-we-Atzeha and Wukro. At first sight, it appears to be just a bridge. But when you look carefully,  you can see it combines multiple functions: access, connection and water harvesting 

Continue reading One Bridge, Multiple Functions

“FLUORIDE IN GROUNDWATER: A DEBILITATING SCOURGE” Catalyst Project Webinar, 2 May

UPDATED 9 MAY

Watch recording

Part 1: Dr Seifu Kebede- Genesis of Fluoride in Groundwater in Ethiopia
Part 2: Sara Datturi- Fluorosis Mitigation in Ethiopian Central Rift Valley
Part 3: Q and A session

Fluorine is an element abundant in nature. In the right quantities, it is essential for the development of teeth and bones. However, under specific conditions, the concentration of fluoride (F) in ground and surface water can exceed safety levels and becomes toxic for human health. This may lead to skeletal and/or dental fluorosis, two chronic biogeochemical diseases that occur in various countries around the world.

Continue reading “FLUORIDE IN GROUNDWATER: A DEBILITATING SCOURGE” Catalyst Project Webinar, 2 May

UPGro research paper on Sketetal Fluorosis in Ethiopia

etaMeytaDSCN4512New paper by Redda Tekle-Haimanot, Gebeyehu Haile, part of the “Improving access to safe drinking water_prospection for low-fluoride sources Groundwater” Catalyst Project

ABSTRACT This study compared the occurrence of skeletal fluorosis in chronic consumers of locally brewed alcoholic beverages and their matched controls in the Ethiopian Rift Valley. The study revealed that chronic alcohol consumers developed severe forms of crippling skeletal fluorosis quite early in life. The controls were either symptom-free or exhibited mild forms of the fluorosis. The study showed that crippling skeletal fluorosis was directly associated with the large volumes of the locally brewed beer and honey-mead consumption on a daily basis. Chemical analysis of the alcoholic beverages showed that high concentration of fluoride which was much higher than the fluoride in the water was used for the brewing process. From this study one would conclude that in communities residing in high fluoride areas, there should be awareness creation campaigns to point out the relationship of excessive consumption of locally brewed alcoholic drinks and skeletal fluorosis. Regulations should also be put in place to require producers of local alcoholic beverages to use low fluoride water for brewing.

Journal of Water Resource and Protection, 2014, 6, 149-155
Published Online February 2014 (http://www.scirp.org/journal/jwarp)
Download the paper here: http://dx.doi.org/10.4236/jwarp.2014.62020