New UPGro paper: “Risk Factors associated with rural water supply: A 30-year retrospective study of handpumps on the south coast of Kenya”

2018 promises to be really interesting one as the UPGro (Unlocking the Potential of Groundwater for the Poor) reaches maturity. There is already a lot published since 2014 ( and here is a new one, which will be of interest to RWSN members – as it has been written by active RWSN members:

“Risk Factors associated with rural water supply: A 30-year retrospective study of handpumps on the south coast of Kenya”

By Tim Foster, Juliet Willetts, Mike Lane, Patrick Thomson, Jacob Katuva, Rob Hope

Key Points

  • This paper build on previous handpump & water point functionality work done by RWSN, the UPGro Gro For GooD and UPGro Hidden Crisis projects and recent analysis by the University of North Carolina
  • Research focuses on 337 Afridev handpumps installed in Kwale County, Kenya, under a SIDA financed programme between 1983-1995 that were identified and mapped in 2013 (out of 559 recorded installations by the programme in that area).
  • 64% were still working after 25+ years
  • They conclude that risk of failure increases most significantly in relation to:
    • Salinity of the groundwater
    • Depth of the static groundwater level
    • When the water comes from an unconsolidated sand aquifers
    • Distance to spare parts suppliers

You can read and download the paper here:


Supplementary info and water point data:

And in case you missed it – this is another recent paper that is readable and useful, albeit more for urban/peri-urban areas and small towns:

Grönwall, J. & Oduro-Kwarteng, Groundwater as a strategic resource for improved resilience: a case study from peri-urban Accra S. Environ Earth Sci (2018) 77: 6.


Figure: Kaplan-Meier estimates of the survival functions for Afridev handpumps in Kwale.

New: “Can ‘functionality’ save the community management model of rural water supply?

We are pleased to share a new UPGro paper from Luke Whaley and Prof. Frances Cleaver (Sheffield University) of the Hidden Crisis study – Can ‘functionality’ save the community management model of rural water supply?”

It is primarily a literature review paper so many elements will be familiar to rural water practitioners, however, Whaley and Cleaver are coming from a social science perspective so they highlight that previous analysis has focused on community management of water points as a “techno-managerial exercise” that largely ignores from broader social, political and cultural rules and relations around power – which groups and individuals have power over others and how is that used (or not used).

So what? The author’s suggest that current dialogue on water point functionality is not enough to save Community Based Management, because there is often a wider problem in with the under-resourcing of local government (and governance) and that more work is needed to help develop context-specific management, “rather than attempting to tweak the current blueprint of development the next ‘big thing’”

The full open access paper can be read and downloaded from Science Direct

Please take some time to read this and feel free to discuss – and argue! – about it in the RWSN Sustainable Services community

10 things to know about groundwater: 9 & 10

Hidden Treasure: 10 reasons to know more about groundwater / 2 priorities to take seriously – briefing note

What to find out more or get involved? Join the RWSN Sustainable Groundwater Development community on Dgroups.

9. In rural areas groundwater is often the cheapest source of safe drinking water

The capital cost of a borehole and handpump is about USD40 per person (say USD1.50 per person per year). The recurrent costs are about USD4.50 per person per year. The total is about USD6.00 per person per year. Piped schemes cost about twice as much.

[Source: WASHCost Working Paper 8, 2013,]

10. In urban areas many people use shallow ground-water despite the fact that it is very vulnerable to pollution

The high cost of connection to piped water services makes it more attractive to use a private well despite the poor water quality

New Picture

[Source: Danert, K, Adekile, D and Gesti Canuto, J (2014) Manually Drilled Boreholes: Providing water in Nigeria’s Megacity of Lagos and Beyond, Skat Foundation]