New UPGro paper calls for city planners and utilities in Africa to diversify water supply solutions

A UPGro paper has been published by Dr Jenny Grönwall (SIWI) and Dr Sampson Oduro-Kwarteng (KNUST) of the T-GroUP project, entitled “Groundwater as a strategic resource for improved resilience: a case study from peri-urban Accra”

Water insecurity is a growing concern globally, especially for developing countries, where a range of factors including urbanization are putting pressure on water provisioning systems.

The role of groundwater and aquifers in buffering the effects of climate variability is increasingly acknowledged, but it can only be fully realized with a more robust understanding of groundwater as a resource, and how use of it and dependency on it differ.

Accra, in Ghana, and its hinterland is a good example of an African city with chronic water shortages, where groundwater resources offer opportunities to improve resilience against recurring droughts and general water insecurity.

Based on a mixed-methods study of a peri-urban township, it was found that for end users, particularly poor urban households, resilience is an every-day matter of ensuring access from different sources, for different purposes, while attention to drinking water safety is falling behind.

Planners and decision makers should take their cue from how households have developed coping mechanisms by diversifying, and move away from the focus on large infrastructure and centralized water supply solutions.

Conjunctive use, managed aquifer recharge, and suitable treatment measures are vital to make groundwater a strategic resource on the urban agenda.

Download and read the open paper here

photo: Dr Grönwall

New UPGro studies explore links between groundwater and poverty in rural and urban Africa

Thanks to additional support from NERC at the beginning of 2017, some of the world’s leading experts on groundwater and poverty were brought together to test the assumptions that we make about how much we know and understand about the links between groundwater access and poverty. Does improving groundwater access reduce poverty? Or are their cases where it can increase disparities between rich and poor? There is a lack of data and evidence to make firm conclusions and this challenges the research teams in UPGro and beyond to challenge their assumptions.

Part of the rapid study explored the issues around groundwater dependency of urban areas in tropical Africa.  What is perhaps shocking, is how little municipal water utilities in these areas monitoring, manage and understand the groundwater resources on which millions of people – their customers – depend. Furthermore, there are indication that private, self-supply, boreholes can make it harder for water utilities to get sufficient income from wealthier users to help cross-subsidise piped connections to the poor.

For more details, on these and many other findings, download the UPGro Working Papers:

Promising new groundwater pollution sensor – New UPGro paper published

1-s2.0-S0043135417302233-gr5
Field test set-up and data output from the MFC biosensor monitoring. A) The diagram shows an aerial view of the system configuration and distance between sensing system and data collection system. B) MFC1 and MFC2 were biosensors placed on the well; MFC3 and MFC4 were control biosensors placed in a vessel simulating the groundwater well. MFC3 and MFC4 were located in a room close to the well and the arrow indicates when they were intentionally contaminated. Monitoring of the sensors contained in the well lasted for 60 days obtaining the same trend as for the period shown.

Shallow groundwater wells, are the main source of drinking water in many rural and peri-urban communities.

The quantity and variety of shallow wells located in such communities make them more readily accessible than private or government operated deep boreholes, but shallow wells are more susceptible to faecal contamination, which is often due to leaching pit latrines.

For this reason, online monitoring of water quality in shallow wells, in terms of faecal pollution, could dramatically improve understanding of acute health risks in unplanned peri-urban settlements.

More broadly, inexpensive online faecal pollution risk monitoring is also highly relevant in the context of managed aquifer recharge via the infiltration of either stormwater or treated wastewater into the subsurface for aquifer storage and recovery.

 To tackle this challenge, IN-GROUND – an UPGro Catalyst Project – trialled four different types of Microbial Fuel Cell (MFC) water quality biosensor in the lab (Newcastle University, UK) and in the field (Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania).  

While further work is needed, the results provided proof-of-concept that these biosensors can provide continuous groundwater quality monitoring at low cost and without need for additional chemicals or external power input.

 Full details of the work can be founded in this open access paper: Velasquez-Orta SB, Werner D, Varia J, Mgana S. Microbial fuel cells for inexpensive continuous in-situ monitoring of groundwater quality. Water Research 2017, 117, 9-17. 

 For more details contact Dr Sharon Velasquez-Orta 

Who gets what water in Arusha?

from: http://t-group.science/2016/01/who-gets-what-water-in-arusha/

By Shabana Abbas

Arusha is officially a small city of over 400,000 people (according to official census) but urban authorities believe this to be vastly underestimated and the number could be over 700,000. As part of my research on urban water supply, I visited some of the most unplanned and low-income parts of Arusha city where there is a large population growth, as these low income areas house many recent migrants and offer the most affordable housing, and lowest land prices.
Continue reading Who gets what water in Arusha?