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:

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, IRCwash.org]

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 http://www.rural-water-supply.net/en/resources/details/618]