From Tyneside to Abidjan: UPGro @ 7th RWSN Forum

re-blogged from https://upgro.org

I had the pleasure of recently attending the 7th RWSN Forum, held from 29th November to 2nd December 2016 in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire.  The conference is only every five years so I am fortunate that it fell during the third year of my PhD giving me not only the opportunity to attend, but also the chance to contribute some of my own research completed thus far.

The conference delegates came from a mixture of backgrounds, from both local and global scale NGOs to government ministries, and from financiers like the World Bank to pump manufacturers.  It was a great opportunity to share experiences and create connections with people outside of the world of academia and consultancies, which dominated many other conferences that I have attended.

The 7th RWSN Forum was a chance for water infrastructure installers and financiers to learn more about the water resources which they are hoping to exploit.  The conference also allowed water resource researchers to find out what kind of information NGOs and ministries require in order to plan and manage interventions.

There were a number of oral and poster presentations and company stands at the RWSN Forum expounding solutions to WASH shortfalls and food insecurity, such as manual drilling technologies, solar and foot powered pumps, and smart technology to transmit water point equipment performance.  While all of these technologies undeniably have much to offer, without a reliable and renewable water resource their usefulness dwindles.  Therefore, the relevance of the UPGro projects in emphasising sustainable management of groundwater is clear.

An UPGro catalyst grant initiated the AMGRAF (Adaptive management of shallow groundwater for small-scale irrigation and poverty alleviation in sub-Saharan Africa) project in 2013.  The catalyst grant funded hydrogeological investigations, the setting up of a community‑based hydrometeorological monitoring programme, and gender separated focus groups in Dangila woreda, northwest Ethiopia.  My own research has developed from the AMGRAF project and concerns the potential for shallow groundwater resources to be used for irrigation by poor rural communities, lessening the reliance on increasingly inconsistent rains.  Research principally focuses on two field sites; Dangila in Ethiopia and in Limpopo province in South Africa.  The resilience of the shallow groundwater resources to climate variability and increasing abstraction is being assessed through modelling.  To construct the models, it is vital to have data on aquifer parameters as well as time series of rainfall, river flow and groundwater levels for model calibration.  The presentation I gave at the forum concerned the computation of these aquifer parameters from pumping tests of hand dug wells and the collection of the aforementioned time series via the community‑based monitoring program.

I enjoyed the week I spent in Côte d’Ivoire, a country that I may never have had the chance to visit without the RWSN Forum.  I believe the connections made with groundwater specialists from around sub-Saharan Africa will greatly benefit my PhD in terms of testing the transferability of the research with data from their countries.  Leaving Abidjan, I had the same feeling as everyone else I spoke to at the conference: “Please RWSN, why does this only happen every five years!”

David Walker, PhD Candidate, Newcastle University, UK – read his RWSN Forum Paper: “Properties of shallow thin regolith aquifers in sub-Saharan Africa: a case study from northwest Ethiopia [061]

Tips for Groundwater Success: A Sponsored Seminar at the 7th RWSN Forum, Abidjan

Are you involved in groundwater development for rural water services? Come along to this one day seminar to learn more about how to develop groundwater for safe and sustainable water supplies. We will be discussing many aspects of groundwater development, from data and information that can help us understand groundwater resources, to technologies in borehole construction and solar pumping for the delivery of effective water supplies.

Why should I come to this seminar?

This one day seminar – An Understandable Approach to the Development and Use of Groundwater – aims to take some of the mystery out of groundwater development and provide useful, practical information to help you develop effective groundwater supplies.

Groundwater makes up almost 30% of the world’s freshwater reserves, and more than 95% of the available, unfrozen fresh water. Given its broad geographical distribution, general good quality, and resilience to seasonal fluctuations (as compared to surface water), groundwater holds the promise to ensure many communities an affordable, safe and sustainable water supply.

Groundwater is sometimes referred to as a hidden asset – it occurs underground therefore can’t be easily seen or visualised, and is often difficult to understand due to the many varying factors influencing its behaviour, from geology, topography, and climate to land use, soil type and human activities.

What will I learn?

To develop groundwater in a safe and sustainable way we need to understand it. And to understand groundwater we need good data and information, which is often hard to find. The first half of the seminar will seek to answer the questions:

What data and information is needed to understand groundwater and develop it sustainably?

How can we effectively collect and store groundwater data to produce a high quality body of information that is accessible, convenient, affordable, manageable and useful for current and future groundwater development projects?

We will look at data at different scales – from international initiatives down to local, site-scale data – but will be focussing at the country-scale with an introduction to the Africa Groundwater Atlas and case studies of national groundwater data collection and storage from West Africa. Participants will have the opportunity to discuss some of the issues they have experienced with all aspects of groundwater data (collection, storage, management and use) and we will try to offer practical solutions for the future.

The second half of the seminar will focus on practical groundwater development, demonstrating how proper borehole construction, and solar pumping and distribution solutions can provide safe and accessible water that is cost-effective and sustainable for those most in need.

We will seek to show how borehole construction and maintenance can help protect groundwater sources, providing a drinking water supply that is free of e-coli and will last for generations. Participants will also receive tools and guidance for writing borehole specifications to help ensure that groundwater sources are safe and sustainable.

From borehole construction we will then move on to solar pumping and distribution technology, demonstrating that this is often a viable and smart option for potable water services in rural development, particularly where poor groundwater quality or high population density and growth limit the applicability of boreholes fitted with hand pumps. We will show several case studies, from single point supplies to full distribution networks, which highlight low failure rates and overall life-cycle costs, and discuss the key considerations for designing, constructing and implementing solar powered water supply systems.

Who should come to the seminar?

 The seminar is aimed at anyone with an interest in rural water services, and in particular groundwater resources and water supply. We hope to include a range of professionals from all types of organizations and at all levels – from government staff, NGOs, private sector practitioners and academia.

 Who is running the seminar?

The seminar is being sponsored by the UPGro research programme (Unlocking the Potential of Groundwater for the Poor) and Water Mission and will be run by a range of groundwater experts from across Africa, Europe and the USA.

Fabio Fussi (University Milano Bicocca)
Richard Carter (Richard Carter & Associates Ltd.)
Moustapha Diene (Universite Cheikh Anta Diop de Dakar & AGW-Net)
Callist Tindimugaya (Ministry of Water and Environment, Uganda & AGW-Net)
Brighid O Dochartaigh & Kirsty Upton (British Geological Survey)
Steve Schneider (Schneider Water Services & NGWA)
Jeff Zapor & Doug Lawson (Water Mission)

Where and When?

Friday 2nd December, 7th RWSN Forum (Bamako Room), Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire, https://rwsn7.net/

Please note the seminar will be run predominantly in English with simultaneous translation into French

, however there will be Francophone and Anglophone facilitators present throughout the day.