Realities of water well drilling in Africa: e-discussion highlights so far

RWSN is currently hosting a 3 week discussion on ‘Cost Effective Boreholes’ as part of our Sustainable Groundwater Development Theme.  Here are some highlights so far:

It is very interesting to read the inputs so far from Kenya, Zambia, Sudan, Nigeria, Ethiopia and Uganda.

From the discussions so far, it seems that the Kenya and Ethiopia have established regulatory frameworks for water well drilling (thanks Chrispine and Tesfaye). In the Kenyan case, government regulation, which is limited by capacity constraints is augmented by the monitoring of activities by the drillers association. It will be interesting to hear more on this from Chrispine and others in Kenya. In contrast Zambia (thanks Daniel) lacks any regulation with respect to groundwater resources. There is thus no registration of boreholes in the country whatsoever and even drilling records must not be collected. Although a water resources management act was passed in Zambia 2011 it still awaits launch and implementation. Perhaps there are also others with ideas for Zambia. In Sudan, we hear from Harm Bouta about a very fragmented drilling sector with no strict regulations in place, but that there are other initiatives taking place in Sudan from which we could learn more.

The emails from Moses, Ron and Vincent tell us that in Uganda, although there is some form of regulation, it could be much improved, including regulation of the ground water consultants. We also hear from Moses and Vincent that drilling quality in Uganda may have been better in the past, when it was carried out in a more professional manner than it is today. In Nigeria, Martin informs us about the code of practice, as well as training courses and on-going efforts to increase public experiences on best practices. I am sure that Martin and others in Nigeria have even more to share with us. It is very interesting to read from Tesfaye about Ethiopia’s policy of tax free importation of drilling machines and accessories, which appears to have given a boost to the private sector. However, the struggle to obtain materials and spare parts for drillers remains a huge problem.

Ron and Tesfay make a number of recommendations on how the situation could be improved. Ron points out that RWSN’s publications [such as the Code of Practice for Cost Effective boreholes, Supervision Guidance, costing and pricing guidance – available on are highly appreciated. However, they are “only read by professionals , who want to make high quality products….[whereas] businessmen pretending to be drilling contractors…never read these guidelines”. One of Ron’s suggestions is a performance monitoring tool for drillers and groundwater professionals. Tesfay would like to see more rehabilitation of failed wells.

A diversity of approaches and techniques for siting have also been described, with quite different opinions, no doubt influenced by the diverse geological and hydrogeological contexts in which you all work. Likewise, drilling technologies, vary considerably, with a particularly interesting case in Uganda, which has mapped the whole country with respect to the groundwater but appears to be struggling to make sure that this information is readily available and used.

But this three week E-discussion has only just begun. There are over 170 of you in this group, both from within the countries from which some contributions have been made, and other places. We would like to hear from you. As the first week of this three-week discussion progresses, please share your experiences and challenges with respect to regulation, siting, drilling technology and procurement.

Author: RWSN Secretariat

RWSN is a global network of rural water supply professionals. Visit to find out more

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