The Top 10 RWSN Blog Posts in 2018

The RWSN Blog provided us again with some exciting posts in 2018. From sustainable water resources and community management, to solar-powered water pumping, to (manual) borehole drilling, and to rural water services – the range of topics offers diverse and insightful perspectives on rural water supply issues.

Here are some of the most popular blogs in 2018:

  1. Sustainable water resources management in Sri Lanka: present situation and way forward
  2. Three common myths about solar-powered water pumping
  3. “The borehole is not a madman” 3 reasons why Community Based Management demands a rethink
  4. Manually Drilled Wells: Providing water in Nigeria’s Megacity of Lagos and beyond
  5. Borehole drilling supervision in Malawi: why it is essential, not optional
  6. For rural Tanzanians, water has a social value too
  7. Tracing a path to sustainable rural water services in the Democratic Republic of the Congo
  8. Still barking up the wrong tree? Community management: more problem than solution
  9. Sharing experiences of data flows in water and sanitation – some reflections from AGUASAN Workshop 2018
  10. Achieving Professional and Sustainable Drilling in Madagascar? Yes, we can!

Find more blog posts

Find the newest blog posts here: RWSN Blog

Write your own Blog posts on rural water supply

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Borehole drilling supervision in Malawi: why it is essential, not optional

Guest Blog from Mr Gift Jason Wanangwa, a Groundwater Development Officer with the Malawi Government’s Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development.

New PictureGuest Blog by GIFT JASON WANANGWA

Introduction

Malawi is one of the least developed countries in Africa. It has a population of more than 17 million people, 84% of whom live in rural areas and rely solely on groundwater for their daily water needs for social and economic development.

Studies of the drilling practices in Malawi by UNICEF (GoM/UNICEF 2011; GoM 2012) and borehole forensics activities done by students of the University of Strathclyde under the Climate Justice Fund-Water Futures Programme  (CJF-WFP Work Records 2017-2018) as well as MSc Hydrogeology masters research students activities into drilling practices in Malawi (Polmanteer, 2014) have all revealed some shortcomings which explained problems in rural water supply through boreholes like poor siting, low yield of boreholes, weak drilling procedures and poor water quality or mechanical failures of pumps and boreholes. This was attributed much to poor drilling supervision.

Continue reading “Borehole drilling supervision in Malawi: why it is essential, not optional”

Professional Water Wells Drilling: Country Assessments of the Sector – UPDATED!

From 2003 to date, assessments of borehole drilling sector cost-effectiveness and professionalism have been undertaken for the following countries:

Do you know of other national assessments of borehole drilling sector cost-effectiveness and professionalism, perhaps in your own country? If so, please share in the comments below.

Update 21 August 2018

Key points:

  • “Turn-key” contracts should not be used, instead implementing agencies should procure an independent consultant for drilling and supervision and pay drillers for drilling/installation work done.
  • The research supports the guidance set out Danert K., Gesti Canuto J. (2016) Professional Water Well Drilling. A UNICEF Guidance Note  , Unicef , Skat Foundation http://www.rural-water-supply.net/en/resources/details/775

Achieving Professional and Sustainable Drilling in Madagascar? Yes, we can!

Guest blog by Charles Serele, UNICEF Madagascar

As part of its Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) program in Madagascar, UNICEF is committed to supporting the Ministry of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (MWSH) to build the capacity of the drilling sector. With this in mind, UNICEF organized a training on “Drilling Techniques and Supervision” in collaboration with the MWSH. The training targeted various stakeholders in the water sector, including government departments, drilling companies and consultancy firms who manage water supply projects, supervise or drill boreholes.

The training was held in Antananarivo (Madagascar) and organized in three different sessions of three days each, from February 7th to 23th, 2018. Fifty-four participants, including fifteen women attended the training course. The training was facilitated by Charles Serele, an experienced WASH Specialist from UNICEF Madagascar.

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To enhance individual knowledge and ensure sharing of experiences among participants, the overall approach used to deliver the course involved a mixture of lectures, interactive discussions, group exercises and presentation of drilling videos. Extensive reading materials from RWSN and UNICEF were shared along with exercises to be carried out by the participants.

The course participants actively engaged in the discussions and group activities. The training provided an opportunity to learn from each other and to reflect on what can be improved.

Course Modules

1.      Professionalization of the drilling sector

2.      Methods of borehole siting

3.      Construction of boreholes

4.      Supervision of boreholes

5.      Management of drilling data

The course review showed that participants’ technical knowledge in borehole drilling and supervision greatly improved. Participants also expressed their satisfaction with the course content and the relevance of the topics that were covered.

Forty-five participants (83%), including fourteen women passed the evaluation test conducted on the last day of the training. During the official closing ceremony each successful participant received a poster on cost-effective boreholes, in addition to a certificate.

As a next step, a field-based training should be organized to better illustrate best practices in drilling professional and sustainable boreholes.

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Additional resources

 

The training course was facilitated by Charles Serele, UNICEF Madagascar and organized under the supervision of the Chief of WASH, Silvia Gaya and with the support of the UNICEF WASH team. For additional information, contact UNICEF Madagascar on antananarivo@unicef.org.

 

Favouring Progress: Yemen’s Water Scarcity Dilemma of the 21st Century

Our RWSN Guest blogger Muna Omar takes a critical look at the issue of dwindling water supply in Yemen’s capital city

The population of Sana’a, the capital city of Yemen, depend on deep wells that are usually dug to a maximum depth of 200 meters for their drinking water. The wells draw on a cretaceous sandstone aquifer northeast and northwest of the city, with a third of the wells operated by the state-owned Sana’a Local Corporation for Water Supply and Sanitation drilled to 800 to 1,100 meters. The combined output the corporation’s wells barely meet 35% of needs of Sana’a growing population which includes displaced people, asylum seekers, refugees and other newcomers.

Public piped water delivery is once every 40 days to some houses, while others don’t receive piped water at all. Sana’a’s population is thus supplied either by small, privately owned networks, hundreds of mobile tankers and water from people’s own private wells. As water quality has degenerated, privately owned kiosks that use a water filtration method to purify poor-quality groundwater have spread in Sana’a and other towns. Many people rely on costly water that is provided by private wells supplying tankers. These tankers don’t really consider appropriate cleaning, so the quality of the water is questionable.

Despite the challenges with pumping due to a shortage of fuel and with rising prices, private well owners are trying to capture the remains of the valuable groundwater resources before their neighbours do. Coupled with the on-going war, drought sees Yemen facing a major water crisis. Water table data is based on old research which can be challenging to verify now. Given the data and the current severe situation as water use exceeds aquifer recharge, it is estimated that the water table drops by approximately 2-6 feet annually.

Although Sana’s groundwater is probably the best water in Yemen, it is considered below acceptable standards for human consumption as water infrastructure has been damaged by warplanes and the sanitation workers went on strike because they didn’t get their salary. The latter left plenty of garbage on the streets that led to contamination of drinking water supplies. Meanwhile wastewater began to leak out into irrigation canals and contaminate drinking water supplies. Inadequate attention to groundwater pollution has directly affected the quality of Sana’a’s drinking water supplies.

It Yemen, as a whole, it is estimated that about 14.5 million people don’t have sustainable access to clean drinking water. Inadequate water supply has affected the country with the worst outbreak of cholera in the human history. Over 1 million suspected cases of cholera have been reported in Yemen from 27 April 2017 to present day. Other water-borne diseases include a recent peak in diphtheria that reached 1,795 probable cases with 93 Associated Deaths and a case fatality rate (CFR) of 5.2% by 19 May 2018.

Yemen’s water problem is not only immediate with groundwater resources under pressure as never before to meet not only drinking water needs, but also demands for irrigation. In Yemen, the pressures of climate change, demographic change and the on-going conflict place an immense burden on professionals working in the country. The enormity of the urgent needs mean that water resources management is neglected, despite being absolutely essential for the future of Yemen’s population.

Sana’a groundwater resources are significantly depleted in many areas and acknowledged globally as one of the world’s scarcest water supplies. Sana’a may be the first capital city in the world to run out of water. Looking forwards, how can the country produce more food, raise farmer incomes and meet increase water demands if there is less water available?

Clearly, there are several interrelated aspects contributing to the current water crisis in Sana’a specifically and Yemen in general, and the population has to innovate to find solutions. Future supply options include pumping desalinated water from the Red Sea over a distance of 250 km, over 2,700 meter-high mountains into the capital, itself located at an altitude of 2,200 meters. However, the feasibly of this is questionable with the enormous pumping cost would push the price of water up to $10 per cubic meter. Other options to supply Sana’a from adjacent regions are fraught due to water rights.

Groundwater data is the critical foundation for water managers to both prevent problems and formulate solutions. Data is lacking in many of Yemen’s groundwater basins. Even heavily used basins have no record of how much groundwater was withdrawn and remains in the aquifers, where it was pumped from? Nor are adequate data available on groundwater quality or aquifer characteristics. Furthermore, while the drought and other cutbacks on surface water supplies are motivating groundwater users to drill new or deeper wells in increasing numbers despite the fact that well owners don’t know how their aquifer is doing and so can’t anticipate changes. There is lack of data on private wells.

Lack of groundwater data in Yemen is not the result of ignorance about its importance, but is rather the victim of chronic underfunding and politics, which have been exacerbated by the on-going conflict. The war has made it almost impossible to measure and manage groundwater development and secure its long-term sustainability.

Having just completed the online course on “Professional drilling management” led by Skat Foundation, UNICEF, and the United Nations Development Programme Cap-Net, I have learned about the need to develop our knowledge in this regard. The course highlighted important immediate and long-term actions for Yemen:

  • Raise awareness within Yemen of the groundwater issues faced by the country.
  • Find practical ways to better understand groundwater, regulate its extraction, introduce control mechanisms and engage with the local population to develop effective actions.
  • Build capacity of government, NGOs, consultants, policy makers and beneficiaries through training in groundwater management.
  • Invest in building rain-water harvesting facilities in rural areas so the people don’t have to walk miles to collect water.
  • Invest in re-building infrastructure alongside improving water resources management.

Muna Omar is an Ethiopian refugee and a young water professional, living and working in Sana’a, undertaking monitoring and evaluation of humanitarian programmes in the water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH), health and nutrition sectors such as a cholera-response project, and an executive assistant with a local NGO.

This article was first published in GeoDrilling International and is reproduced with permission and thanks.

Voyage of groundwater discovery

The first ‘Professional Management of Water Well Drilling Projects and Programmes’ online course, provided by Unicef, Skat Foundation and Cap-Net kicked off in early March 2018.

Running over six weeks, the new online course provides participants with an overview of what is required to improve borehole drilling professionalism in the countries in which they work.

Requiring about six hours of investment per week, plus an additional four for the final assignment, it provides a 40-hour training opportunity for people from all over the world – and they can take part without leaving their home or workplace.

The application process was open for a month, and we received 648 applications spanning 381 organisations and 96 countries. We were astounded by the level of interest. Unfortunately, we could only accept 85 participants, a mere 13% of those who applied, our limitation being funding for sufficient, good facilitation. And so over the past weeks we have been interacting with the participants who work in 35 organisations in 43 countries, of whom 33% are women.

We provide extensive reading material and videos for each module, and the participants engage with the topics through their weekly assignments, participation in online discussion forums and a weekly quiz. For example, they have been tasked with looking at the drilling supervision practices in their own organisations, to prepare a hydrogeological desk study and to reflect on regulatory policies and practices in the countries in which they work.

I was sceptical about online courses until I undertook my first one three years ago. This time, as a facilitator, I’ve witnessed that this course provides an opportunity for people who are already managing drilling projects and programmes to improve their skills and knowledge from far and wide.

So what are we learning every day from the participants? For example, that drilling data is not shared because of fear that the information may be used for gaining the upper hand in mining minerals in one country. Or about the rapidly falling groundwater levels in Sanaa, Yemen, threatening the agriculture and domestic water supplies of the future. And we’ve found out about nuances in the way in which corruption affects the regulation of drilling professionalism in different contexts. Through the course, innovative approaches are also being revealed, such as new regulations in a number of countries, efforts to improve procurement procedures in Nigeria, or post-construction monitoring of water supply systems through private management combining mixed farming and water supply systems in northern Madagascar.

 ourse modules Course modules

 

Integral to the course is that it provides an opportunity for participants to learn from each other, reflect on what can be improved and to debate contentious topics – a key one being who should pay for the cost of drilling a dry borehole? The final assignment in the course involves sharing what has been learned more widely and trying to inspire others to improve borehole drilling management practices. Once the course is complete, all of the materials are accessible through the Cap-Net virtual campus (www.cap-net.org).

So what next, you may ask? Firstly, we shall learn from this first course and make improvements. We would then like to run the course again later in the year, repeat it in the future and also make it available in other languages, starting with French. We know that there is demand. With the structure and materials now developed and online, future courses will be less costly than developing and running the first one. But we need to assure the cost of good facilitation. So if anyone would like to sponsor a course, say as part of corporate social responsibility (CSR), either fully or partially, please contact us at foundation@skat.ch.


Kerstin Danert works for Skat Foundation and Skat Consulting in St. Gallen, Switzerland, and leads the Rural Water Supply Network’s (RWSN) theme on Sustainable Groundwater Development. In 2017 she was awarded the Distinguished Associate Award by the International Association of Hydrogeologists.

This article was first published in GeoDrilling International and is reproduced with permission and thanks.

Getting groundwater off the ground

How do we  raise capacity for borehole drilling and its management globally? If everyone is to have access to safe and affordable drinking water by 2030, in line with the UN Sustainable Development Goals, detailed attention is required for the siting, drilling and installation of boreholes in every single project in every country. Alas, this is not always the case. The result is that many boreholes fail within a very short time.

RWSN members are telling us that they want more in-country training.  The article linked below provides some suggestions. Do you have ideas or incentives for government and private enterprises invest in skill development in the groundwater sector, and in the rural water sector at large?

To find out more:

http://www.geodrillinginternational.com/geodrilling/issue/1179329/getting-groundwater-ground

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“Your challenges are our challenges”, reflections from Oklahoma, USA

Today I write from Oklahoma, USA, having just come to the end of the two and a half day University of Oklahoma 4th biennial WaTER Conference.  I had the honour of being one of the keynote speakers at this event, which was attended by over 170 people from 27 countries. It has been an extremely worthwhile experience on many fronts.

There is a growing interest in water supply and sanitation in “developing nations” in the USA.  The Senator Paul Simon Water for the Poor Act 2005 seems be one of the catalysts for this change.  Over the past week I have engaged with numerous undergraduate and graduate students from the University of Oklahoma, Emory University, Mercer University and other US institutions. They are learning about the realities of millions without adequate water supply or sanitation as well as undertaking research. These students want to make a difference.

I was particularly touched by the opening speech of Dr Jim Chamberlain who reflected on the realities today in the USA, where there are people without adequate water supply.”your challenges are our challenges” he observed. He went on to mention common water quality and resource issues between here and other parts of the world.   And he was talking about Oklahoma today – a city that is expanding beyond the reach of its piped water supply network. I have learned about people in this State and more widely in the USA who are not connected to a piped water supply or sewerage system. They mostly rely on their own private boreholes, some hand dug wells, and septic tanks. What was particularly surprising though is that as in Lagos, Lusaka or Kampala, up-to-date statistics on the numbers of wells and population depending on them are lacking.  And private well regulation, including water quality testing falls between the cracks and is beyond the current remit of the US Environmental Protection Agency.

My keynote was entitled Sustainable Groundwater Development in Africa: More than Engineering. I tried to present an overview of some of the groundwater development opportunities and challenges of the African continent. The presentation was well received, in particular reflections on the diversity of the African continent, both above and below ground, as well as the size of Africa. Few people are aware that Africa is larger than the USA and China and a considerable part of Europe put together.

Dr David Sabatini of the Water and Technologies for Emerging Regions (WaTER) Centre asked all presenters to be mindful of a very broad audience, from anthropologists to engineers, from first year undergraduates to seasoned experts.  I tried my best, also aware that there would be people in the audience who had never been to Africa in their lives, alongside scholars and professionals from the continent.  And so we journeyed together from the phenomenal expansion of manual drilling in Nigeria and elsewhere, to the challenges of trying to escape poverty with irrigated agriculture to geology (including the continent’s mineral resources and resource curse), then onto hydrogeology, urban groundwater and finally a vision for future policy and implementation.

As a keynote speaker it was rather humbling to present the fact that the first continental estimates of the quantity of groundwater resources in African were only published three years ago; and to explain that very few African countries have good quality hydrogeological maps and studies. Having worked in rural water supply for seventeen years now, I scratch my head to find defendable reasons for the lack of organised and reliable drilling logs and groundwater data despite decades of development projects from the water decade through the MDGs.

However, I was relieved to present the work supported by UNICEF, WSP, UKAid and USAID over the past ten years to provide guidance for drilling in the form of documents and films; to share that UNICEF, together with WaterAid and Skat has an ongoing collaboration to try and raise the professionalism of both manual and mechanised drilling. And of course to recommend the ongoing UK-funded research to enable sustainable use of groundwater for the benefit of the poor – UPGro.

Undergraduate students ask very pertinent questions. The frankness of potential newcomers to the Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) and Water Resources sector is very refreshing and I hope that they will join in solving some of the problems that those of us who have been around a bit longer are struggling with. But to do that, they need to be able to work in this field. Care’s Peter Lochery and winner of the 2015 University of Oklahoma Water Prize, talked of the importance of being a connector, rather than a leader. And so I close this blog with some questions.

How can better connections be made? What can we all do to enable new talent, whether from the USA, Nigeria, or anywhere else, to flow into the Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) and Water Resources sector? Who can offer internships? What about apprenticeships or first jobs?  Where are the jobs? If we are to reach the Sustainable Development Goal targets for water supply we need an awful lot more skilled people – whether entrepreneurs, field staff, project managers or academics.  And we have to find ways of bringing them in to join us!  Do you have any tangible ideas? Or any offers for that matter?