Covid-19 gave me the chance to commit to paper (or electronic form, if you prefer) some of my understanding and experience gained over several decades. The outcome is a book, published earlier this year, entitled Rural Community Water Supply: Sustainable Services for All.
Many hundreds of millions of rural people – the exact number is not known, and it is immaterial, except that it probably lies between one and two billion – experience inadequacies in the supply of the water which they use for drinking and other domestic uses.
These inadequacies are partly reflected in the ‘normative criteria’ as defined by the human right to water which apply to water services globally. These criteria ask whether and to what extent water services are available, accessible, affordable and acceptable, and whether their quality meets national or international standards. They also highlight the importance of cross-cutting criteria (non-discrimination, participation, accountability, impact, and sustainability).
Premature corrosion and failure of water supply hardware, particularly handpumps, is widespread in countries within Sub-Saharan Africa, but evidence is limited and largely anecdotal. If drillers are not assured of quality handpumps in country, how can they install pumps that provide water users with the services that they deserve? For the tens of millions of people in sub-Saharan Africa who depend on handpumps to meet their daily water needs, handpump failures threaten their health and livelihoods.
In cases where communities receive a handpump or components of substandard quality, parts may rapidly wear. If components of the wrong material or inadequate quality are installed in aggressive groundwater, the water supply may not function properly or can fail. Alternatively, the water may not be suitable for drinking. If the handpumps fails, or if water is turbid, discoloured, or has a metallic taste, users may return to using distant or unsafe water sources. If handpump components wear prematurely, communities can incur unnecessary costs in trying to fix the problem.
Document the scale and extent of the problem of handpump corrosion and poor-quality components in sub-Saharan Africa.
Understand the handpump supply chains for one country, analysing strengths and weaknesses.
Raise awareness of problems of handpump corrosion, poor-quality components alongside practical solutions for water users, drillers, governments, Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) and others.
Catalyse action through ongoing engagement of international organisations, national governments, research organisations and other stakeholders to catalyse actions to tackle the problem.
The initiative will examine corrosion (see box), quality assurance procedures and supply chains. It seeks to draw out successful or innovative ways of ensuring that users benefit good quality handpumps – consistently! If you would like to contribute to the initiative, especially by sharing your experiences and ideas, please contact Dr Kerstin Danert (ask @ ask-for-water.ch).
Box: Corrosion and handpump quality challenges
The twin challenges of how to ensure the quality of handpumps and how to prevent rapid corrosion of certain pump components have been discussed for over four decades. Corrosion of below-ground handpump components was documented in the 1980s. Research concluded that galvanisation of pump riser pipes and pump rods does not prevent corrosion where the pH < 6.5 and provides limited protection for pH 6.5 to 7. In light of this, programmes have switched riser pipes and pump rods to stainless steel or switched to uPVC riser pipes and stainless-steel pump rods, while some countries standardised on pumps which aims to be fully corrosion resistant by using a uPVC rising main and stainless steel, or fibre glass pump rods. Unfortunately, handpump corrosion problems and concerns over handpump component quality persist. The extent of the problem is not fully known because of relatively little research on this topic, coupled with a lack of information available in the public domain.
Cet outil guide le personnel de l’UNICEF chargé des programmes et des ressources tout au long du cycle de vie d’un projet. Il suit une séquence logique sur les pratiques d’achat de l’UNICEF et formule des recommandations sur les processus (appel d’offres ou demande de proposition de services), les critères d’évaluation, les clauses contractuelles, les devis génériques, les termes de référence et les approches contractuelles visant à des services techniques pour déterminer l’emplacement et la construction de forages et la supervision de travaux de construction (français et Anglais).
Borehole Drilling – Planning, Contracting & Management: A UNICEF Toolkit is now also available in French!
This toolkit guides UNICEF programme and supply staff through the life of a project. It follows a logical sequence on UNICEF procurement practices and provides recommendations on processes, evaluation criteria, contract provisions, generic bill of quantities, terms of reference and contractual approaches to seek technical services for siting of boreholes, borehole construction and supervision of construction works (English – French).
After 14 years working as a hydrogeologist in the deserts of the Middle East on traditional water supplies and wellfield construction, I moved to sub-Saharan Africa, which presented a whole new challenge.
The easier availability of water was the most obvious difference – sometimes too much so (see photo)- but other important ones were the low quality of water and scattered population.
This is a guest blog by RWSN Member Dr Cheikh Hamidou Kane. This article was originally published in GeoDrilling international and is reposted with thanks. You can read the original article here.
Despite the fact that 50% of Africa’s water fresh water resources are found in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the Congolese, especially in rural areas, have great difficulty ensuring their drinking water supplies. The very limited progress made in supplying safe drinking water to the population has meant that innovative and affordable solutions, coupled with substantial funding, have been sought.
As a result, in 2009, the DRC government adopted launched an initiative under the National School and Sanitation Village Program (PNEVA) to promote manual drilling as a low-cost water access technology. The Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Rural Development, in collaboration with UNICEF, set out to develop the skills of the private sector and NGOs on manual drilling techniques.
In the first, introductory phase from 2009 to 2012, NGOs were trained, but were not always fully equipped with the necessary skills or drilling equipment to consistently produce quality works that would be sustainable.
Faced with this situation, between 2013 and 2015, UNICEF requested technical support from the Chadian Association for the Promotion of Enterprises Specialized in Low Cost Drilling (ATPESFORC). They set out to help improve the quality of manual drilling in the DRC through the introduction of new drilling equipment of better quality (water jetting) that can be manufactured in the country. During this period, stakeholders in the sector acquired new skills enabling them to build sustainable structures that surpassed the usual drilling record of 27m to reach a depth of 42m thanks to: (i) the use of the new technology (ii) the establishment of national norms and standards for manual drilling including a technical note for water quality testing and (iii) training in administrative, financial and bidding management techniques.
The third phase of the introduction and professionalization of manual drilling in the DRC took place between 2015 and 2019 and focused mainly on the establishment of the national federation of drillers, the identification of areas favourable to manual drilling technologies and the establishment of a national database of water points. During this period and for the first time in the history of the DRC, the supervision of fieldwork was confined to specialized control offices rather than to government agents.
After a decade of learning, adaptation and promotion by UNICEF and its partners, manual drilling technology is now well known in DRC and remains one of the few low-cost technical options adapted to the logistical constraints of the country to improve access to safe drinking water supply in scattered and hard-to-reach rural communities.
Alas the UK Government financial support for PNEVA, through which this manual drilling initiative was implemented, ended in 2019. At present, uncertainties about funding for the manual drilling sector, low household income in rural areas, and the current donor trend to focus investments in urban and peri-urban areas make it difficult to guarantee the continuation of the program on the same scale after 2020. It is also to be feared that the decrease in financing for marginalized areas not considered in village water policies could significantly inhibit safe drinking water access. Such populations are in danger of being left behind.
The manual drilling sector in the DRC is at a turning point. It could either become widespread, or fail by losing the gains obtained through the PNEVA. The debate is posed and some elements of response have been developed in a publication through the Rural Water Supply Network (RWSN): https://www.rural-water-supply.net/en/resources/details/930
Dr. Cheikh Hamidou Kane, a native of Senegal, is a Lecturer-Researcher at the University of Thies. He also works as an international consultant and was the UNICEF hydrogeologist overseeing the DRC manual drilling efforts from August 2016 to September 2020.
This is a guest blog by RWSN Young Professional Uyoyoghene U. Traoré, geologist and freelance consultant in water and environment. This article was originally published in GeoDrilling international and is reposted with thanks. You can read the original article here.
Groundwater accounts for over 97% of the world’s fresh water with over two million people depending on it for their Survival. In Africa, it is estimated that groundwater provides over 75% of the population with a drinking water supply, and has been said to be essential in securing equitable water access for the rural and urban poor around the world. It has been established that groundwater has a major role to play in achieving the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) for drinking water. Though very important, groundwater is not properly captured in national or international monitoring. As an unseen resource, it is easily forgotten, making it undervalued and not properly managed.
As an entry point towards the progressive and effective management of groundwater, I undertook a study on the challenges of water well drillers and drillers association in six countries – Angola, Burkina Faso, Mozambique, Nigeria, Uganda and the United State of America was carried out. I tried to understand groundwater issues within these countries from the perspective of drillers themselves. Drillers are in direct contact with the resource, and some have recognised the importance of having a drillers association.
As at the time of the study (2019) only three water well drillers association exist and were active only in Nigeria, Uganda and the USA. In the case of the others (inactive), there is an informal working group in Angola, an organised body in Burkina-Faso and Mozambique. Where they exist, drillers associations were an entry point to support national, international and local partners in groundwater management, were able to advocate and lobby for sustainable policies and realistic contracts. They also sensitised the public on the resource and helped reduce the presence of unqualified drillers from the sector.
In the study, I identified eight main challenges for water well drillers, namely – capacity, contracts and standards, procurement, finance and payment, corruption, data, logistics, and the availability of spare parts. I also learned about the advantages and disadvantages of having an association, as well as what makes them successful or not. A lack of clarity with respect to groundwater policies, and a lack of capacity by national institutions to implement policies or engage in groundwater monitoring was apparent in four (Angola, Burkina Faso, Mozambique and Nigeria) of the six countries.
So, what did the study reveal?
With the exception of the USA, there is a lack of capacity of drillers and national institutions in the countries studied. Drillers often lack the capacity to drill water wells in a sustainable way. In most of the cases, this is due to the absence of dedicated training institutions on groundwater issues or the inability of organised drillers association to engage in the development of its members.
Poor contract management, lack of transparency and corruption in procurement processes were mentioned. These have adversely affected the quality of drilled wells leading to a short lifespan of these wells. “Turn- key contracts” (Burkina Faso & Uganda), “No water no pay principle” (Mozambique & Nigeria) and “the gentleman’s agreement” (Angola) are some forms of poor contract identified. The client passes all, or most of the risk of finding water to the drillers – even in places where good groundwater resources are not easy to find.
Delayed payments by clients poses danger to the long-term viability of drillers’ businesses. This is a particular challenge in countries where the government is the major client (Angola, Burkina Faso, Mozambique and Uganda).
The absence or lack of groundwater data means underestimation of prices of drilling in certain terrains as well as drilling with uncertainty. The USA and Uganda are the only two countries with some form of groundwater data.
Drillers associations struggle to sustain themselves on a long term due to lack of finance resulting from low membership. In Mozambique and Burkina Faso for example, some drillers still do not see the need for an association while, there is no dedicated member to run the informal working group in Angola.
It was noted that there is a lack of transparency in existing associations except the USA. Leadership find it difficult and costly to be accountable to members and non-members alike.
Except for the USA, and more recently Uganda, the associations have not been able to engage in continuous capacity building, or training programs for its members. This has been identified as mainly being a result of lack of funds.
A major concern observed is the future of groundwater. In all six countries studied, it was found that there are very few or no young professionals in the field. This indeed put the future of groundwater development at a very high risk. In addition, very few women were observed to be in the profession.
From my work, I have two sets of recommendations:
In the short term, it is imperative that drillers association in other countries be investigated. Prioritise the establishment of drillers associations in countries where there are none and support rekindling inactive ones. The capacity of drillers and national institutions should be strengthened – advocate for compulsory internship programs on a continuous basis. Also, develop school curriculum on water with emphasis on ground water. Create a global platform for young professionals dedicated to training, learning, including internships with local firms.
In the long term, there is need to create a global platform for drillers, experts and institutions working on groundwater water issues in collaboration with existing institutions to learn and share best practices. Develop in study and exchange programmes, including creating mechanisms for international internships and volunteering.
I hope, that my study will help to inspire developmental organisation, funders, national institutions and above all drillers themselves to recognise the importance of using professional drillers and to support, and collaborate with water well drillers associations.
Mansoor Ali, an active early member of the Hanpump Technology Network (HTN), recently passed on.
Main Photo: 5 June, 2003: HTN Meeting at Durban – Vishwas, Raj, Mansoor (R K Daw)
by Raj Kumar Daw
Summer, 1973, Groundwater Surveys & Development Agency – GSDA, Pune had just been created and was acquiring its drilling rigs. The founding Director of GSDA, Dr. Venkataraman, constantly raided the NGOs for whatever he could get. He sent me word that he was coming to Vadala. I was trying my first attempt at rehabilitating an abandoned bore well adjacent to our workshop. The work had gone well. Dr. Venkataraman arrived, passing through Geological Investigation Team, Ahmednagar, headed at that time by Sarma Nidamarthy. Sarma had sent two of his staff with Dr. Venkataraman. Gautam and Mansoor.
en McLeod, who died of cancer in Cairns, Australia, on January 23rd at the age of 88, was recruited by Unicef to support India’s village water supply programme from 1974-1978, and played a pivotal role in the development of the India MK II hand pump.
by Rupert Talbot (former UNICEF and past Chair of HTN/RWSN)
Ken McLeod, who died of cancer in Cairns, Australia, on January 23rd at the age of 88, was recruited by Unicef to support India’s village water supply programme from 1974-1978, and played a pivotal role in the development of the India MK II hand pump.
The Government of India’s fourth, five year development plan (1969-1974) envisaged the ambitious goal of providing drinking water in the hard rock, drought prone regions of the country, using innovative down-the-hole-hammer drilling and deep well hand pump technology. Drill rigs were to be imported by Unicef and locally made, cast iron hand pumps, supplied and maintained by Government. In 1974, at the end of the plan period, hand pump surveys concluded that 75% of some 40,000 installations were not working. The viability of drilling and hand pump technology was in question and there was the real prospect of UNICEF, the Government of India’s main partner, withdrawing support. The programme was in serious crisis.
Water well drilling was virgin territory for Unicef in the early 1970s and Unicef’s Executive Board had been divided over the decision to invest in such costly technology in the first place. It was now faced with the hard option of either scrapping the programme or keeping faith. It was a close run thing. Fortunately, the ‘pro’ lobby won with the eminently wise decision to halt the supply of drill rigs until the hand pump problem was fixed. Which is where Ken McLeod comes in.
Ken was a pragmatic, no–nonsense, straight talking, tell-it-as-it-is Australian with a diverse engineering background which ranged from marine and civil engineering to blast hole and water well drilling with down-the-hole-hammers. He had an innate sense of what would probably work and what wouldn’t. Obstinacy was also a hallmark. A serious asset as it turned out. Once he had made up his mind it was difficult to persuade him otherwise. And he had a droll sense of humour. His repertoire of stories and anecdotes are legendary within the water well fraternity. It would seem that seriousness of purpose combined with good humour are prerequisites for successful development enterprises. Ken had both these qualities in spades.
Over the course of the next 4 years it fell to Ken to identify, coordinate, argue with and cajole, myriad organisations and individuals to develop what became known as the India MK II hand pump. This was an extraordinarily complex, collaborative venture, involving pioneering NGOs in Maharashtra, birth place of the fabricated steel Jalna, Jalvad and Sholapur pumps, spearheaded by Raj Kumar Daw and Oscar Carlson (names participants in the RWSN Sustainable Groundwater Development Forum will be familiar with); WHO, who were independently trying to develop their own cast iron ‘Bangalore Pump’; The Government of India, whose programme was in dire straits and who were being prevailed upon by the country-wide hand pump industry to continue with the supply of their cast iron products (‘junk pumps,’ in McLeod Speak); and an engineering enterprise, Richardson and Cruddas, a Government of India undertaking tasked with making prototype and then production pumps. It took a McLeod to handle all of that.
It is getting on for 50 years since it was eventually agreed by all parties that the Sholapur pump would form the basis of a new design and we were able to make and test the first dozen prototypes under the deep water table conditions of Coimbatore, Southern India. The fact that the India MK II then went successfully into mass production was largely due to Ken’s clarity of vision, direction, smart technical choices and perseverence.
I spoke with Ken for the last time two weeks before he died. We talked of those heady days of trying to get the MK II programme off the ground, of the internal arguments, external battles and technical problem solving in the field and in the factory.
His voice was strong and his mind as clear as a bell as he recalled people, places and events in great detail and he spoke warmly of those free spirits with their out of the box thinking who strove to make better hand pumps.
He was amazed to learn that there are now several million MK IIs in India alone and that it is exported to 40 or more countries. But hugely disappointed that the third party quality assurance procedures set up in his day and honed over the years to become the corner stone of the MK II programme under Ken Gray, had been allowed to slide back and that MK II look-a-like ‘junk pumps’ are being exported from India to Africa. That, we agreed, is a great tragedy.
There were many brilliant, dedicated people involved in the development of the India MK II. Ken never claimed any credit for it himself, but we all know who led the charge. It wouldn’t have happened without him. He was the right man in the right place at the right time. It needed his force of personality, tough and uncompromising ways, solid understanding of technical issues and absolute determination to get the job done in the face of industrial strength, bureaucratic wranglings. Aussie grit personified.
After Unicef, Ken McLeod worked with Shaul Arlossoroff and his UNDP-World Bank Hand Pumps Project, initially based in Nairobi then out of Australia, spending much of his time in China where I have no doubt he brought the same skills and energy to bear as he did in India.
Pragmatic and stoic to the very end he told me he hadn’t got long and was resigned to being on the ‘home stretch’ as he called it.
No funeral for Ken. No grave, no head stone, no epitaph. He wanted none of that. Instead, he has the lasting legacy of the India Mark II hand pump itself. Millions of them in fact.
This blog by Sean Furey was originally published in GeoDrilling International and is available here.
Drilling for water is only useful if there is good water to be had now and into the future. Since 2013, researchers in the UK-funded programme Unlocking the Potential of Groundwater for the Poor, have been working all over Africa to understand better the continents aquifers and how their hidden wealth can be used to benefit everyone. Now after years of patient work, exciting results and resources are emerging.
One is that the Africa Groundwater Atlas, curated by the British Geological Survey, now has downloadable GIS maps for 38 countries. They are quite large scale, so not detailed enough for individual borehole siting, but a good starting point for identifying where major aquifers are. This supports the wealth of other useful information, in English and French, on the soils, climate and groundwater use in all 52 of Africa’s countries.
Meanwhile a major finding published in the leading science journal Nature in August overturns our understanding of how aquifers are recharged in Africa’s drylands. In humid areas of the continent, like the tropical Congo Basin, there is a direct relationship between the rain that falls on an area of rainforest and what percolates down into the soil and rock. Not so in the Savannah’s and scrub land of the Sahel, the Horn of Africa and Savannah’s of East and Southern Africa.
Analysis of the precious few long groundwater records, combined with local studies in Niger, Ethiopia and Tanzania have shown that here rainwater is only able to percolate into the aquifer in well-defined locations, like ponds and riverbeds, and only after very intense storms. As a hydrogeologist that used to work on the Chalk aquifers of South East England, this is almost is a polar opposite. In the UK, nice steady drizzle over the winter maybe unpleasant for most people but it is heaven for ducks and water resource managers, because the soil gets saturated and water flows down into cracks and pore-spaces of the underlying rock, then on to providing baseflow for rivers and wetlands.
In the African drylands, it is the floodwater that is critical for focused recharge along ephemeral river valleys and depressions in the landscape. In parallel to this work, research on climate change indicates that in these areas of West and East Africa, rainy seasons are likely to come later and have fewer rain days – but with the same or more volume of rainfall. The inference from this is that when it does rain, it will rain harder – and more of it will find its way into the ground.
So, looking ahead, the role of aquifers in acting as a buffer between periods of flood and drought will become more and more important. This makes Managed Aquifer Recharge (MAR) look increasingly important to capture floods, both to protect lives and property from damage and to have that water available through the long dry seasons.
One such low-cost opportunity is the way that road drainage is designed so that instead of dumping storm water into already swollen rivers, they divert the water into infiltration ponds and ditches, which can farmers can use when the storm subsides.
Tropical and sub-Tropical climates around the world are always challengingly variable, and these extremes look set to expand, but for drillers and water users at least there is this one silver lining.
Being back in Uganda again after an absence of five years gives me immense joy. This country of warmth, friendliness and humour, where one can literally have an engaging conversation with anyone, whether askari (guard), taxi driver, fruit and vegetable seller, driller or civil servant. Thus, my few days here have been filled with shared laughter and kaboozi (Luganda for conversation or gossip, but the word conveys so much more).
My visit to Kampala has coincided with the first day of a three-day training entitled “Practical Skills in Drilling” by Uganda’s Water Resources Institute. The training is for 25 drillers and assistant drillers, and comprises a classroom day, followed by two days in the field. As we sit waiting for the training to commence, I ask the participants (all men so far) why there are no women drillers. We talk about the man’s world of drilling (stamina needed), and the women’s world of fetching water (stamina needed). The discussion is engaging and together we reflect on the role of women and men in society and the home. For my side I feel proud to be one of the few women involved in drilling and talk about the two manual companies that I have heard about in Zambia which are run by women. On the spot, I really wish that there were many more of us….
The training commences. The course is a collaboration between the Ministry of Water and Environment (MWE) Water Resources Institute (WRI) and the Uganda Drilling Contractors Association (UDCA). The Chair of the Association, Dr Flavio Pasqualato from Draco (U) Ltd., gives a his opening words of encouragement, followed by the Managing Director, Anthony Luutu of Aquatech Ltd. I am invited to say a few words, and express my delight at seeing training of drillers that I wish was happening on a regular basis in ALL countries on the African continent and beyond.
Gracious Sembali systematically collects the expectations of the participants
Dr Callist Tindimugaya (MWE) officially opens the training, pointing out that when people are learning informally from each other, that the message will change over time. I think of the game of Chinese whispers and vow to include it as an icebreaker at the start of my next drilling training course make his point. Callist also adds that “Nobody has all the knowledge; you can learn from each other”, something that is key in adult education.
Dr Callist Tindimugaya explains the hydrogeology of Uganda to participants
Trying to raise drilling professionalism is a significant undertaking, and I am struck by the pragmatic messages that Callist conveys to all of us. “If you and your colleagues are doing a good job, you will raise the respect for drillers in Uganda…..we want drillers to be seen as serious and doing good quality work”.
It is clear that the training that the institute has been undertaking has had an effect on training methods. Gracious Sembali from Hippo Technical Services systematically collects the expectations of the participants, and writes them up on a flip chart, carefully grouping them:
Improve knowledge and skills (e.g. when to stop drilling, mud drilling techniques, formation collapse, drilling in sediments)
Standardisation in drilling
Knowledge of different formations
Certification as a driller by UCDA
Knowledge-sharing including experiences
Hydrological aspects and siting
Handling of clients and public relations
Availability of geological maps
Expectations of facilitators
Benefits of UCDA membership and recognition
As I listen, I am struck by the number of issues that are beyond the training course itself, something I have also observed in the course I have run, or managed. The specific skills sought and wider concerns are intertwined.
Alas, I am only able to attend the first presentation, an overview of Uganda’s geology and hydrogeology. I learn a lot, and observe the participants taking notes, and later asking questions. There is so much to be learnt, and the eagerness of these drillers and assistant drillers is apparent. I am delighted at what I see, encouraged, and then start thinking about the number of drillers on the African continent, and that this is needed for all. I try not to get disheartened. There are national training institutes undertaking short courses like these, or longer courses in Nigeria and Ethiopia. In some countries, people are more than aware of the need, and the demand, but are looking left and right for funding, without success. I am glad to have run similar courses, but am so aware that to date these have been ad hoc.
So my closing words? A huge thank you to the Ministry of Water and Environment’s Water Resources Institute and the Uganda Drilling Contractors Association (UCDA) for what you are doing. It is inspirational.
Now, how can training in drilling professionalism be institutionalised elsewhere?