An opportunity to reflect on manual drilling – UNESCO Seminar in Madrid, 2019

It was 21 years ago that I was first confronted with manual drilling.  I had just started my PhD research at Cranfield University.  The idea was to develop a human operated rig that could break through harder (laterite) formation, test it in an African country, and have it adopted by the private sector… in three years.  Back then I could never have imagined that in 2019 (and in my mid-40’s), that I would join ten others for a seminar hosted in Madrid, Spain on the role of manual drilling to reach universal water access.

Looking back, the goals of the project were unrealistic, but we did not know that at the time, and research provides space for considerable learning. Oh, and by the way, digital cameras were very new on the market in 1998.  My colleague had one, which produced recognisable, but quite grainy images.

The UK Department for International Development (DFID) Knowledge and Research (KAR) funded research project, “Low Cost Drilling” took me to Uganda, and three years of field work in collaboration with the (now) Ministry of Water and Environment and district local governments in Mukono and Mpigi. Following initial trials in a field in the UK, UNICEF and the government enabled use of the rig to provide drinking water supplies within their joint drinking water programme (called WES).

We proved that the new technology (which we called the Pounder Rig) could work, but embedding it in Uganda proved to be beyond us within the three-year period. In the meantime, I had gone from standing in a hotel lobby to make calls to landlines and leaving messages for people who were not there, to having my first mobile phone. My photographs remained analogue; a digital camera being well out of financial reach at the time.

The PhD research process taught me so much, but let me try to stay close to the topic of manual drilling. The subject of innovation diffusion was opened up, and I came to learn that the successful adoption of any technology is brought about by much more than technical aspects (my PhD thesis provides insights into this in case you wish to be one of the very few people to read it).

Over the subsequent years, I was extremely fortunate to have the chance to keep on returning to the subject of manual drilling. The collaboration with UNICEF to follow-up their efforts to support manual drilling professionalization in several countries was a welcome opportunity, leading to not only the 2015 manual drilling compendium, but also more in-depth documentation of the status quo in Nigeria and Chad. In short, we documented that by 2015 manual drilling technologies had provided drinking water sources in at least 36 countries.

Manual Drilling

There are quite a few organisations introducing manual drilling technology, including private enterprises developing new markets; local non-governmental organisations (NGOs) with overseas funding; governments relying on foreign/local expertise as well as foreign companies and NGOs (including several faith-based organisations).

However, as I started to learn while in Uganda some 20 years ago, the diffusion of innovation has different phases.  Broadly speaking, there is the introduction phase, the uptake phase (also known as the valley of death, given that many technologies are not taken up), and the established phase. Mobile phones combined with digital cameras (aka SMART phones), that can enable you to make calls and take high resolution photographs are in the established phase.

Innovation Uptake (003)

Dr Pedro Martinez-Santos, the new UNESCO Chair in “Appropriate Technologies for Human Development” at the Universidad Complutense de Madrid chose the role of manual drilling technologies towards universal water access as the topic for the first seminar of the chair in April 2019.  I was privileged to be among the eleven people who attended the event. I thus had the opportunity to listen to, and learn from professionals talking of specific experiences in Nigeria, Senegal, the Demographic of Congo, Zambia and Guinea Bissau as well as more widely. It was also a chance to present my own experiences and reflections, and engage in open and fee dialogue.

Returning, after two decades, to an academic environment and reflecting on a topic that has engaged me ever since, is something that may only happen once in a lifetime! There is much that I could say about manual drilling, and even more to learn about, but I close this blog with three short messages:

  • Manual drilling is fully established in some countries and less so in others. Globally, a suite of technologies, when used in the right locations and with professional construction methods, can provide drinking water of good quality. Manual drilling undoubtedly has a significant role to play in reaching the Sustainable Development Goal Targets for Drinking Water, especially in remote areas, but also in rapidly growing urban centres where piped supplies are failing to provide reliable services.
  • Manual drilling is not just about technology but also: the businesses that invest; the drillers (male and female) that need be able to work professionally; the data that can be collected; and the question of whether some people are left behind while others tap the water from their back yards. And there is the regulation (alongside other innovations) needed ensure that the sources are, and remain safe to drink, tapping sustainable groundwater resources.
  • I close by urging not only governments, but also development partners to consider manual drilling, and manual drillers in policies, legislation, investments and capacity strengthening efforts rather than leaving it on the margins. As we experienced in Madrid in April, engage in real dialogue and listening with the different actors involved. The rewards may even be beyond your expectations!

You can download all the presentations from the Madrid seminar from here.

RWSN has collated information on manual drilling technologies and associated wider issues here.

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

Feel free to send your text and one or more pictures (if possible) in an e-mail with the subject “RWSN Blog Post” to ruralwater@skat.ch

 

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

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.

“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?

What is the big deal about manual drilling anyway?

Let me tell you a not-very-well-kept secret. My PhD research some 15 years ago was on manual drilling. That was what took me to Uganda in the first place and taught me how to link social science, business development and technology. For those of you who don’t know what it is, manual drilling refers to several drilling methods that rely on human energy to construct a borehole and complete a water supply. These methods can be used in areas where formations are quite soft and groundwater is relatively shallow. And by the way, the “Pounder rig” as we called it worked, but it never took off in Uganda (the details are in my thesis).
Continue reading “What is the big deal about manual drilling anyway?”

a new phase of RWSN is on the way…..

2015 Theme Icons

RWSN is not a formal organisation, more of a shared idea. In 1992, the network was founded as the Handpump Technology Network (HTN) with a narrow focus on…. handpump technology. 22 years on, and this small group of engineers from the Water & Sanitation Program of the World Bank, UNICEF, Skat and the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) has become a much bigger family.

As of this morning we have 6,301 individual members, 23 RWSN Member Organisations (the newest are Yobe State Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Agency, Nigeria and the German-based NGO, Welthungerhilfe) and we have an active team of thematic leaders from Skat, WaterAid and IRC as well as a tremendously supportive Executive Committee.

So where now?

Continue reading “a new phase of RWSN is on the way…..”

Water Supply in Lagos and Nigeria – the importance of manual drilling

Nigeria has become increasingly dependent on groundwater over the last 20 years. Groundwater (from hand dug wells, boreholes/tubewells and springs) is the main source of drinking water for over 100 million people in the country. But how many people know about this, and what it means for the practices, policies and politics of Africa’s most populous country?

For our short photo/video documentary, visit: http://vimeo.com/107047730. The full report can be downloaded from http://www.rural-water-supply.net/en/resources/details/618.
Groundwater use in Nigeria has increased year after year: boreholes supplied drinking water to 10% of the population in 1999. By 2011 it was 32%. These boreholes are drilled by machines or manually. Most boreholes that are drilled on the sediments in the south or north east of the country are constructed using manual drilling techniques.
The Rural Water Supply Network (RWSN) is known for its work on water supply in rural areas. Thanks to the collaboration with UNICEF, I was able to undertake a short study of manual drilling in Lagos and neighbouring states in June this year. Have you ever visited Lagos? Lagos State is one the world’s most rapidly growing urban agglomerations. Its current population is estimated at 21 million. It is Nigeria’s smallest in terms of size but largest in terms of population. An extremely vibrant and energetic place where urban is interspersed with rural in a very dynamic situation.
Less than 10% of Lagosians access piped water, while the remainder largely fend for themselves. So what do they use? Well, people buy water from vendors, purchase bottled or sachet water, or draw water from their own hand-dug wells or boreholes. One of the less well known factors in Lagos’ success as an economic hub is that it sits on sediments. These are filled with relatively shallow groundwater (at a depth of 10 to 70 meters) which can be tapped affordably.
In recent years, most new groundwater supplies in Lagos are being constructed using manual drilling techniques. We estimate that there are about 200 drilling enterprises operating in Lagos, employing about 1,000 people. For Nigeria as a whole, there are even more.
Here are some quotes from the study:

  •  There is no other fast technology that can give water like manual drilling. It will keep on happening as long as people are building their houses.” Manual Driller, Lagos
  • “[Manual Drilling] is the order of the day. Before you start building a house you must have money to put a borehole there” General Manager, Rural Water and Sanitation State Agency (RUWASSA),
    Oyo State
  • “There is no need to go out [of Nigeria]. There is money to be made in this country…I would be proud for my son to enter this [manual drilling] business, Manual Driller, Oyo State

The manual drilling industry is attracting new recruits with its relatively low entry barrier (about US$2,000 for a set of drilling tools). Manual drilling is thus providing much-needed employment, most of which is within the informal economy. The manually drilled boreholes themselves are affordable, usually at a cost of less than US$2,500 per well. And they can be constructed in small spaces, and in parts of the city where conventional drilling equipment could never reach.
Manual drilling fills a need, but is not regulated. Variable construction quality poses health risks for the population, who, along with political leaders are largely in the dark about key construction standards. There are also longer terms risks of groundwater contamination. With no records of the number of wells drilled and abstraction rates, coupled with a lack of groundwater monitoring, there is no guarantee that groundwater levels will not start to fall in the future.
As the market for manual drilled boreholes and industry expands in many parts of Nigeria, those who can afford it, and are living on suitable formations will benefit from having a water source at their own home. Others will be less fortunate. In order to harness the benefits of manual drilling, we recommend the following:

  1. Recognise that manual drilling provides affordable water close to the home – but not for everyone
  2. Educate citizens and political leaders about groundwater
  3. Recognise and support the initiatives of the manual drillers to organise themselves
  4. Train manual drillers and supervisors to become professionals
  5. Popularise and strengthen regulations at state-level and issue permits for manual drillers and licences for manually drilled boreholes
  6. Find ways to ensure adherence of borehole construction standards – including supervision
  7. Test water quality
  8. Assess and monitor water resources

For our short photo/video documentary, visit: http://vimeo.com/107047730.

The full report can be downloaded from http://www.rural-water-supply.net/en/resources/details/618.

Manually Drilled Wells: Providing water in Nigeria’s Megacity of Lagos and beyond

Health_and_Safety_OGUN_IMG_3710
Manual drilling crew in action (photo: K. Danert, 2014)

by Dr Kerstin Danert, Skat Foundation

In Lagos, a city of over 17 million people, water demands are mainly being met from tapping the groundwater that lies beneath the city. Boreholes provide water directly at people’s homes or business premises. Borehole construction is being paid for by householders and businesses themselves. Water vendors, selling water in jerry cans or trucks are also prolific. Given the limited reach of the piped infrastructure, much of the water vended is likely to also originate from below ground. In fact, exploitation of the large, relatively shallow aquifers that lie below Lagos is one of the main reasons that the city can continue to grow at all.

Continue reading “Manually Drilled Wells: Providing water in Nigeria’s Megacity of Lagos and beyond”