Research Update: UPGRO Project

I’ve just returned from a trip to Malawi, Ethiopia and Uganda to set up a research project “A Hidden Crisis: unraveling current failures for future success in rural groundwater supply”. This is a four year project, funded under a programme called “Unlocking the Potential of Groundwater for the Poor (UPGRO)” funded by NERC, ESRC and DFID. The aim of the project is to investigate borehole failure in the three countries from water governance, hydrogeological and systems engineering perspectives. The functionality of boreholes is an important issue because it’s estimated that 30% or more of groundwater based water sources fail within a few years of construction and a greater number can be seasonal. Many think these figures are over-optimistic and there is little data on why water sources are non-functional. Ambitious international goals (such as the Sustainable Development Goals) to increase access to water are unlikely to be met unless we can learn how to ensure the robustness of rural water supplies.

Partners in the project consortium include the British Geological Survey; WaterAid; Makerere University, Uganda; Addis Ababa University, Ethiopia; the University of Malawi; Overseas Development Institute UK; University of Flinders, Australia; and University of Cambridge, UK.

Meeting with university and WaterAid partners in each of the countries highlighted both commonalities and differences in issues arising in rural water programmes and we are currently grappling with the challenge of fine tuning our study design to accommodate diversity and to enable us to make some generalisations across countries.

Professor Frances Cleaver, Head of the King’s Water Research Group