UpGro Hidden Crisis Physical Sciences Longitudinal Studies – Uganda Lift Off!

Clockwise from top left: Measuring SWL in the elusive abandoned borehole and a cow; Installation of one of the rainfall collectors in the community chairpersons backyard; Securing the logger access hatch onto the pump pedastool; Modifying the handpump headworks so that a logger can be installed securely

The physical sciences longitudinal studies have kicked off in Uganda this week. The aim of these longitudinal studies is to capture the time-based hydroclimatic and hydrogeological processes of the groundwater system at selected hand pumped boreholes (HPBs). These temporal datasets provide valuable information to understanding HPB functionality that could not be addressed from the two main survey phases in the project (field survey 1 and 2).

The temporal datasets collected by the longitudinal studies will be used to estimate groundwater recharge to the groundwater system and also examine how the aquifers respond to climatic events or potential contamination issues.

What data is being collected?

  1. Bulk monthly rainfall samples, will be used with the groundwater chemistry data collected in Survey 1, to estimate groundwater recharge by applying the chloride mass balance (CMB) method.
  2. Water level data from HPBs, will be collected using manual measurements, as well as pressure transducers.  These data show the short (seasonal episodic events) and long term trends which can be used as indicators of the capacity of the water resource and its sustainability.

How? The mainstay of the fieldwork will be conducted by the in-country physical science researcher, Joseph Okullo from Makerere University, in conjunction with a number of ‘community researchers’, who will conduct frequent and regular monitoring and observation of rainfall collectors and water levels. Samples collected will be analysed at Flinders University in Australia.  The sites being used were selected from some of the sites sampled in the First Main Survey phase of the project.

Easy? The field program hasn’t been without its challenges. Mobilisation, logistics and consultation on the ground always take longer than you think. Most HPBs in Uganda are also India Mark II, which we have had to modify with the assistance of some additional ‘hydrogeologist’ tools (aka an angle grinder) so that water level measurements can be made and water level loggers deployed.   Re-finding HPB’s visited in Field Survey 1 is also not without some challenges – some proving quite elusive and others difficult to re-access at all times of the year in thunderstorms when tracks very muddy.

Watch this space for updates and results!

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