Project Aim

The overall aim of the project is to build a robust, multi-country evidence base on the causes of the unacceptably high rates of groundwater system and service failure and use this knowledge to deliver a step-change in future functionality, with recommendations for (1) diagnosing existing problems in country programmes, and (2) developing policy and practice to mitigate risks.

The research will be guided by the following hypothesis:

The underlying causes of the rapid failure of approximately a third of African rural groundwater sources are complex and multifaceted, but with dynamic interdisciplinary approaches can be understood, diagnosed and ultimately, anticipated and mitigated.

Project Objectives

The project draws on a novel truly interdisciplinary approach using the latest thinking and techniques in both natural and social sciences to unravel how local hydrogeological conditions and institutional arrangements interact and contribute to water point failure applies. The research will be undertaken in three countries in sub-Saharan Africa that have struggled for decades with service sustainability. The project has five main objectives:

Objective 1: To provide a nuanced definition of functionality of water points and water user groups that accounts for seasonality, quality and expectations, and is fit for purpose for tracking future progress towards new Sustainable Development Goals.

Objective 2: To apply this new definition to three countries, Ethiopia, Uganda and Malawi, carry out field surveys for a statistically significant sample of waterpoints, and relate results to larger ongoing studies of functionality to help update WASH coverage figures.

Objective 3: To unravel the multifaceted factors governing source failure and success through detailed interdisciplinary science exploring the inter-relations between water point governance arrangements, engineering choice/performance, demographic, and groundwater conditions within a broader institutional and hydrogeological framework.

Objective 4: To examine future scenarios of rural water supply coverage under different future pathways, including groundwater recharge scenarios, different development approaches, and future rural water demand scenarios.

Objective 5: To develop a dynamic approach for detailed interdisciplinary analysis of the datasets developed in objectives 1 – 3 for a better understanding of key factors to future resilience of rural water supply programmes.