Over-abstraction of groundwater


Photo credit: CGIAR

 A well in Tunisia.

Groundwater over-abstraction in the MENA region: 5 problems and some solutions

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In the Haouaria Plain of Northern Tunisia, a too familiar scene unfolds: a farmer stands near the edge of a wide hand-dug well, distraught. Groundwater levels continue to drop every year, increasing salinity and reducing the amount of crops that can be cultivated. Precipitation does not replenish the shallow aquifer like it used to. Groundwater depletion is a vexing phenomenon threatening sustainable economic and social development in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). Controlling and managing over-abstraction has become a clear challenge for policy-makers, managers and academics in the region.

Can innovative policies and regulations be used to reverse the current trend of groundwater depletion? This complex problem requires a systematic far-reaching approach that builds on existing knowledge and practices within and beyond the region. Implemented by IWMI and national partners in Tunisia, Lebanon, Jordan, and the UAE, a three-year USAID-funded project studied the uses, limitations and potential of policy tools and stakeholder dialogue to curb groundwater over-abstraction. The project has found that the current regulation and management tools in the MENA region suffer from five “wicked” problems that prevent them from properly addressing groundwater issues.

1. Scattered web of groundwater users

The main problem affecting groundwater resources in the MENA region is the myriad and scattered number of groundwater users.

Read the full article: CGIAR

Solar pumps in Ethiopia

Photo credit: Africa Rising – https://agintensificationafrica.files.wordpress.com/2015/10/solar-pumps.jpg?w=225&h=300


Solar pumps seeing the light in Lemo, Ethiopia

In September 2015, the International Water Management Institute (IWMI) installed solar pumps in Upper Gana and Jawe, two communities in southern Ethiopia.

The new solar pumps developed by the Dutch NGO Practica and produced in Kenya are for the first time being implemented in Ethiopia. Africa RISING is the first to test them out – or rather the farmers are the first.

Together with IWMI, farmers cultivating avocado, fodder and vegetables will be testing the robustness of the technology in the upcoming dry season. Aside from the agronomic and irrigation research, IWMI will be working with the Omo Micro Finance Institution to assess whether it is a viable investment.

Read the full article: Africa Rising


Drought in California

Photo credit: Nature World News

Aqueducts in California, one of which is pictured here, are being pumped to combat the state’s current drought. The amount being pumped is causing an increased rate of subsidence in surrounding areas. (Photo : Wikimedia Commons )

Drought Conditions in California are Causing Severe Subsidence

By Samantha Mathewson

As California continues pumping groundwater to combat the historic drought they are facing, land in the San Joaquin Valley is sinking at an increased rate of 2 inches more per month. The California Department of Water Resources released a NASA report illustrating their findings.

“Because of increased pumping, groundwater levels are reaching record lows — up to 100 feet (30 meters) lower than previous records,” Department of Water Resources Director Mark Cowin said in a statement. “As extensive groundwater pumping continues, the land is sinking more rapidly and this puts nearby infrastructure at greater risk of costly damage.”

NASA compared satellite images taken of Earth’s surface over time to discover this increased rate of subsidence.Interferometric synthetic aperture radar (InSAR) observations from satellite and aircraft platforms have been used over the past few years to produce maps of subsidence with approximately centimeter-level accuracy. Using multiple scenes, researchers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) were able to produce time histories and profiles of subsidence at selected locations to show the variation over time.

Read the full article: Nature World News

Proliferation of boreholes in Nigeria

Photo credit: This Day Live

Drilling a borehole

Threat of Boreholes

There are concerns among the residents of Tsaunin Kura GRA, Sabon-Tasha area of Kaduna metropolis over the proliferation of boreholes in the community. John Shiklam writes

The proliferation of borehole as a source of water for domestic use by residents of Tsaunin Kura GRA in Sabon -Tasha area of Kaduna metropolis is raising serious environmental concern among members of the community.

Unlike most government reserved areas (GRAs), where almost every amenity, from good road network to provision of electricity and potable water is provided by the government, the case of Tsaunin – Kura is different as the community had been solely responsible for the provision of these basic amenities following neglect by the state government.

Tsaunin Kura, a GRA populated by the Christians in the southern part of Kaduna metropolis, is the only GRA without motorable roads since its inception many years ago and it was only in 2013, that residents had to mobilise their resources for the grading of the roads to make them motorable. The state government later intervened by grading some of the roads.

But the failure of the Kaduna State Government to provide potable water  has left residence with no choice than to indiscriminately dig the ground for their water needs

Fears are being expressed about the environmental implication of concentration of boreholes and wells in the community in the future, if steps are not taken immediately to reverse the trend through provision of water to the area by the state water corporation.

Chairman of part of the Tsaunin Kura GRA, behind Our Lady of Fatima Catholic Church, Mr. Timitayo Omole, in an interview with THISDAY said the present challenge requires urgent attention.

According to him, there are 13 boreholes within a radius of 150 metres, in different houses in the community, noting that the story is not peculiar to his side of the GRA alone.

Read the full article: This Day Live

Getting that ‘real time’ flow in Pakistan

Photo credit: IWMI-CGIAR

Farmer taking excess water out from the fields near 3R canal, Haron Abad, Pakistan. Photo: Faseeh Shams/IWMI

A better way to collect, send and share water information in Pakistan

A group of researchers from the International Water Management Institute (IWMI) in Pakistan are investigating whether water flow information that is clear, credible and timely can improve the management of public irrigation systems and lead to more equitable water distribution. The team is using new technology, which automatically measures canal flows, groundwater and weather, and transmits this information to water managers through a mobile phone network. This is the first attempt at using such technology for flow monitoring at this level of canal irrigation in the country.

Currently, Pakistan’s Indus Basin Irrigation System supports 300 million people and a quarter of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) through agriculture. However, this system cannot meet the rising demand for water from farmers. According to predictions, Pakistan will have the world’s fifth largest population by 2050. This, alongside trends of increasing land fragmentation and a transition towards the cultivation of cash crops, is putting pressure on water distribution.

The current system also faces challenges of inequity due to water rationing. During the summer months, farmers need additional water to compensate for higher rates of evapotranspiration, but the demand for water exceeds the supply. Depending on farmers’ location along the canal system, some have better access to water and receive different quantities even though they pay the same water fees per unit of land. IWMI is piloting a new way of collecting, processing and monitoring data, and researchers hope that this will help water managers clearly identify areas in need. Eventually, this could support the development of policies for more equitable and sustainable water use.

Read the full article: IWMI-CGIAR

Vast aquifer found in Kenya’s Turkana region

Photo credit: Google

Lake Turkana

Kenya: First Test Shows Kenya’s Huge Underground Water Find Too Salty to Drink

Nairobi/Rome — Tests on a vast aquifer found in Kenya’s drought-wracked Turkana region show the water is too salty to drink, a government official said on Friday.

The 2013 discovery of underground lakes the size of the U.S. state of Delaware, according to satellite imagery, was hailed as a chance for the arid northern region to finally feed its people.

Turkana water pump - http://onedifference.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/Turkana-header.jpg
Turkana water pump – http://onedifference.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/Turkana-header.jpg

At the time of the discovery, Kenya’s water minister said the “newly found wealth of water opens the door to a more prosperous future for the people of Turkana and the nation as a whole”.

But the first test results from Lotikipi, the largest aquifer which is close to Kenya’s border with South Sudan, have been disappointing.

Turkana homesteads - http://www.turkanamirror.co.ke/wp-content/gallery/lodwar/111129114143-turkana-homesteads-horizontal-gallery.jpg
Turkana homesteads – http://www.turkanamirror.co.ke/wp-content/gallery/lodwar/111129114143-turkana-homesteads-horizontal-gallery.jpg

“The water is not fit for human consumption,” said Japheth Mutai, chief executive officer of the government-owned Rift Valley Water Services Board, which is responsible for providing water in the region.

The underground water would have to be desalinated – an expensive and energy intensive process – before it could be used for human consumption, livestock or irrigation, Mutai said.

The test well, drilled 350 metres underground, showed salt levels seven times higher than the safe limit allowed by the World Health Organization (WHO), he said.

“The numbers don’t look good,” Mutai told Thomson Reuters Foundation on Friday. “It is causing a lot of anxiety.”

More than a third of Kenya’s 41 million people have no access to clean water.

Read the full article: allAfrica

With irrigation Africa could feed the world (Ending Hunger)

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Pump it up, Africa!

With irrigation Africa could feed the world

This may sound surprising, considering nearly 239 million people on the continent are hungry, but 60 percent of the world’s uncultivated arable land is in Africa.

So why isn’t it full of big, lush vegetable gardens? Lack of irrigation.

Irrigation is an old technique, not flashy like some new technologies, but investing in simple irrigation systems could actually turn Africa into the “green” continent.

Right now, much of Sub-Saharan Africa relies on rainwater for crops. But climate change is making rainfall less reliable and drought more common. Farmers who collect rain water and use it on their crops during dry periods can double or even quadruple the amount of food they produce.

To conserve water farmers can use drip irrigation — a steady dripping of water directly onto the soil surface or right into the roots. This method can reduce water use by 70 percent and increase output by anywhere from 20 to 90 percent.


If groundwater resources are overexploited, aquifers will be unable to recharge fast enough to keep pace with water withdrawals (Worldwatch Institute)

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Global Irrigated Area at Record Levels, But Expansion Slowing

In 2009, the most recent year for which global data are available from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), 311 million hectares in the world was equipped for irrigation but only 84 percent of that area was actually being irrigated, according to new research conducted by the Worldwatch Institute for its Vital Signs Online service (www.worldwatch.org). As of 2010, the countries with the largest irrigated areas were India (39 million hectares), China (19 million), and the United States (17 million), writes report author Judith Renner.

The irrigation sector claims about 70 percent of the freshwater withdrawals worldwide. Irrigation can offer crop yields that are two to four times greater than is possible with rainfed farming, and it currently provides 40 percent of the world’s food from approximately 20 percent of all agricultural land.

Since the late 1970s, irrigation expansion has experienced a marked slowdown. The FAO attributes the decline in investment to the unsatisfactory performances of formal large canal systems, corruption in the construction process, and acknowledgement of the environmental impact of irrigation projects.

The increasing availability of inexpensive individual pumps and well construction methods has led to a shift from public to private investment in irrigation, and from larger to smaller-scale systems. The takeoff in individual groundwater irrigation has been concentrated in India, China, and much of Southeast Asia. The idea of affordable and effective irrigation is attractive to poor farmers worldwide, with rewards of higher outputs and incomes and better diets. Continue reading “If groundwater resources are overexploited, aquifers will be unable to recharge fast enough to keep pace with water withdrawals (Worldwatch Institute)”

Overpumping means some nations have reached peak water (Guardian)

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‘The real threat to our future is peak water’

As population rises, overpumping means some nations have reached peak water, which threatens food supply, says Lester Brown

Kansas’s Quivira National Wildlife Refuge in 2012, during the worst drought in the United States in more than 50 years. Photograph: Jim Reed/Corbis

Peak oil has generated headlines in recent years, but the real threat to our future is peak water. There are substitutes for oil, but not for water. We can produce food without oil, but not without water.

We drink on average four quarts (4.5 litres) of water per day, in one form or another, but the food we eat each day requires 2,000 quarts of water to produce, or 500 times as much. Getting enough water to drink is relatively easy, but finding enough to produce the ever-growing quantities of grain the world consumes is another matter.

Grain consumed directly supplies nearly half of our calories. That consumed indirectly as meat, milk, and eggs supplies a large part of the remainder. Today roughly 40% of the world grain harvest comes from irrigated land. It thus comes as no surprise that irrigation expansion has played a central role in tripling the world grain harvest over the last six decades.

During the last half of the 20th century, the world’s irrigated area expanded from 232m acres (93m hectares) in 1950 to 706m in 2000. This tripling of world irrigation within 50 years was historically unique. But since then the growth in irrigation has come to a near standstill, expanding only 9% between 2000 and 2010.


Something breaks on the pump and it never works again (Opinionator)

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Keeping the Water Flowing in Rural Villages


Keeping projects in business for the long term has been a constant theme of the Fixes column, and if sustainability has a poster child, it would be a water pump.   Travel anywhere in Africa or South Asia or Central America, and you will find a landscape dotted with the rusting skeletons of dead water pumps or wells..

In most developing countries, these water points are installed with great fanfare by the government or a charitable group.  They greatly improve the lives of villagers.   Having a water point in or near the village means that women don’t have to spend 6,8, even 12 hours a day on perilous journeys to fetch water from rivers or lakes. The pumps allow girls to go to school instead of staying home to help their mothers fetch water or take care of siblings. They allow villagers to drink reasonably clean water instead of risking their health with every sip.

Then something breaks on the pump — a huge catastrophe like an underground pipe bursting, or a small one, like the loss of a bolt or a washer. And it never works again.

Early death is shockingly widespread for water pumps.  Perhaps the biggest study of this ever was carried out in 21 African countries by an organization called Sustainable Water Services at Scale.  It found that 36 percent of pumps were not working.  “This level of failure represents a waste of between $1.2 billion and $1.5 billion in investments in 20 years,” said the organization.


Guaranteed and reliable repairs when hand pumps break down (Google / Opinionator)

Read at : Google Alert – images of the Africa Drought


To Maintain Water Pumps, It Takes More Than a Village


This is a follow-up to Friday’s column “Keeping the Water Flowing in Rural Villages.”

Readers responded with many practical ideas and incisive comments — some of them speaking from sad experience — to last Friday’s Fixes column on the sustainability of water pumps.  I wrote about a new program started recently by WaterAid in the north of India.  It trains local people, including many women, to repair water pumps. They now run businesses that charge villages low fees for quick, guaranteed and reliable repairs when their hand pumps break down.

WaterAid is responding to a problem seen around the world: governments and charitable groups install water pumps, wells and other village water systems, but pay insufficient attention to keeping them running.   Surveys show that between 30 and 40 percent of water points in rural Africa are out of commission.  Many will never be repaired.

It wasn’t supposed to be this way.


Easy irrigation tools for African farmers (CS Monitor)

Via a Facebook message of Cynthia ODERA (Kenya) :


A water pump for the people

Inventor Martin Fisher designs easy irrigation tools for African farmers.

By Peter Smith, Correspondent for The Christian Science Monitor /

As an aid worker in Africa, Martin Fisher says he saw a twofold problem: A lack of irrigation made it difficult for impoverished rural farmers to make money, and the irrigation pumps provided by many foreign aid programs lay broken and unused.

“All too often we do more harm than good,” says Mr. Fisher. “I realized that when it comes down to it, a poor person has only one need: A way to make more money.”

Fisher, an aluminum expert by training, has developed a series of low-cost, manual water pumps that can be used to irrigate farms up to two acres in size. In turn, farmers can increase their yields and grow produce for market.

“It’s providing a tool. If that’s all it was that would be good,” says Erik Hersman, a South African expat who blogs about ingenuity on the continent at Afrigadget.com. “But what Martin Fisher’s doing is he’s encouraging people to start a business – to be entrepreneurs.”

Sometimes, Mr. Hersman says, these tools and the money they create spur additional innovation and spin-off businesses, like pumping services.

Aid, not handouts

One of the more popular pumps Fisher has designed, the Super-MoneyMaker Pump, looks a little like a baby blue Stairmaster workout machine. When a farmer steps on the foot pedal, its pistons convert the stomp into a strong suction that can draw water uphill.



http://youtu.be/zIDzBQ6meYY : Don’t Wait For the Rain – Mr. Ebbo

Since 1996 KickStart has been the leader in micro-irrigation technologies through the development and sales of its popularly known series of manually operated “MoneyMaker” pumps. Watch this video by Maasai rap artist Mr. Ebbo to learn more about this life-changing technology.

KickStart is a non-profit organization that develops and markets new agricultural technologies in Africa. These low-cost technologies are bought by local entrepreneurs and used to establish highly profitable new small businesses. They create new jobs and wealth, enabling the poor to climb out of poverty forever. The Lemelson Foundation has provided funding for KickStart initiatives.


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