Water scarcity in Chimbiya, Malawi was a huge challenge, affecting livelihoods of more than 15000 people living in the area. The situation exposed the vulnerable community members like women and children who travelled long distances to access safe water for drinking and domestic use to societal ills such as harassment and violence.
In addressing the Chimbiya water challenge, the Southern African Development Community Groundwater Management Institute (SADC-GMI), in collaboration with the Government of Malawi implemented a pilot project to explore deep aquifers. The aim of the project was to provide water to inhabitants living in Chimbiya. Ten communal-style water distribution points were supplied with water coming from the 100m deep borehole. In comparison, standard borehole depth in Malawi is usually only 45m deep. The new borehole was drilled to reach the deep aquifers, with increased water supply.
The borehole has been hailed as a lifesaver by inhabitants of Chimbiya, where scant rainfall aggravated by climate change has hindered community access to safe drinking water and vital water resources to sustain their livelihoods.
The Chimbiya Community Project, implemented by the Water Mission and the Malawi Ministry of Water with technical and financial support from SADC-GMI is one of the initiatives implemented in response to water challenges in the region. The borehole is estimated to produce 35000 litres of water per day.
The community of Chimbiya is not unique – water scarcity affects more than 40% of people around the world, an alarming figure that is expected to rise even higher as climate change causes global temperatures to rise. Ensuring universal access to safe and affordable drinking water for all by 2030 requires that adequate investment is made towards water infrastructure at every level.
Groundwater, however, seems to be one way to buffer the impending impact of climate change and water scarcity, especially in regions already struggling with access to surface water resources.
As surface water resources are increasingly dwindling as a result of the impacts of climate change, more and more people are turning to groundwater as their primary water source, which also places severe stress on available groundwater resources. Groundwater has proven to be generally more resilient to climate change as it is hidden and less susceptible to evaporation.
At a recent mission to Malawi, James Sauramba, SADC-GMI Executive Director, commended Malawi for being the first country to successfully complete their pilot project, while also praising country representatives for selecting a pilot project that brings water directly to a community where it would have a maximum impact. Sauramba said that while Chimbiya was the pilot, the lessons learned from the project can ensure that other communities across the SADC region also benefit from similar interventions, without the same mistakes being repeated.
Marcus Wijnen, Task Team Leader from World Bank also commended the Chimbiya community for their commitment to the project, highlighting that projects such as these often succeed or fail based oncommunity involvement and commitment.
Going forward, water scarcity in Chimbiya will be a thing of the past as the community now has access to clean water that will improve their livelihoods.
Sustainable Development Goal 6 puts emphasis on access to clean water for all by 2030 and SADC-GMI is implementing such projects in support of and attaining the targets of the Sustainable Development goals and Agenda 2063 set by the United Nations.
The Southern African Development Community Groundwater Management Institute (SADC-GMI) is implementing the Sustainable Groundwater Management in SADC Member States project, funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and Cooperation in International Waters in Africa (CIWA) through the World Bank. An important part of this project is the need to promote infrastructure solutions for sustainable groundwater management, which is facilitated by sub-grants awarded to SADC Member States to implement small pilot projects on groundwater infrastructure development.