SADC-GMI supports Expansion of National Groundwater Monitoring Network Project in Lesotho
In the SADC region, groundwater resources are generally vital for drinking water supply, irrigation and the sustainability of rivers, lakes, and wetlands. However, increased demand, population growth and climate change are increasingly putting pressure on our groundwater resources. Lack of, and inappropriate management have already led to contamination and overexploitation of aquifers in some areas. The resultant effects are additional water supply problems, land subsidence and deterioration of groundwater-dependent ecosystems. Monitoring our groundwater resources is crucial for assessment, prediction and sound groundwater management. There is, however, still a lack of groundwater information and resistance to share groundwater data. Lack of information, along with the transboundary nature of many of the aquifers, complicates sustainable water management at the national and international levels.
In Lesotho, groundwater is an important natural resource and a principal source of potable water for the majority of the rural population, and lakes and wetlands are sustained by groundwater discharge. Groundwater systems in the country often respond to short-term and long-term changes in climate variables, withdrawal and land use. While more accurate and quality data is necessary, The Department of Water Affairs as the custodian of water resources has always struggled to secure and maintain a monitoring schedule of the resource due to poor spatial representation countrywide. The Department could not provide data and relevant information on the status of groundwater quality and quantity to other government agencies or private individuals as there was no well-designed and reliable monitoring system.
The challenge has been going on for years and has had a negative impact on the management of groundwater resources countrywide.
In response to the ongoing challenge, the SADC Groundwater Management Institute (SADC-GMI) awarded a grant to the Department of Water Affairs – Lesotho to develop and expand the groundwater monitoring network. The grant was part of the sub-grant scheme which SADC-GMI awarded to the SADC Member States to implement pilot projects on groundwater infrastructure development. The Sub-grant was part of the Sustainable Groundwater Management in SADC Member States project which SADC-GMI implemented between August 2016 and 30 June 2021 under the strategic guidance of the SADC Secretariat’s Directorate of Infrastructure’s Water Division. The project was funded by Global Environmental Facility and the Cooperation in International Waters in Africa.
The project aimed to expand the existing monitoring network which was developed in the 1990s to form a comprehensive nationwide network to support and provide guidance of groundwater management activities in Lesotho. Equally critical, the project would help decision makers to understand the impact of rainfall on groundwater recharge and help them take necessary steps to properly manage the resource. Through the project, the Department of Water Affairs will be able to supply data and relevant information on the status of groundwater quality and quantity to other government agencies or private individuals in the country.
Mr. Motoho Maseatile, Director at the Department of Water Affairs, Lesotho said there is a need to develop an understanding of groundwater patterns and how it is impacted by climate change and the only way to develop such an understanding is by conducting frequent monitoring at a greater scale. He further said the increase in monitoring boreholes and development of a comprehensive monitoring network will play a vital role in groundwater management in the country especially in the high lying areas where groundwater was not monitored at all. “With visible impacts of climate change on water resources, and the threat to water security, groundwater often becomes the only option in the rural areas, it provides a slight resistance to variable changes resulting from climate change”, emphasized Maseatile.
The implementation of the project resulted in the following milestones:
- Twenty boreholes were drilled and cased at the following sites: Ha Nkau; Ha Nkhabu; Nyakosoba; Masoeling Ha Seele; Ha Mohlakoana; Ha Koali; Ha Letsoela; Koenaneng; Motete (Mothae); Oxbow; Ha Sekoala; Ha Nyoko/ Ha ‘Meta; Ntsiking; Mohlanapeng; Ha Nyane, Mantsonyane; Khorong, Mokhoabong; Ha Sekaake; Ha Manteko; Sehlabathebe, Ha Mavuka; Matelile Ha Makhakhe.
- Environmental and Social Management Plan (ESMP) was drawn and implemented to ensure that the project complied with the World Bank and national Environmental and Social safeguards,
- Groundwater monitoring network was designed and,
- Procurement of goods and equipment for the project was completed.
A training was conducted where 10 groundwater personnel (8 men and 2 women) from the Department of Water Affairs were capacitated on issues related to proper groundwater monitoring practices and sample handling. Due to the type of topography Lesotho has, the training took about two weeks and the trainees underwent both theoretical as well as practical exercises which took place during the field visits. The training of local stakeholders would also ensure that the locals take ownership of the project post the implementation.
With the project having reached its practical completion, Lesotho will be able to monitor groundwater resources countrywide as well as provide accurate data and information when required to do so.