10 November 2021 | SADC-GMI
Deriving benefits from the groundwater system: Innovative groundwater infrastructure interventions
Groundwater forms an important life sustaining resource which most rural communities, about 70% of the population in the SADC region depend on.
Groundwater is extremely important in Africa. It is estimated that more than 75 percent of the African population uses groundwater as its main source of drinking water. This is particularly so in North African countries such as Libya and Tunisia, as well as parts of Algeria and Morocco, and in Southern African countries such as Botswana, Namibia, and Zimbabwe. However, despite this dependency to groundwater, sustainable groundwater infrastructure development is still lagging due to inadequate funding.
According to the SADC-GMI Training Manual on Operation and Maintenance of Groundwater Infrastructure to achieve SDG 6, considerable financial resources are required for expanding and modernising groundwater infrastructure and Operation and Maintenance (O&M) (World Bank 2018).
Groundwater’s contribution to the water security of the SADC region requires significant infrastructure interventions. However, the dispersed nature of populations served further complicates matters. Often nations in the SADC region must provide water to populations, with limited budgets and capacity. Sustainable provision of water to the needy communities in the region calls for innovation.
Groundwater infrastructure can be considered critical as it is socially, economically, and operationally adaptable to the functioning of a society or community, both in routine circumstances and in the extreme circumstances of an emergency.
In support of the Groundwater infrastructure development in the SADC region, the SADC – GMI developed the Training Manual on Operation and Maintenance of Groundwater Infrastructure. Engineer James Sauramba, SADC-GMI Executive Director says the purpose of the Manual and the training was to provide support for groundwater infrastructure development solutions that can improve management of small groundwater schemes throughout the region.
He further says this initiative reflects SADC-GMI’s commitment to promote sustainable groundwater management and solutions to groundwater challenges in the SADC region through building capacity, providing training, advancing research, supporting infrastructure development, and enabling dialogue and exchange of groundwater information.
Currently it is evident that there is a growing gap between existing and required infrastructure. Funding agencies and the governments need to demonstrate more support towards the development of new or refurbishment of existing infrastructure to meet SDG 6, water and sanitation for all. Sited challenges to implementing infrastructure sustainability and resilience range from inadequate funding and poor governance.
The development of groundwater infrastructure in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region is critical for job creation, economic growth, poverty reduction and improved livelihoods. Unfortunately, there has been chronic underfunding of infrastructure, resulting in an infrastructure gap. To close the infrastructure gap, an important lever is to optimise existing assets through proper operation and maintenance.
Groundwater forms an important life sustaining resource which most rural communities, about 70% of the population in the SADC region depend on. It is thus imperative that the infrastructure that brings the water to communities is always kept functional.
It has become clear that limited accessibility to groundwater resources in most areas is more frequently a function of the functionality of the infrastructure than the physical availability of groundwater resources. Non-functionality of the infrastructure is also, among other reasons, attributed to infrastructure vandalism which is prevalent through the SADC. This non-functionality of groundwater supply schemes affects the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) of clean water for all (SDG 6).
The provision of clean water and sanitation infrastructure services, is essential for human health and the creation of economic welfare (UNEP 2016). However, groundwater infrastructure should not be viewed in isolation but rather viewed as part of a system that comprises a portfolio of interlinked assets that provide essential services for the society (Economist 2019). As the region continues to navigate the worsening impacts of climate, investing in groundwater infrastructure development can have numerous good benefits for communities.
Following its mandate of providing solutions to groundwater challenges in the SADC region, SADC-GMI, as part of implementing the Sustainable Groundwater Management in SADC Member States project, phase 1, implemented several activities in support of groundwater infrastructure development.
- Expansion of a national groundwater monitoring network project in Lesotho
- Water Supply pilot project in Botswana
- Tanzania turns to Kimbiji aquifer systems as a new source of water supply
- SADC-GMI and the Government of Eswatini transform lives of the communities through groundwater monitoring project
- Sustainable groundwater access can build resilience among Mozambicans
- Providing access to groundwater to the Chongwe Community – A pilot project in Zambia
- Rehabilitation of Dite and Whunga community water supply projects
This sub-theme of the conference seeks to showcase innovative groundwater interventions from the region and beyond to provide a platform for sharing experiences and providing opportunities for cases to be piloted elsewhere in the region. In general, this sub-theme seeks to explore emerging technologies for groundwater-based water.