Remote Digital Groundwater Monitoring: Policy Challenges for Structural Transformation

Owing to its relatively stable yield of high-quality water, groundwater has emerged as an extremely important water resource for meeting domestic, industrial, agricultural and environmental demands. Although groundwater is often relatively well protected from pollution, poor management has resulted in negative impacts such as declining aquifer heads, quality deterioration, and irrational abstraction rates. Uganda has approximately 40,000 deep boreholes, 30,000 protected springs, and 16,000 shallow wells.

A total of 73 of the 98 operational water supply systems are dependent on groundwater, accounting for around 75% of all towns and cities. In Kampala City, several industries are reliant on groundwater, including mineral water and chemical industries. The indiscriminate disposal of industrial waste to the ground, coupled with over abstraction by high yielding electric pumps necessitates a renewed focus on groundwater monitoring.

This study examined efforts by several actors undertaking groundwater monitoring, using data loggers, smart sensors, and other telemetric real-time monitoring systems. Major findings from the study reveal that monitoring data is generated across a range of stakeholders in public, private, and non-profit sectors, with efforts largely uncoordinated. The data is rarely stored for future use as it is lost along the way.

The study recommends that the different stakeholders develop a coordinated and clear data collection, storage, and retrieval system and a systematic database and arrangement for data sharing via the internet be established. The research concludes that there is clearly an unmet need; hence a national effort to track groundwater monitoring data over the long-term is vital given its wide applicability to water resource issues commonly faced by hydrologists, engineers, regulators, and resource managers.

It calls for an immediate establishment of a more rigorous and systematic nationwide approach to groundwater monitoring, clearly an elusive goal thus far. The time is right for progress towards this goal.


Groundwater has become central to human development over the course of a few decades. However, using groundwater for sustainable development faces a paradoxical challenge. On the one hand, 1.7 billion people live in areas where groundwater resources are overexploited (Gleeson et al., 2012) and an unknown number are experiencing pollution problems and degradation of groundwater dependent ecosystems. In Uganda, these have resulted in over-pumping; land subsidence, and waterborne diseases among many other challenges. 

Another large group of challenges is the rapid growth of pollution pressures on groundwater. There is widespread evidence of deteriorating groundwater quality associated with the leaching of agrochemicals, seepage of urban and industrial effluents, concentrated volumes of urban sewerage and waste contaminating groundwater due to poorly designed collection and treatment systems, contamination by on-site sanitation systems, and irresponsible disposal of hazardous waste. Such pollution undermines human well-being and limits the options of groundwater use. Groundwater quality problems tend to be extremely persistent, and often too costly or technically impractical to remediate. There is a growing pressure on the entire ‘subsurface space’.

Numerous problems such as water table drawdown, decreasing well yield, land subsidence, and salinity intrusion that have emerged as the results of over-exploitation of groundwater may incur socioeconomic losses and disturb development of the affected areas of Uganda. These problems are either irreversible in nature or require extended periods to abate. Therefore, there is an urgent need to consider how this precious resource can be conserved, while taking full advantage of it for the development of the country. This calls for coordinated national groundwater monitoring efforts to capture such ‘time variant data’; that is key to inform measures that can help improve the performance of groundwater.

Groundwater Monitoring in Uganda

Every year, between 1000-1500 boreholes and around 900 shallow wells are drilled in Uganda. Just like many other countries, systems of water permits were introduced in recent decades to control water use, but the over-exploitation of groundwater has defied solution.

This calls for groundwater monitoring, as an intervention of fundamental importance, especially in such a situation where the groundwater resources are threatened by over-exploitation and quality deterioration. Groundwater monitoring and groundwater data acquisition are pre-requisites for any effective management of groundwater resources, as monitoring makes groundwater visible.

Monitoring may include the quality and availability of the resource itself, and compliance with abstraction and disposal regulations and permits. In the absence of monitoring, groundwater abstraction and waste disposal take place without any safeguard for this essential resource, and excessive use and contamination of aquifers may continue unchecked for years until the groundwater resource is effectively destroyed.

Groundwater monitoring can involve groundwater-level monitoring, for which the principal purposes are to provide data about groundwater system behavior and overall impacts on the groundwater situation caused by groundwater exploitation and other interventions. Alternatively, it can be groundwater-quality monitoring, which provides information on the chemical status of groundwater systems and the effects on groundwater quality, and establishes the presence of any significant upward trend in pollutant concentrations and the reversal of such trends.  

In Uganda, monitoring of groundwater in terms of pumping rates, water levels, and water chemistry is part of the conditions attached to groundwater abstraction permits. Thus, every permit holder has to monitor these parameters and submit a report to government on a quarterly basis or else his permit will be cancelled. The government maintains a national monitoring program for key strategic areas. If monitoring indicates a problem, the government takes action through reducing allowable pumping rates as part of the national groundwater regulation strategy. Despite all these initiatives, capacity constraints for groundwater monitoring exist, including a lack of monitoring equipment, limited technical capacity for monitoring, limited capacity for data analysis and interpretation, and limited capacity for monitoring of compliance to permit conditions.

Groundwater monitoring offers numerous benefits such as facilitating the early warning of the onset of groundwater pollution, and allowing the timely introduction of any necessary control measures. Additionally, data sales for monitoring data enable the regulator to raise revenues, while fines and charges from those who exceed specific thresholds under the “polluter pays principle” are also a source of revenue to the regulator. Without monitoring data, there would be no evidence for the regulator to make these charges and penalties.

For any groundwater monitoring system to be effective, it should be driven by a specific objective and the data collected should not only be used for the explicit purpose of the monitoring program, but should also be systematically stored for future use. While almost all boreholes drilled in Uganda have their baseline data recorded and stored, it remains to be known if ongoing monitoring (providing ‘time series data’) and data storage are satisfactorily undertaken. This is key since these parameters are bound to change as the aquifer becomes more heavily used, in which case groundwater monitoring becomes essential, with an objective to understand changes taking place in the groundwater resource overtime.

Against this backdrop, a number of donors, non-profits, and public entities have recently adopted a number of groundwater monitoring mechanisms, to track changes in both water level and water quality. Though these efforts are still in infancy, they are slowly gaining attention from sector experts, donors, and regulatory agencies. It is against this background that this research was initiated to learn more about their motivations, experiences, and policy constraints in undertaking groundwater monitoring.

This article sets out to answer the following questions:

  • What are the monitoring objectives of the different entities, and what parameters do they monitor?
  • What kind of data is collected and for how long is such data stored?
  • What is the frequency of data collection and with whom is such collected data shared?
  • What are the major challenges that hamper effective groundwater monitoring?
  • What is the effectiveness of water policy legislation and implementation of water safety plans?

The proceeding chapters discuss to detail, the methodology, results, recommendations, and conclusions from the research study.


The research study employed a multipronged approach to gather information from various sources. The first prong involved reviewing existing research on the subject, mainly monitoring reports, project reports, and peer-reviewed papers.

The second prong employed virtual interviews with a number of manufacturers that offer groundwater monitoring instrumentation and related telemetric equipment.

The third prong involved face-to-face key informant interviews with representatives from relevant stakeholders such as non-profit entities, public entities, and private companies undertaking groundwater monitoring instrumentation (See Figure 1 for a breakdown) in order to discover their monitoring objectives, experiences, and recommendations.

Questions asked had to do with why they undertake groundwater monitoring, how long they store the data, with whom they share the data, how they use the generated data, technical competency of in-house staff to undertake monitoring, parameters monitored and datasets captured, and to whom the data are reported.

The data received were analyzed in line with the study objectives in order to draw out conclusions and recommendations.

Figure 1: Respondents interviewed during key informant interviews, by sector
Objective 1: What are the monitoring objectives and parameters?


The study unveiled that a number of monitoring objectives and parameters are monitored, which include groundwater level, electrical conductivity, spatial and temporal distribution of water quality, natural recharge and discharge, flow rates, abstraction rates, and user compliance with both abstraction and effluent discharge permits.

The monitoring of these parameters helps to present early warning of potential risks and the need for mitigation measures, real use accounting of water use and compliance with regulatory guidelines. The data collected once analyzed informs decision making on the appropriate measures to enable sustainability and improved performance of the ground water sources.

Specifically, the output from analysis of the logged data indicates:

  • the depth to the water table from the ground level, which provides information of an increase/decrease in the water table;
  • the electrical conductivity, which informs if the water conforms to the set national drinking water standards;
  • the spatial and temporal distribution of water quality, which provides information on water quality variations and helps determine the main contamination sources;
  • the natural recharge and discharge data, which gives insight into how groundwater recharge, storage, and discharge are affected by climate changes and anthropogenic influences. This data is very crucial in detecting climatic and environmental change;
  • the flow rate data, which is essential to detect increase or decrease in water volume, providing indicators to either flow path changes or alert to potential surface level flooding;
  • the user compliance data, which is essential for assessing contaminants and suitability for use. In addition, this information is used as a basis for imposing fines and penalties for non-compliance with water abstraction limits and wastewater discharge standards; and
  • the well recovery of the motorized wells, which presents a measure of how long it takes for the water level to regain and the safe pumping yield.
Objective 2: What kind of data is collected and what is the storage duration?


The study discovered that the kind of data collected slightly differed between different entities. However, for private drilling companies, most data collection on groundwater is done at the time of drilling, which is then submitted to the Directorate of Water Resources Management (DWRM) as required by law.

The data submitted are mainly geological log and geophysical data on static water level, borehole identification, well yield, water strikes, and borehole construction information (i.e., depth, diameter, casing, and water quality).

Ongoing monitoring is rarely, if ever undertaken, yet these parameters can be expected to keep changing as the well is used. Updated information is key to maintain awareness of and mitigate challenges as well as guide future borehole constructions in the area. 

Smart hand pump sensors, undergoing field trials by the International Lifeline Fund (ILF) and Charity Water, offer daily and weekly reports on volume of water pumped, pump breakdown, and downtime. This enables faster dispatch of hand pump mechanics to undertake repairs.

The smart sensor transmits data via GSM enabled networks on the number of strokes required to fill a jerrycan, which gives insight into pump health, thus facilitating preventive maintenance programs.

Each sensor can accommodate up to ten years of reporting data. Though still in its infancy, this is a promising innovation for rural groundwater monitoring for India Mark II hand pumps.

Through routine email notifications, water managers receive red flags in case there is a significant drop in the normal volume of water registered at the hand pump, or in the case of any pump breakdown. This offers transparency and accountability to donors on the systems they establish.

Objective 3: What is the frequency of data collection and with whom is the data shared?


The study discovered that baseline data is collected for every borehole drilled beyond 30m. This includes hydrological logs and well pump installation data. However, time variant data from the monitoring of water well abstraction, water quality, and groundwater level are rarely given attention. This baseline data collected for every borehole drilled is shared with DWRM on a quarterly basis and can be accessed by the public at a fee. 

A handful of non-profit entities have initiated efforts to undertake systematic groundwater-level monitoring, the efforts of which are still in their infancy. These provide continuous recording of time variant data, which is done by submersible probes (telemetric systems), that are programmed to record and relay water level and water quality data according to customized intervals, ranging from every 15 minutes to 24 hours, depending on client needs.

This is a trade off in battery conservations, since short term time intervals would need much frequent battery replacement compared to extended time intervals. It is worth noting that while such interventions are beginning to take root, they are rarely initiated preemptively, hence the chronic lack of reliable data on groundwater trends and conditions persists.

The study noted that most non-profit entities mainly undertake water-level monitoring, while water-quality monitoring is rarely given attention, unless necessitated by an outbreak of a waterborne disease such as typhoid or cholera.

This is thus undertaken as a reactive measure, rather than a proactive measure. Most data generated is mainly shared internally within the same organization or through periodic reports to project donors.

Even then, it is scattered in different project reports, with no central data repository. This fragmented data has always been lost in cases of staff turnover and misplacement of project documents.

The data collected by the smart hand pump sensors being piloted by International Lifeline Fund and Charity Water are shared with donors for accountability and transparency since they provide details on number and frequency of hand pump breakdowns, repairs made, and downtime.

After the data is transmitted to donors and water managers, they are able to react accordingly by sending hand pump mechanics to effect repairs, or any other actions deemed necessary. Smart hand pump sensors are a preventative maintenance program meant to improve supply reliability and sustainability of rural water points, by reducing the number of hand pump breakdowns and minimizing the time it takes to repair them, both of which are vital to improve access to rural water services.


Objective 4: What are the major challenges hampering effective groundwater monitoring?


Technical capacity constraints.

In the study, it was widely noted that there were glaring gaps in staff technical capacity. Most entities lacked adequate qualified staff with knowledge of or even the skills to undertake groundwater monitoring.

A surprising example was the non-profit sector (largely operating in refugee settlements and rural remote settings), which mostly employs sociologists to run their Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH) programs, sidelining the need for water and civil engineers that are technically competent to ensure the sustainability of these systems.

As a result, sociologists place emphasis on non-technical indicators such as gender equity in water access, number of water points set up in a specific community, number of households with access to sanitation, and volume of water supplied per day.

In the end, technical issues that are key to water sustainability (in terms of both quantity and quality, sustainable abstraction rates, water safety and security planning) are neglected, which leads to premature failure of these systems.

The challenge is compounded by the fact that system design and construction is always undertaken by external consultants and contractors, who then handover to the WASH officers for routine management.

Unfortunately, their focus as non-water professionals is on socio-behavioral aspects, and have little to do with monitoring and understanding water quality and effects of over-abstraction on the sustainability of such systems. These come in as second thoughts in such instances when a problem arises such as system breakdown, disease outbreak, pollution concerns, declining well yields, thus taken as reactive measures.

Private companies decried the shortage of instrumentation engineers adequately skilled in the installation and configuration of some of the latest telemetric systems. Owing to this “monopoly of skills”, the few instrumentation engineers charge exorbitant professional fees ranging from $250-$400 for every system installed and configured.

The professional fees are unrealistic and prohibitive by Ugandan standards; which discourages private companies from undertaking these projects.


Financial capacity/budget constraints.

There are financial limitations, especially in the case of DWRM where, with the upgrading of manual to telemetric stations, communication costs for data transmission escalated with no corresponding provision under the recurrent budget.

Most entities relying on remote telemetric devices have to pay monthly subscription fees (either software or big data platform fees) in order to access the big data platforms/online dashboards that house real time and historical datasets.

Subscription fees range from $4-$7 per device per month, depending on the service provider, which proved significant, especially for organizations that have many devices installed. Additionally, they may incur costs for periodic replacement of batteries, and field facilitation to download the data (or take readings) for the case of analog recording systems (i.e. divers and submersible probes).

Some monitoring devices require field presence to collect data. As such, full-time staff have to be employed to take daily readings of various meters, and other data recording instruments.

Financial compensation of gauge station meter readers proved a significant cost. For DWRM, this resulted in low motivation, which in turn led to poor quality data from the stations.


Functionality challenges.

Most groundwater monitoring stations are prone to cases of vandalism, flooding, and reconstruction works owing to the nature of their locations. It was noted that while DWRM has over 30 groundwater stations, functionality remained at 80% with non-functionality attributed to these factors.

This was a major setback as non-functionality resulted in data gaps that could not easily be compensated for by traditional gap filling techniques or modeling. Hence, the general reliability of the data generated to make conclusive water management decisions was significantly affected.


Lack of harmonized standards, as well as data sharing platforms.

Throughout the study, a resounding theme among all participants was the lack of common, universally accepted standards of collecting data, let alone a common platform for sharing data among various entities.

Without monitoring being undertaken with universally laid out procedures for monitoring, data collection and storage, quality control, parameter analyses, and data interpretation, such data is incomparable. There was lack of collaboration between entities on this issue, largely due to the active competition between the entities that restricted the sharing of data.

As such, monitoring data exists, but scattered over different organizations. In most cases, this was fragmented and lacked continuity as it had been gathered on a project-by-project basis. Furthermore, the collected data was not collated in central systems or digitalized, a factor that broke the continuity and anchorage of information with staff exits and project closures.


Lack of data/information readily available in digitalized formats.

In many agencies, large backlogs of historical water-level and water-quality data have not been entered into electronic databases, let alone made available online. Consequently, potentially useful data are residing in paper files where accessibility and utility are very limited.

In any case, there is lack of compatibility in terms of standards, quality assurance, electronic access, and data transfer. This limits accessibility, information transfer, and exchange, as well as the rapid retrieval and transmission of water-level and water-quality data. This in turn limits the ease and speed with which groundwater level data can be updated and made available to users.


Project inertia i.e. laggards in adoption and scale up of digital systems.

When rolling out any new cutting-edge technology-based solutions like digital remote groundwater monitoring systems, there is usually unease and discomfort that streams from challenging the status quo, coupled with the anxiety that comes with learning new processes.

The transition from manual to digital remote groundwater monitoring systems has not been an exception to this rule. More awareness creation campaigns are needed, to encourage more water managers to learn, appreciate, and embrace these systems and the game changing benefits they offer.

Such adoption tailored programs are key, especially during this phase of transition, so as to build confidence and adaptability with both hardware and software systems.

Objective 5: What is the effectiveness of water policy legislation and implementation of water safety plans?


Weak, fragmented, incoherent, and unenforceable policies.

There exists weak policy enforcement on the design standards for onsite sanitation systems. Poorly designed, constructed, and maintained onsite systems continue to contaminate groundwater, while the lack of monitoring systems on water drawn from these sources leads to severe human health and ecological consequences.

For instance, Murphy et al., 2017, reported that over 60% of groundwater sources tested in Kampala were positive for Escherichia coli (E. coli), which is commonly attributed to fecal contamination, during a typhoid outbreak in 2015 that affected over 10,000 people.

The scale and nature of the contamination and associated risks increase in complexity with a growing population. The failure to address groundwater resource challenges, such as the increasing stress of resources due to contamination by on-site sanitation in peri-urban areas, can be attributed to weak legislation and a lack of data on groundwater-quality monitoring.


Ineffective enforcement of penalties for non-compliance to water-abstraction limits and wastewater discharge standards.

The study noted ineffectiveness in the active enforcement of compliance requirements to water-abstraction limits and wastewater discharge standards. The National Water Act and National Wastewater Discharge Regulations do clearly spell out penalties for permit holders who exceed their abstraction limits or discharge wastewater to the environment that does not meet the set standards.

However, permit holders have not been encouraged to put in place monitoring systems that capture data on the volume of water abstracted, as well as the quality of wastewater discharged to the environment.

This makes it practically impossible for the regulatory agencies to penalize offenders, owing to lack of reliable monitoring data that would serve as factual evidence.


Lukewarm adoption of water safety plans.

The study noted that the adoption of water safety plans was far below the barest minimum standards, which exposes many water users to a number of public health concerns.

There is lack of active consideration and implementation of water safety plans in most water supply systems as emphasized by the World Health Organization (WHO) in 2006.

This water-quality monitoring requirement believes that the most effective means of consistently ensuring the safety of drinking-water supply systems is by comprehensive risk assessment and risk management approaches that encompass all steps in water supply from catchment to consumer.

This approach is based on scientific studies that showed that traditional water quality monitoring often produces results which are too little and too late.

  • Too little, because so few samples are taken compared to the amount of water produced.
  • Too late, because usually by the time the results are available, the water has been supplied and may have been consumed.


Despite this mandatory requirement by the WHO, there are no national binding policies and regulations for water supply utilities to ensure the active and consistent implementation of water safety plans on water supply systems.

As a result, this compromises the quality of drinking water supplies to communities, occasionally leading to waterborne epidemic outbreaks as cholera that lead to loss of lives.

Discussion and Recommendations

Capacity gaps and the need for capacity building programs.

There is a lack of technical capacity to implement monitoring. In many organizations, staff did not have skills and scientific understanding to translate the data and its analysis into clear conclusions and recommendations on the needed groundwater management actions. i.e., converting analytics to decision support.

The study recommends training in groundwater knowledge management, to ensure the collected groundwater data informs science-based management of groundwater resource. Staff should be trained to process data and view a variety of factors associated with the condition of the groundwater resource, i.e., effectively transform raw data into indicators.

Such training has to do with interpretation and analysis of the data collected, understanding of the operation of monitoring sensors, and applicable software.

Generally, trained technical personnel in groundwater instrumentation are not readily available in adequate numbers in all entities. Most have minimal trained individuals at professional and technical level or remain severely under-resourced, especially for telemetric systems.

The study recommends that technical staff receive special training in the use of the equipment, i.e., technicians who interact with the systems from time to time may require advanced technical engineering skills.

Entities should begin by identifying critical skill deficits and training needs in the use of technologies, equipment, and software. Suffice to say, capacity building should be a long-term process, which should be phased in to accommodate the requirements and constraints of national government, changing technologies, and hydrological innovations.

This calls for periodic water technician and management training, and ongoing in-house training on special topics related to integrated groundwater management. Entities should draw WASH officers from both the sociology and civil engineering backgrounds, to ensure complementary skillsets, key for holistic and effective management of water systems.

Financial capacity constraints and adoption of telemetry systems.

For the same lack of financial capacity, most entities undertake monitoring only when there is a perceived threat to the groundwater. This is in such instances of declining yields, large declines in water levels, as well as for those highly vulnerable to potential pollution threats and disease outbreak such as typhoid or cholera.

This is because many agencies have difficulty maintaining the necessary funding and program continuity to ensure long-term collection of water-level data.

The study recommends the adoption of standalone, remote telemetry systems and other high-end hydrometric equipment, which mainly attract a onetime nominal cost for installation, with each system costing between $150-$3,000. While this seems a significant upfront cost, the systems prove cheaper over the long term from reduced staffing costs.

This helps address the shortcomings of conventional systems that are labor intensive as they call for recurrent budgets in form of salaries and facilitation for permanent staff to undertake routine data collection.

This is in any case unscalable if the number of logging sites is significantly increased, making it prohibitively expensive to maintain conventional monitoring programs. A key advantage of telemetry systems is in their ability to regularly transmit accurate data, as needed by water resource managers to make relevant decisions.

Thus, appropriate budgetary allocation is key for continuity and stability of monitoring programs. These funds can easily be mobilized in the short term through budget reallocations.

Entities should reallocate funds meant for facilitation of daily field data collection from manual stations to fund the acquisition of telemetric systems and staff capacity building. Additionally, regulators are bound to earn significant revenues from fines and penalties levied on offenders, which can be channeled for this cause.

Setting up monitoring standards and harmonized databases.

The study noted that groundwater monitoring continues to be hamstrung by a lack of harmonized monitoring standards, as well as fragmented databases with non-comparable data in various organizations.

There is no significant and systematic groundwater monitoring going on; with such interventions being only project-wise or problem-driven. There is a lack of standard groundwater monitoring procedures and thus datasets from different organizations in many cases, cannot be compared.

This is caused by lack of institutional capacity and collaboration. The study recommends that various sector players e.g., drilling companies, non-profit entities under the Uganda Water and Sanitation Network (UWASNET) Umbrella, and the DWRM develop a target-oriented groundwater monitoring program.

Such a complete groundwater monitoring cycle would comprise of the process shown in Figure 2 below.

The Groundwater Monitoring Cycle.

Figure 2: The Groundwater Monitoring Cycle.

Standardization of data formats and data digitalization.

Historically, groundwater data has typically been stored in formats such as spreadsheets, text files and other flat files resulting in an inefficient mode of storage.

There are many reasons why this method of storage is not conducive to reliable data, the main one being that data cannot be retrieved, used, and checked easily. Very often data are in inconsistent formats, which limits usage.  

Moreover, offline systems limit accessibility, yet online systems ensure wider audience, thereby facilitating stakeholder engagement and wider dissemination of groundwater data.

The added benefit is that updates are always available to all users. This would ease best practices, starting with professional collaboration, information exchange and development of shared understanding, and initiation of joint management programs on groundwater resources.

The study recommends that in order to gain the highest benefit from monitoring information, suitable structures for information exchange between the different responsible institutions, water-user organizations, corporations, and non-profit entities be established.

The entities would first of all have to ensure harmonization of their groundwater monitoring networks’ design, standards, quality control, data storage, and processing. This means, for example, in order to assess trends in groundwater quality, the definition of trends, the sampling procedures, and chemical and numerical analysis should be comparable across various entities.

Such network will require national commitment from various stakeholders to monitor and report groundwater aquifer data on periodical basis. These procedures on groundwater monitoring should be fundamentally used and produced by each organization, i.e., procedures on design of sampling programs and sampling techniques.

This will make comparisons between datasets easier, if based on commonly agreed definitions. Setting groundwater standards will ensure that groundwater is monitored and evaluated across Uganda in a harmonized way.

This will enable various entities to collect, record, analyze, manage, and archive hydrological and meteorological data in accordance with generally accepted procedures consistent with applicable scientific and technical standards of practice.

Published data should be available to all stakeholders in either print version or readily downloadable formats. It is important to disseminate the results of monitoring together with the conclusions drawn for groundwater resources management among all stakeholders and the affected population in order to achieve agreement on necessary counter-measures.

The various stakeholders should be obliged to publish monitoring data. It must be agreed between all involved stakeholders how and at what frequency data are to be published. Often, monitoring involves decisions concerning groundwater resources management of national interest.

Therefore, the highest demand for comprehensive groundwater monitoring information is most commonly generated at national level. The best option is to collect and analyze all monitoring data at a high-ranking governmental institution, which is also responsible for such management decisions and has the backing to implement them. The overlapping of competences should be avoided. Thus, DWRM is best suited for this role.

Improvement of functionality of monitoring stations.

The study noted a number of monitoring stations that were out of service due to vandalism. This is a big challenge since unscrupulous individuals get attracted by solar panels and batteries.

This renders the stations non-operational, creating data gaps. The study recommends exploring alternative options that are unattractive to thieves, for example using the main grid as an alternative to batteries and solar panels. It further recommends the immediate re-establishment of the stations since extended periods of non-functionality will create huge data gaps that will be difficult to bridge.

Systematic and long-term data collection and storage.

The study noted piecemeal, project-wise, and discontinuous records, most of which were relatively short period (generally less than 5 years). In this case, discontinuous hydrological records are not effective in seeking to inform sound groundwater management decisions.

The study recommends instituting continuous automatic recording systems to periodically record time series data. Continuous measurements will involve the installation of automatic water sensing and recording instruments that are programmed to make measurements at specified frequencies.

Continuous monitoring provides the highest level of resolution of water-level fluctuations. Hydrographs constructed from frequent water level measurements collected with continuous monitoring equipment can be used to accurately identify the effects of various stresses on the aquifer system and to provide the most accurate estimates of maximum and minimum water-level fluctuations in aquifers.

Typically, collection of water-level data over one or more decades is required to compile a hydrological record that encompasses the potential range of water-level fluctuations in an observation well and to track trends with time. The availability of long-term water-level records greatly enhances the ability to forecast future water levels.

Effective policy legislation on water safety planning and monitoring implementation.

Policy loopholes around the lukewarm adoption of water safety plans pose public health threats due to contamination risks. Water safety planning entails compilation of robust assessment of the likely risks that can compromise the microbial, chemical, and physical quality of water, resultantly likely to cause public health concerns from catchment to the consumer chain.

As such, all sections of the water supply plant from water abstraction, treatment, distribution, to the consumer, would be critically analyzed to foresee likely risks that may compromise the quality of water at each point.

These can then be graded in terms of magnitude and likelihood of occurrence, and respective mitigation measures that can be implemented to maintain the quality of water. In order to guarantee sustainability of the quality of water, it would be important that entities draw up water safety plans, strictly monitor their implementation, and routinely review them.

Enforcement of compulsory on-going real-time monitoring should be emphasized, especially in urban settings with a lot of poorly constructed and maintained on-site sanitation systems that continue to degrade and contaminate the resource.

This will also help guide if entities are over abstracting beyond their allowable limits, while for wastewater discharge it will ensure it is within allowable limits. This in turn will help generate revenues in fines, penalties for the regulators, while strict enforcement of fines will deter intentional pollution and over abstraction by wastewater discharging industries and water users respectively.

Real-time information of water quality and quantity will enable the regulator to adjust allowable abstraction limits for the different users accordingly, e.g. by reducing allowable limits during times of water scarcity.


The focus of this research has been to illustrate the importance of the systematic and long-term collection of water-level data. Such data are crucial to the investigation and resolution of many complex water resources issues commonly faced by hydrologists, engineers, water-supply managers, regulatory agencies, and the public.

Despite the obvious benefits of groundwater monitoring, the situation in Uganda is far from satisfactory. Efforts must be intensified to gather fundamental groundwater data, organizing them appropriately, and disseminating them to those who may need them. In addition to monitoring, institutional arrangements regarding data provision and exchange are also necessary.

Over-extraction and pollution of groundwater resources calls for sophisticated water treatment technologies, raising treatment costs for utilities, and tariffs to consumers.

This implies that consumers access water at increased prices, affecting their savings. However, low-income earners, who cannot afford the treated water, resort to contaminated water sources, resulting in waterborne diseases, deaths, and high medical bills, altogether increasing their household expenditures.

This negatively affects them economically. For water intensive industries, such as water bottling and beverage companies, low volume of the required quality of process water leads to scaling down of production capacities, which affects revenues and business sustainability. This leads to staff layoff, affecting several workers and their dependents economically.

The implementation of groundwater monitoring programs will be crucial for well-guided industrial and domestic water resources allocation and planning. Additionally, it will ensure sustainable access to quality water and serve as an early warning system, thus safeguarding the health of communities.

Monitoring will be key to the sustainability of water dependent sectors such as agriculture, tourism and leisure (beaches and swimming pools), and the manufacturing sector. It will instill a sense of responsibility and compliance by water abstraction and wastewater discharge permit holders.

This will be key towards water sustainability and water security for future generations. Consequently, industries will have sufficient and sustainable quality and quantity of water resources to run their operations, guaranteeing job security for their workers, leading to economic development and financial prosperity.

However, in the unfortunate event of non-compliance and suspension of their operations by the regulator, this would mean closure of business operations and loss of jobs for the workers. Sustainable and responsible water use abstraction will go a long way to address water crises and conflicts in areas with low water access, such as arid land areas, refugee settlements, and urban slum areas.

From the research findings, it is clear that we on the edge of an abyss and moving in the wrong direction, should we continue to exploit water resources without monitoring systems in place.

Our groundwater reserves have never been more threatened. Groundwater data acquisition systems are an urgent need, whose prime importance to groundwater sustainability cannot be overemphasized.

The research study concludes that the advent of telemetric systems that make long-term continuous capture and long-term storage of records serve a magic bullet to help address fragmented data, while offering many advantages in terms of quality control and reduced human errors.

It is undeniable that sound decision making on how to allocate groundwater now and in the future requires comprehensive, accurate, and timely information.


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Kanyesigye, C.; Marks, S.J.; Nakanjako, J.; Kansiime, F.; Ferrero, G. 2019. Status of water safety plan development and implementation in Uganda.

Bonsor H C, Oates N, Chilton P J, Carter R C, Casey V, MacDonald A M, Calow R, Alowo R, Wilson P, Tumutungire M, Bennie M. 2015. A Hidden Crisis: Strengthening the evidence base on the sustainability of rural groundwater supplies – results from a pilot study in Uganda.

UNC Water Institute WaSH Policy Research Digest Issue #3, March 2016. Detailed Review of a Recent Publication: Getting hand pump functionality monitoring right can help ensure rural water supply sustainability.

Bonsor, H., MacDonald, AM., Casey, V., Carter, R., Wilson, P. 2018. The need for a standard approach to assessing the functionality of rural community water supplies.

Liddle, ES., Fenner, R. 2017. Water point failure in Sub-Saharan Africa: The value of a systems thinking approach.

Tuinhof, S. Foster, K. Kemper, H. Garduño, M. Nanni, 2006. Groundwater monitoring requirements for managing aquifer response and quality threats.

Thomson, P., Hope, R. Foster, T., 2012. GSM-enabled remote monitoring of rural hand pumps: a proof-of-concept study.  

Montgomery, M.A., Bartram, J., Elimelech, M., 2009. Increasing functional sustainability of water and sanitation supplies in rural Sub-Saharan Africa.

Figure 3: An Instrumentation Engineer installs a digital remote groundwater monitoring device for a production well (Photo Credit: Hydro Concepts Uganda Ltd).
Figure 4: A smart hand pump sensor for India Mark II borehole (Photo Credit: Hydro Concepts Uganda Limited).
Figure 5: Handpump mechanics install a smart hand pump sensor on an India Mark II handpump (Photo Credit: Ugandan Water Project).
Figure 6: An Engineer downloads monitoring data from a CTD diver (Submersible probe), taken from a production well (Photo Credit: Water for People).
Figure 7: Historical and realtime data from a digital remote monitoring device being displayed in an online dashboard (Photo Credit: Hydro Concepts Uganda Limited).
Enhancing the Benefits of Rainwater Harvesting through Dedicated sub-sector Regulation

Regulatory instruments can be used to compel homeowners and other businesses to undertake mandatory rainwater harvesting to address issues related to water scarcity and conservation. These instruments can include laws, ordinances, and regulations that set specific requirements for the collection and use of rainwater.

Rainwater harvesting and management technologies are closely regulated in many areas to ensure their safety and effectiveness, particularly in heavily urbanized environments where the natural percolation and infiltration of water has been disrupted by paved surfaces and dense infrastructure. These regulations aim to encourage the responsible use of rainwater technologies, such as temporary storage systems, to mitigate the risk of flooding in areas such as malls, shopping centers, and residential neighborhoods. By capturing and temporarily storing rainwater, these technologies help reduce the strain on traditional drainage systems and protect against the damaging effects of excess water.

Several different aspects of rainwater harvesting may be regulated, including the design and installation of the systems, the quality of the stored water, and the use of the water.

The importance of regulation cannot be understated when it comes to protecting public health. One crucial example is the prohibition of using rainwater harvested from asbestos cement rooftops for any human consumption. Asbestos is a known carcinogen and can be present in the water collected from these roofs, posing a serious health risk to individuals who consume it. By strictly regulating and prohibiting the use of such water, we can effectively protect individuals from the potential dangers of asbestos exposure and ensure that safe and clean water is available for all.

In terms of design and installation, regulations may specify the minimum standards for materials and construction, as well as requirements for maintenance and repair. These regulations are often put in place to ensure that the systems are safe and able to withstand the elements.

The quality of the stored water may also be regulated to protect public health. In some cases, regulations may require that rainwater harvesting systems be equipped with filtration or treatment systems to remove contaminants from the water. Additionally, regulations may specify limits on the amount of certain substances that can be present in the stored water.

Many countries and states world over have in place some form of rainwater harvesting.

One example of such a regulatory instrument is the California Water Conservation Act, which requires all new residential, commercial, and industrial developments to include rainwater harvesting systems as a means of conserving water and protecting the state’s water resources. This law applies to both new construction and major renovations and requires that rainwater harvesting systems be designed to capture and store a certain amount of rainwater based on the size of the property and the type of development.

Another example of a regulatory instrument that promotes rainwater harvesting is the Water Conservation Ordinance in the city of Austin, Texas. This ordinance requires all commercial and multi-family residential properties to install rainwater harvesting systems that are capable of capturing and storing at least half of the annual rainfall for on-site use. The ordinance also provides incentives for businesses and property owners who go above and beyond the minimum requirements, such as rebates and reduced water rates.

Here in Uganda, rainwater harvesting is regulated by the Water Act of 2002 and the National Water and Sewerage Corporation Act of 2002. These acts provide guidelines for the collection, storage, and use of rainwater, as well as the construction and maintenance of rainwater harvesting systems.

Under the Water Act, individuals, and institutions are permitted to collect and use rainwater for domestic and non-domestic purposes, as long as it does not interfere with the rights of others to access water. However, any rainwater harvesting system that is intended for commercial use must be approved by the National Water and Sewerage Corporation (NWSC).

The NWSC Act also requires that all rainwater harvesting systems be properly designed, constructed, and maintained to ensure their safety and effectiveness. It is the responsibility of the owner or operator of the system to ensure that it meets these standards.

In addition to these regulations, the Uganda Water and Sanitation Sector Development Plan (2012-2022) also promotes the use of rainwater harvesting as a means of improving water security in Uganda. It recommends the development of policies and programs to encourage the adoption of rainwater harvesting systems, particularly in areas where access to safe and reliable water is limited.

In line with the current drive to ensure water security, the Ugandan regulation needs serious review to cure the problem of the unnecessary monopoly of the NWSC as a guarantor of rights to undertake rainwater harvesting, while there is a need for city-specific ordinances meant to compel those who undertake large surface area constructions encompassing both buildings and paved surfaces to undertake mandatory rainwater harvesting, which ultimately will go a long way in managing excess stormwater that would otherwise have percolated and infiltrated from overburdening the drainage systems.

Overall, the use of regulatory instruments to compel homeowners and other businesses to undertake mandatory rainwater harvesting can be an effective way to promote water conservation and address issues related to water scarcity. By setting specific requirements and providing incentives for compliance, these instruments can encourage the widespread adoption of rainwater harvesting practices, which can ultimately help to preserve and protect our water resources for future generations.

Reviving the Ancient Practice of Rainwater Harvesting: A Simple and Effective Solution for Sustainable Water Management

As the world continues to face water scarcity and drought on one hand and flooding on the other, it is important to consider sustainable solutions for water management. One ancient practice that is gaining popularity in modern times is rainwater harvesting. 

Rainwater harvesting is the process of collecting and storing rainwater for later use. This can be done through the use of rain barrels, cisterns, or underground storage tanks. The collected rainwater can then be used for irrigation, watering plants, flushing toilets, and even for drinking after proper treatment.

One major benefit of rainwater harvesting is the ability to reduce reliance on water utilities. Water drawn from utilities often requires treatment and transportation, which can be costly and resource-intensive. Rainwater, on the other hand, is a free and naturally-occurring resource. By capturing and using it, individuals and communities can save money on their water bills and reduce the strain on the local water supply. 

By reducing the demand on local water utilities, we not only save money, but we also contribute to the sustainability of our water sources. By using less water, we ease the pressure on surface and underground sources, helping to ensure their long-term availability to continuously meet both human and aquatic life needs. Additionally, the saved water can be used to bring clean, reliable water to communities that currently lack access to it. This can be achieved through the implementation of new water distribution systems, which helps to improve the quality of life for everyone. Overall, reducing strain on local water utilities has multiple benefits, not just financial, but also environmental and social.

One important aspect of rainwater harvesting for purposes of domestic use is the need for incorporation of some form of physical water treatment as part of the rainwater harvesting system. Given the ever-present risk of falling debris such as plant leaves and other physical particles on catchments (mostly rooftops), it is critical to implement some form of physical water treatment to filter these materials and prevent them from entering your storage units such as cisterns and tanks. It is critical to note that when these physical materials continue to leak into your storage units, the quality of the harvested water suffers. Rotting leaves and other organic matter, for example, will emit a fowl odor, whereas the presence of sand will imply non-portability and hence non-suitability for certain uses.

One way to accomplish this is to use custom-made rainwater harvesting filters. The other method is to use first flush diverters. Both of these methods are simple to implement and can be incorporated into the system at any time after system installation. As a result, if neither of the two were initially a part of your system, it is not too late.

On the other hand, if you are implementing artificial aquifer recharge, it is critical to include some form of filtration (typically sand filtration) in the path of the water before it reaches its final aquifer component storage unit in the ground.

Rainwater harvesting is a practical and sustainable solution for addressing both flood and drought challenges in various regions. By collecting and storing rainwater, we can reduce the risk of flash flooding, which can cause significant damage to homes and infrastructure, as well as compound flooding, which can impact the attractiveness and viability of living or farming in an area. At the same time, in areas experiencing drought, rainwater harvesting can provide a vital source of water for irrigation and other essential purposes, helping to mitigate the negative impacts of drought on crops, vegetation, and communities. Overall, rainwater harvesting is an effective strategy for minimizing the risks associated with extreme weather events.

While rainwater harvesting systems do require some initial investment in terms of setup and equipment, the long-term benefits far outweigh the costs. These systems are relatively low-maintenance and can last for many years with proper care.

Rainwater harvesting is thus an innovative and environmentally-friendly solution to our growing water scarcity problem. By collecting and storing rainwater, we can not only reduce our reliance on traditional water sources, but also save money on water bills and reduce the negative impacts of flooding and drought. Additionally, it is a low-cost and low-maintenance method of water management that can be easily implemented by individuals, communities, and even businesses. As the world continues to face the challenges of climate change and population growth, it is more important than ever to adopt sustainable water management practices like rainwater harvesting.


On 28th July 2010, through Resolution 64/292, the United Nations General Assembly explicitly recognized the human right to water and sanitation and acknowledged that clean drinking water and sanitation are essential to the realization of all human rights. The Resolution calls upon countries and international organizations to provide financial resources, undertake robust design and construction of both water and sanitation systems to serve the world population currently without access as well as improve reliability in areas experiencing intermittent water supply. 

To ensure the manifestation of this resolution, as part of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)/Agenda 2030, SDG 6-“Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all” was later adopted in 2015. 

It should be recalled that access to safe, clean, and affordable water is not uniform among countries. While the goal has already been realized by some, for others, mostly developing countries, it is still a work in progress far from realization. As such, identification of potential water sources, undertaking feasibility studies, design, and construction, and ensuring proper management of water supply systems will remain a core focus for most of the developing countries in the short-long term if the realization of safe and clean water for all is to be achieved. 

The water supply sub-sector in Uganda is highly decentralized and devolved, from systems’ designs, construction to management. As such, there are many players within the sub-sector: district local governments, the National Water and Sewerage Corporation (NWSC), International Authorities such as the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the Directorate of Water Development (DWD), and the Umbrella Authorities and several WASH-based Non-Government Organisations (NGOs). The sub-sector also has several private players undertaking majorly the roles of design and construction or rehabilitation of water supply systems on behalf of the former entities. 

It is worth noting that all these players are currently involved in some activities aimed at bridging the accessibility gap. The NWSC is the biggest subsector player, independently undertaking the design and construction of water supply projects; both high capital and low cost, and subsequently undertaking their day-to-day management. 

The other major player is the DWD that majorly undertakes the design and construction of water supply systems that it thereafter transfers the management function to either the NWSC or the umbrella authorities. 

On the other hand, some international organizations such as the UNHCR, NGOs, and the district local government authorities mainly design and construct and cede the function of the day-to-day management to beneficiary communities. 

Admittedly, the design and construction of localized water supply systems is the main cornerstone needed to bridge the accessibility gap. However, it should be noted that proper management of these systems is equally important, as the mere provision of hard infrastructure is not a “silver bullet” solution for water problems. This reality is affirmed in the SDG 6 targets 6.4 and 6.5; ‘water use and scarcity, and ‘water resources management respectively.

In the Ugandan context, the NWSC possesses the most sophistication and specialization at the management of water supply systems judged from its experience (has been in the business since 1972) but also from the vindication of many international studies on it. It is no wonder, therefore, that it (NWSC) is involved in the management of water supply in more than 256 towns/areas. On the other hand, the umbrella authorities under the MWE can be commended for the good job they are doing as regards the management of water supply systems under their care. However, community-managed systems remain some of the most mismanaged and are therefore the subject of subsequent analysis in this article. 

Water supply systems constructed for and managed by the communities themselves in developing countries suffer from mainly two deficiencies: misaligned behavior and technical incapacity. 

The effective sustainable management of water supply systems is a complex ongoing scientific task, requiring the use and input of scientific knowledge and procedures daily. 

Scientific knowledge is needed in managing such aspects as operation and maintenance, system extensions, water treatment, managing energy costs, working towards sustainable water loss levels and water use efficiency, water quality analysis and adjustment of chemicals’ dosing thereof, etc.

However, hardly do communities or members therein possess such knowledge. The result is therefore usually improper management of these systems which compromises the objectives of setting them up. 

On the other hand, due to the lack of an agency to enforce strict management of the water resource on one hand and lack of proper accountability mechanisms such as universal metering, some unscrupulous members of the society exploit this gap to the detriment of others. As such, cases of water diversion to meet their irrigation needs at the expense of others are common. This is usually done by powerful downstream users at the expense of upstream water users.  

On the other hand, financial mobilization to aid in the purchase of critical repair fittings for example is usually not easy. These communities usually agree to a universal surcharge of say Shillings 2000 or $ 0.57 per month, payable by all families that draw their water from the system. In as much as this figure looks representative, it is still flawed when put on the equity measurement scale. This is because all families cannot use the same amount of water every month owing to differences in family composition and water needs extents. No wonder collecting this money from individual families is usually an uphill task. To make matters worse, this money is also usually poorly accounted for by the village user committees as it is mostly misappropriated. 

As developing countries, NGOs, and international organizations work towards universal access to clean and safe water and improved sanitation, the modus operandi of entrusting the management of the constructed water supply systems into the total care of communities needs review to address the above gaps. 

It is proposed that an assessment be undertaken to study the feasibility of annexing such water supply systems to the existing water supply management agencies i.e. the NWSC and Umbrella Authorities. 

On the other hand, different communities could be mobilized into forming specific cooperative societies charged with the management of water supply systems within specific areas such as at the sub-county level and provided with technical assistance from the ministry of water and environment. This kind of arrangement has been explored in Isingiro district with three cooperative societies of Ruhira water and energy co-operative society in Nyakitunda sub-county; Nyamuyanja community co-operative society limited operating in Kabingo and Birere sub-counties, and Mureme water and energy co-operative society limited. The author has undertaken a mini-study on the operations of these cooperative societies and found them to meet modest water supply systems management practices. 

It is also worth noting some NGOs e.g. Oxfam is now directly involved in the continuous system management of the water supply systems they are constructing on behalf of communities. This is commendable and should be replicated by sister NGOs and other development partners. 

Furthermore, strategic public-private partnerships could be explored in providing especially technical assistance to the community-managed water supply systems. 

Overall, while the role of engineering of working towards better efficiency and effectiveness in regards to water supply systems management needs to be reinvigorated in developing countries to work towards the attainment of such important performance indicators such as water use efficiency, energy efficiency, economical water loss levels, etc., community-managed water supply systems ought to be visited first to at least bring them to par with better-managed systems. 

Irrigation: A Game Changer for Uganda’s Agriculture

Quick Facts

  1. Irrigated land produces 40% of global food (IFAD, 2015).
  2. Currently, Uganda’s ratio of cultivated area under irrigation to the irrigation potential is only 0.5%. This compares lowly to 3.6% for Tanzania, 2.0% for Kenya and 1.6% for Burundi.
  3. Uganda has one the highest irrigation potential in the world with over 15% of her surface area covered by fresh water resources (National Irrigation Policy, 2017).
  4. More than 50 percent of residential irrigation water is lost due to evaporation, runoff, overwatering, or improper system design, installation, and maintenance.
  5. Egypt, with 90% of the land being desert practices her agriculture on only 3% of the 1 million square km total land area, almost entirely dependent on irrigation but is able to feed its nearly 90 million people (NBI, 2012).

It is common knowledge that agriculture is the centrepiece of Uganda’s economic development. However, Uganda’s agriculture has progressively been constrained by the frequent occurrence of droughts, and as such consistently fails to realize its full potential. Irrigation systems can play a critical role in closing the potential-performance divide of Uganda’s agriculture. While traditionally, irrigation has been a preserve of high value and ornamental cash crops like sugarcane, flowers etc., the increasingly variable rainfall patterns, long dry seasons, and recurrent droughts make irrigation inevitable for subsistence food and forage production as well. Irrigation can play a critical role in response to droughts that have dented the country’s food security, since well-designed and managed irrigation systems are known to increase yields by 2-5 times for most crops, as intimated by the National Irrigation Policy.

On the side of livestock and dairy farming, dry seasons greatly affect milk production in dairy cattle.  This is as a result of traditional grass drying up and the associated negative impact on the entire milk production/value addition chain. Poor livestock nutrition leads to a drop in productivity (milk yield), loss in the bodyweight of the cow, low reproductive performance, long calving intervals, slow growth, and mortality from starvation in extreme conditions. However, irrigation can play a significant role in taming this perennial challenge through systematic growth and preservation of forage to supplement crop residues and pasture roughages. Irrigation facilitated forage production and management can help overcome the feed shortage, contributing to improved milk production and quality, all year round.

Irrigation is the systematic application of additional water to plants in order to sufficiently meet all of the crop water requirements, with the objective of improving productivity. Irrigation is applied to meet water deficits that reduce crop production, which normally results due to insufficient rainfall and/or insufficient storage within the water table in the soil. Irrigation can be practised for vegetables, fruits, and forage production in livestock and dairy farming. Through this controlled application of water for agricultural purposes, nutrients may also be provided to the crops through irrigation, a process known as fertigation. The various sources of water for irrigation are wells, ponds, lakes, rivers, canals, tube-wells and even dams. Irrigation offers moisture required for growth and development, germination and other related functions.

The frequency, rate, amount and time of irrigation are different for different crops and also vary according to the types of soil and seasons. For example, during dry seasons, crops require a higher amount of water as compared to wet seasons.

Costs for irrigation systems depend on a number of factors such as:
  1. Closeness to water source.
  2. Terrain of the land.
  3. Soil suitability.
  4. Acreage to be irrigated.
  5. Equipment used.
The type of irrigation is determined largely by:
  • Terrain (topography).
  • Land size to be irrigated.
  • Source of irrigation water (rivers, lakes, swamps, or reservoirs).
  • Availability of power/solar.
  • Water conveyance and distribution (pumps or gravity).
  • Infield water application technique.
  • Amount of soil moisture deficit.

In choosing an efficient irrigation system, a thorough analysis of the type of crop to be farmed, type of dominant terrain, soil conditions, operating pressures have to be adequately considered. Irrigation is broadly classified in 3 types depending on how water is delivered to the plants.

Types of Irrigation Systems

There are different types of irrigation practised for improving crop yield. These types of irrigation systems are practised based on the different types of soils, climates, crops and resources. They vary in how the water is supplied to the plants. The goal is to apply the water to the plants as uniformly as possible, so that each plant has the amount of water it needs, neither too much nor too little. The main types of irrigation practised by farmers include:

  • Drip irrigation systems.
  • Sprinkler irrigation systems.
  • Furrow irrigation systems (Surface irrigation systems).
Drip Irrigation

Drip (or micro) irrigation, also known as trickle irrigation, functions as its name suggests. Water is delivered at or near the root zone of plants, drop by drop, by means of applicators (orifices, emitters, porous tubing, perforated pipe, etc.) operated under low pressure with the applicators being placed either on or below the surface of the ground. This method can be the most water-efficient method of irrigation, for if managed properly, evaporation and runoff are minimized. The field water efficiency of drip irrigation is typically in the range of 80 to 90 percent when managed correctly. Drip irrigation is often used as a means of delivery of fertilizer, a process known as fertigation. It provides slow, even application of low-pressure water to soil and plants using plastic tubing placed in or near the plants’ root zone.  

Chemigation and fertigation

The application of both chemicals and fertilizers can be done when using drip irrigation systems through injector pumps. These pumps allow for suitable delivery rate control, while backflow prevention protects both equipment and the water supply from contamination. These systems are very efficient since they deliver to the plant roots directly.   

Advantages of Drip Irrigation
  • Drip irrigation can help you use water more efficiently since it aims at direct delivery of water to the plants’ roots.
  • A well-designed drip irrigation system loses practically no water to runoff, evaporation, or deep percolation in silty soils.
  • Drip irrigation also permits the use of the fertilizers and chemicals, and it is by far the most efficient on this aspect.
  • Drip systems are adaptable to oddly shaped fields or those with uneven topography or soil texture.
  • Drip irrigation can be helpful if water is scarce or expensive.
  • Precise application of nutrients is possible using drip irrigation.
  • It uses less water, reduces leaching of soil nutrients and erosion of top soil.
Disadvantages of Drip Irrigation
  • Generally, the initial investment cost per-acre of farmland is expensive considering the amount of tubing (piping) needed.
  • Drip tape or tubing must be managed to avoid leaking or plugging.
  • Except in permanent installations, drip tape causes extra clean-up costs after harvest.
  • This type of irrigation requires more maintenance.

N.B: Drip irrigation system design requires careful engineering. Design must take into account the effect of the land’s topography (slope and contour) on pressure and flow requirements. There is a need to plan for water distribution uniformity by carefully considering the tape, irrigation lengths, topography, and the need for periodic flushing of the tape.  

Sprinkler Irrigation System

Sprinkler irrigation system is a type of irrigation which imitates the natural rainfall. It is a system comprising of a sprinkler-nozzle combination as main system components; devices that achieve equal circular distribution pattern of water under a particular radius around its installation position. The selection of an appropriate sprinkler and nozzle combination requires knowledge on system types, sprinkler spacing, operating pressures and soil conditions. In greenhouse production, sprinkler systems are less common and emitters are frequently microsprinklers which deliver water at lower rates with greater precision to the base of the plants.

In essence, a pump is connected to pipes which generate pressure and water is sprinkled through nozzles of pipes and overhead high-pressure sprinklers. Sprinklers can also be mounted on moving platforms connected to the water source by a hose. Automatically moving wheeled systems known as traveling sprinklers may irrigate areas such as small farms, sports fields, parks, and pastures unattended. This type of system is known to most people as a “water reel” traveling irrigation sprinkler and they are used extensively for dust suppression and irrigation.  

Movable sprinkler systems are also in use in various parts of the world. These apply water slowly during the irrigation set, after completing the irrigation set, the sprinkler system is moved to an adjacent area for the next set. This is a cheaper option in comparison to installation of permanent sprinklers that manage the entire farmland. However, erroneous application of water can result since it largely depends on human judgement, which more than often is not necessarily well competent.               

Advantages of Sprinkler Irrigation
  • Sprinkler irrigation can be used on rolling land.
  • It can permit good control of the amount of water applied.
  • It requires less labour in comparison to furrow systems.
Disadvantages of Sprinkler Irrigation
  • Although multiple sprinkler heads with short distances between emitters can be used to create a more uniform distribution pattern, the system inherently has uneven distribution pattern.
  • Application of excessive water than is actually required by the plants can result if precision design is not undertaken.
  • The system is not suited for crops for which it is undesirable to wet the foliage.
  • Although sprinkler systems can be used to deliver chemicals and fertilizers, it is less efficient in comparison to drip irrigation since not all is delivered to the plants.

Sprinkler Nozzle, Pressure and Spacing Selection: Efficient irrigation system design requires the selection and matching of the sprinkler equipment and spacing to the crop, soil and field shape.      An appropriate sprinkler spacing is determined by the type of nozzle used and the operating pressure selected. Every sprinkler-nozzle combination has a specific operating pressure range. Too much pressure will disperse the water stream into a very fine spray resulting in increased evaporation losses or poor distribution. Wind effects on sprinkler distribution patterns are more pronounced on fine droplet sizes. Conversely too little pressure will not sufficiently break up the water stream and may result in puddling, runoff, poor distribution patterns and crop damage.

Surface Irrigation (Flood or furrow)

Surface irrigation is where water is applied and distributed over the soil surface by gravity. Surface irrigation is often referred to as flood irrigation, implying that the water distribution is uncontrolled and therefore, inherently inefficient. In this system, no irrigation pump involved and the water is distributed across the land by gravity, with the entire surface of the soil covered by ponded water. In Surface irrigation, water from a source such as rivers, pipes, dams, canals etc. floods the soil surface.  

Furrow irrigation is conducted by creating small parallel channels along the field length in the direction of predominant slope. Water is applied to the top end of each furrow and flows down the field under the influence of gravity, soaking into the earth. Water may be supplied using gated pipe, siphon and head ditch, or bankless systems.   

Flood irrigation is a method where a farmer floods the growing plants with water. Rice is the main crop irrigated by flood irrigation.

With surface (furrow, flood, or level basin) irrigation systems, water moves across the surface of an agricultural land, in order to wet it and infiltrate into the soil. Water moves by following gravity or the slope of the land. Surface irrigation can be subdivided into furrow, border strip or basin irrigation.

  • Surface irrigation is used extensively in rice farming. This is because the permanent flooding acts as a natural pest control method and rice can survive in waterlogged soil.   
Drawbacks of Surface Irrigation
  • Surface irrigation uses a lot of water compared to other irrigation methods.
  • It could also drain nutrients beyond the reach of plant roots.
  • If the water is excessive, it could cause damage to the plant.
  • It is not water use efficient and is also not effective for application of chemicals and fertilisers.
Centre Pivot Irrigation

Center pivot irrigation is a form of sprinkler irrigation utilising several segments of pipe (usually galvanized steel or aluminium) joined together and supported by trusses, mounted on wheeled towers with sprinklers positioned along its length. The system moves in a circular pattern and is fed with water from the pivot point at the center of the arc. In Uganda, this system does exist at Kakira Sugar Ltd.

The sprinklers shoot water from pressurized outlets or guns from pipes into the air which then fall on the plants. Center pivot irrigation is a type of sprinkler irrigation, basically with sprinklers on wheels. Water is distributed by overhead high-pressure sprinklers or guns from a central location in the field or from sprinklers on moving platforms.  

Manual Irrigation

This is a labour intensive and time-consuming system of irrigation. Here, the water is distributed through watering cans by manual labour.     

Management of Irrigation Systems

Watch out for leaks

As irrigation systems comprise of pipe network, there is a likelihood of wear and tear resulting into leakages. Also leakages can be a result of external damage on the pipe network during cultivation or by animals and insects. Therefore, it is important to routinely check out for leakages through dedicated physical inspections.

Include a water meter

Inclusion of a water meter after the pump is important as it tracks both the efficiency of the system and that of the pump itself. Through recording of daily consumptions, if an unexpected excessive deviation from the norm is noticed, it may be an indicator of a leakage and calls for intensified inspection. On the other hand, if it is noticed that water delivered was very low compared to the norm, it may be an indicator of reduced pump efficiency or that there is a challenge with the water source or the pre-treatment system before the pump. Either way, knowledge of how much water is used comes in handy. In the systems where irrigation water is paid for, this knowledge is a key input in the economics of the entire system.

Application of chlorine to clear clogged emitters

The piping system is prone to establishment and growth of algae and other micro-organisms. Routine application of chlorine will ensure the system is free of those organisms. This is because chlorine denatures their enzymes and hence inhibiting growth and multiplication. However, this must be done with the guidance of a specialist as chlorine can also be harmful to humans.

Benefits of irrigation
  • Irrigation promotes resilience against drought and food insecurity.
  • Stable irrigation water supply enables farmers to have stable production of crops, increase yield, and hence improve farm income.
  • Irrigation makes farmers more resilient to the growing water stress, by insulating against seasonal variability and drought, increasing their agricultural yields and efficiency, and lengthening the growing season.
  • Irrigation helps to bring most of the fallow land under cultivation.
  • Irrigation helps to stabilize the output and yield levels.
Irrigation efficiency

Increased irrigation efficiency has a number of positive outcomes for the farmer, the community and the wider environment. Low application efficiency infers that the amount of water applied to the field is in excess of the crop or field requirements. In some parts of the world, farmers are charged for irrigation water hence over-application has a direct financial cost to the farmer. Irrigation often requires pumping energy (either electricity, solar or fossil fuel) to deliver water to the field or supply the correct operating pressure. Hence increased efficiency will reduce both the water cost and energy cost per unit of agricultural production. A reduction of water use on one field may mean that the farmer is able to irrigate a larger area of land, increasing total agricultural production. Low efficiency usually means that excess water is lost through seepage or runoff, both of which can result in loss of crop nutrients or pesticides with potential adverse impacts on the surrounding environment. On the other hand, low efficiency undermines the effort of ensuring water use efficiency, reversing the strides of achieving sustainable water resources management.  

Improving the efficiency of irrigation is usually achieved in one of two ways: either by improving the system design or by optimising the irrigation management. Improving system design includes conversion from one form of irrigation to another (e.g. from furrow to drip irrigation) and also through small changes in the current system (for example changing flow rates and operating pressures). Irrigation management refers to the scheduling of irrigation events and decisions around how much water is applied.   


Irrigation uptake has the potential to substantially increase farm productivity and improve living conditions for millions of smallholder farmers in Uganda, and ultimately a game changer for Uganda’s agriculture. It holds the transformational potential for Uganda’s agriculture, which for too long has continued to punch below her weight

How You Can Avoid A High Water Bill

Experiencing A High-water Bill? Here Is Why And How You Can Avoid It

Most of the water connections in the developing countries which are managed by some water utility are metered. Universal metering is good as it plays well in the dimension of water use efficiency, ultimately contributing to sustainability of water resources. On the other hand, universal metering brings about equity. This is done by billing exactly what a particular customer has consumed and not based on guess work or mere estimation. The billing is normally done routinely, say monthly. However, sometimes the billing is over and above the usual average for a particular customer. In this article, I discuss the possible causes and how sustainably going forward; this can be avoided or timely managed.

High billing can be caused by different factors. These include:

  1. Leakages on direct, transmission or distribution pipes after a utility meter;
  2. Faulty fixture, and;
  3. Customer tank

Leakages On Direct, Transmission Or Distribution Main After A Utility Meter

It should be noted that a customer has a mini supply system composed of pipes, tank(s) and water use points. These are all connected and supplied by a network of pipes. Direct pipes can be defined as those that supply water use points e.g. kitchen sink, sprinklers without first drawing their water from a customer tank. On the other hand, the distribution pipes are those that draw their water from the customer overhead tank. On the other hand, the distribution pipes are those that draw their water from the customer overhead tank.piscing elit. Ut elit tellus, luctus nec ullamcorper mattis, pulvinar dapibus leo.

It should be noted that all water supply systems, in this case inclusive of the mini supply system of customers, are susceptible to develop leakages.

However, in the absence of smart water metering, the responsibility of operation and maintenance of these systems is up-to a customer’s utility meter. This is rightly so because the design, choice of pipe and plumbing material and installation of fixtures is to the customer’s preference.

The most obvious cause of leakages on the pipe network after the meter is the use of poor-quality pipes not fit for the purpose. Pipes are classified according to the maximum pressure they can withstand depending on their wall thickness. As such, we have Pressure Nominal (PN) of 4, 6, 10, etc. pipes. In view of the recommended standard for utilities to deliver water to customers at a pressure of at least 2.5 bars (or approximately 25m head of water), it is advisable that the selection of the pipes to be used for the mini water system at the customer’s premises match the prevailing pressure from the supplying utility.

However, because most water supply systems in developing countries have not installed pressure monitoring and pressure regulating systems, this makes it very hard to properly ascertain the prevailing pressures in their water supply networks. As a consequence, therefore, pressure variations reaching a customer’s meter point are expected periodically. Considering the above, experience has shown that PN 10 pipes, which are designed to withstand maximum pressures of up to 10 bars or approximately 100m head of water are the most suited for this purpose. Therefore, the use of pipes with lower pressure nominal than 10 is not encouraged, as it is more susceptible to develop leakages.

Since it is advisable to lay these pipes underground, usually when they develop leakages the water lost via those leaking pores percolates into the ground and rarely rises to the surface for customers to immediately notice.

Overflowing Customer Tanks

Most customers store water in overhead tanks for use in case water supply is off from the water utility. These tanks, owing to wear and tear can become faulty and consequently begin to overflow. These tanks are controlled by ball valves from overflowing. These tanks are controlled by ball valves from overflowing. However, when these ball valves become faulty, they no longer can control the filling of water into the tanks, resulting into overflows.

The good thing, however, is that the tank overflows can easily be noticed and when noticed, water into the tank can be regulated, usually by closing a stop cork or gate valve installed either before or after a utility water meter before or after a utility meter.

Faulty Fixtures

In the modern home, the use of various plumbing appliances has been adopted to improve sanitation, in some cases to also ease work. As such, appliances such as water heaters, dish washers, flushing toilets, washing machines etc. These appliances too are susceptible to wear and tear and can become faulty. Most of the appliances when they become faulty can easily be noticed, e.g. a tap or shower will keep releasing water and upon noticing this, immediate remediation or replacement should be done.

On the other hand, when toilets become faulty, they are not easy to notice but keep flushing a certain amount of water, constantly until this is noticed. If the self-flushing of the toilets proceeds unnoticed for a long time, it leads to high billing. However, a simple experiment can be done to confirm if a flushing toilet is overflowing or not. Simply put a dye in the toilet sink and if the dye appears in the cistern without using the toilet, such a toilet is faulty. The most common faults in toilets are due to breakages of ball valves.

On the other hand, it is also important to note that sometimes the careless use of water is the cause of high billing. Furthermore, sometimes when supply from a utility is off and upon opening a tap it this is noticed, some water users usually forget to close those taps and in case one stays away from home for a long time and water returns and finds the tap open, a lot of water is lost in the process leading to high billing. This should be avoided.

So Then, How Can We Manage Our Water Billing?

The first and most important way of preventing high billing is through the use of pipes and fixtures fit for the purpose. This author recommends the use of water and energy efficient fixtures while selection of the right pipes depending on the water pressure reaching the customer meter as the best guiding principles. This, however, may require consultation from an expert. And we do exactly that at HYDRO CONCEPTS (U) LTD.

On the other hand, the most appropriate way of easily managing high billing is through deployment of smart water metering which, upon notice of any fault after the meter immediately sends warning to both the water utility and customer. That way, faults are noticed immediately they occur and remedial actions can too be implemented thereby ensuring very minimal loss.  In this regard, it is also important to note that even some of the existing water meters can be smartened through installation of data capturing and transmission technological aspects such as loggers.

Furthermore, the development and deployment of sensors that monitor the customers’ pipe network and/or fixtures with enabled warning systems can be helpful. However, more focussed research and development is still needed in this area.

However, in the absence of smart water metering, these steps below can be useful.

Most times customers notice high billing upon receipt of a bill from a water utility. However, this is sometimes very late, after a substantial loss. And yet, this can be avoided by routinely monitoring your meter performance, say twice every week.

The first step to notice if there is any fault after a utility water meter is by temporarily halting the use of water downstream of a meter and noticing its behaviour. If the water meter stops registering, this indicates no problem after the meter. However, if the meter continues to count, then it indicates a problem after the meter.

To understand which particular cause it is, start by ruling out over head tank overflow since this is obvious. Secondly, do the toilets test and if the toislets are ok, then it must be a leakage on the pipe network.

Pinpointing the exact point of leakage on the pipes requires specialised knowledge and equipment if costs are to remain minimal. The use of specialised equipment, the geophones or ground penetrating radar is the most recommended as these assists in pin pointing the exact point of leakage and consequently exposing around that point can be done and repaired. Else, excavation following the pipes would be the other remaining option. However, this too ought to be done in presence and guidance of an expert.

High Billing Vs. Equity

Many questions have to date been raised in the area of high billing and how it relates to equity. For instance, in rented apartments or single houses, if the cause of high billing is fault on fixtures, tank overflows or leakages on pipes, who should bear this extra cost? Is it the land lord or the tenant?

These questions will be answered in our next episode on this topic.

How Can We Achieve Sustainable Water Use Efficiency

Hydrology teaches us that the amount of water on earth is constant. However, its geographical and temporal distribution is not. Also, the water’s quality is not the same world-wide, often presenting self in a non-portable state. The reasons for this uneven distribution are both natural and man-made. Ultimately, therefore, the available resource must be used sparingly. This makes Sustainable Water Use Efficiency (SWUE) a fundamental and critical area requiring attention.

Sustainable Water Use Efficiency (SWUE) can be defined as a perpetual resolute involving the careful utilisation of the available water in a manner that achieves the best possible benefit per unit of water.

The careful utilisation of water can be as a result of mere behavioural change such as turning off the water while you brush your teeth, adoption of new and improved technology e.g. water-efficient fixtures such as toilets and washing machines or could encompass mandatory legal requirements.

In this article, I propose two major objectives to guide actions if we are to achieve SWUE.

  1. Ensure unwavering conservation of the natural vegetation on one hand, and undertaking robust afforestation on the other.
  2. The abstraction, treatment and usage of water should be done in such a way that the best possible benefit per unit of water is achieved while conserving aquatic ecosystems.

Firstly, it is important to appreciate the undisputable significant role played by the natural environment especially the trees and aquatic animals in the water cycle. The trees and plants, together with water surfaces such as oceans, lakes, and rivers are responsible for evapotranspiration which in turn is responsible for rainfall formation. On the other hand, the aquatic ecosystems (plants and animals therein) are regulators of water quality and quantity.

Without conservation of these important aspects of the environment, the hydrological cycle is likely to be affected with possible adverse effects such as the drying up of rivers, substantial reduction in area and depths of lakes while replenishing of underground water might greatly reduce or cease. On the other hand, severe events such as floods and droughts, and consequential destruction could result.

It, therefore, follows that for any water use efficiency measures to function; the primary sources of water MUST first be conserved or even improved through such measures e.g. appropriate afforestation. The term appropriate is here emphasised because over time, experience has shown that certain tree species are more suited for certain environments if sustainability of water is to be achieved.

So then, how can we achieve sustainable water use efficiency? To achieve SWUE, I propose five major pathways which play interlinked roles. These are:

  1. Work toward and promotion of currently under-exploited sources of water
  2. Policy and advocacy
  3. Behavioural change
  4. Use of technology
  5. Application of scientific knowledge

Work toward and promotion of currently under-exploited sources of water

World over, the most exploited sources of water are freshwater sources-lakes, rivers, and groundwater largely owing to the ease of abstraction and treatment. The other sources of rainwater harvesting, seawater and fossil groundwater are largely ignored for varied reasons. For fossil groundwater and seawater, their abstraction and/or treatment is very expensive, understandably so. However, rainwater harvesting; which is affordable has largely been ignored. Yet, if implemented could help relieve a lot of pressure on the surface freshwater sources.

Going forward, advanced technology-driven by application of scientific principles should be pursued to make the abstraction and treatment of seawater and very deep groundwater more affordable.

Rain water harvesting

Rainwater harvesting can be defined as the process of collecting, conveying and storing rainwater for later use. This rainwater can be collected from such surfaces as rooftops, paved surfaces or rocky catchments. It can be stored in ground-level tanks, underground constructed tanks as well as used to recharge aquifers.

Although rainwater is used to replenish aquifers through subsequent percolation and infiltration processes, contributes to the river/stream flow consequently contributing to the volume of water in lakes, seas and oceans, it should be noted that a lot of it collects in aquifers that are not readily exploited for human use. If this portion that is stored in those not-readily exploitable aquifers was obstructed, harvested, stored and used, it would relieve the freshwater sources of a lot of pressure. It is worth noting that while rainwater harvesting is relatively cheap it is largely ignored.

Therefore, a deliberate effort aimed at the promotion of rainwater harvesting encompassing policy and advocacy, aspects of behaviour change and technology is needed.

Waste-water treatment for re-use

Waste water is increasing being viewed as a resource rather than a waste! In this regard, treatment of waste-water is now focussed at resource (energy and water) recovery. In this regard, scientist are on a discovery course aimed at the development of relevant technologies that can ably treat waste water generated when water is used for various purposes to suitability for re-use without fist releasing it to the environment. This way, a cycle is maintained and this ultimately relieves fresh water bodies of pressure. Also, where the technology involved in the abstraction and treatment of water is quite expensive, say sea water, money can be saved and devoted to other needs. But this is very key where alternative sources are either expensive or non existent.

The technologies involved can either be remote, say used at household or institutional level but can also be centralised where waste water is collected and treated at a single treatment facility and re-channneled to the system for various uses. While research into this area is still ongoing, in some countries e.g. Singapore and Israel the level of deployment of the already tested systems is very commendable.

On the other hand however, it is also important to note that when universal collection of waste water and its subsequent treatment to acceptable standards and is then released to the environment it contributes to environmental flow which is equally good. Howevr, collection and subsequent treatment of waste water in most of the developing countries is still very wanting. And neither have they embrased remote waste water treatment for re-use. This needs to be eorked if sustainable water use efficiency is to be achieved.

Sustainable physical water loss management

Physical water loss is defined as the water lost in various water distribution networks world over as leakages, bursts and tank overflows up-to a customer’s utility meter. However, in light of sustainable water use efficiency, we necessarily have to add to this volume the amount of water lost after a customer’s water utility meter as leakages, over head tank overflows and through the leakage of faulty toilets.

This is an already treated resource to standards that is lost, and yet could have been used to supply customers who currently lack supply in intermittent systems but could also releieve fresh water bodies of additional pressure. Although technology innovations aimed at curbing this loss such as geophones, ground penetrating rader, deployment of sensors and smart metering are already deployed to play a key role in reducing this loss, their universal deployment needs to fast be tracked. Additional, further technological development in this area is still needed. On the other hand, the regulation around this area especially aimed at compelling water supply utilities to reduce this physical loss to the acceptable and economically viable volumes is needed in countries where it is currently absent while strengthening of the same is needed where feasible.


Considering the two set objectives, technology will play a key role in assessment, monitoring and regulating water usage. In the effort to ensure sustained environmental protection, technology will be needed to monitor and give fast feedback regarding the status of such aspects of the environment as wetlands, swamps, gazetted forests among others. In this regard, remote sensing should be used to achieve this goal. For instance, through the integration of software tools with capability of mapping, programming and relaying information, deforestation, swamp reclamation and wetland destruction attempts can be quickly thwarted through a signal warning and consequent immediate deployment.

On the other hand, technology is already playing its role in the monitoring of water resources, for instance, the depth/width of lakes and oceans, flow of rivers and aquifer recharge trends as well as monitoring of other properties of these water bodies/resources. Going forward, universal deployment of these technological packages and tools should be fast-tracked to ensure all water bodies/resources are monitored. The processing and analysis of the data collected, its dissemination, further analysis and research and consequent decision making should be done very fast.

Furthermore, technological packages and tools are already being deployed in the management of water’s end-use. As an example, the amount of water used for domestic uses e.g. flushing of toilets and handwashing is being regulated while water supplied to crops too is being regulated through analytical and trigger systems, aimed at achieving the possible benefit per unit of water.

This is being done through automation of water supply and irrigation systems as well as other uses. With this, demand analysis and management of water for all uses is being done. This is a commendable step thus far. While more fine-tuning is still needed, the universal application of the already tested systems should be explored. Examples of these systems include smart water metering, use of sensors in the management of water supply systems, leakage detection equipment such as geophones and ground-penetrating radar, etc.

Policy and advocacy

Considering the above objectives, a conclusion can be made that a lot of focus has been put on the policy and advocacy of objective one which is good. However, more studies need to be made and if there are any gaps in this regard, they be filled especially in the quality of laws and guidelines but also their enforcement.

However, as regards aspects of abstraction, treatment and usage of water in such a way that the best possible benefit per unit of water is achieved while taking care of water needs of other water users other than humans, more is still needed in as far regulation and advocacy are concerned.

For instance, although many countries have incorporated the aspect of minimum environmental flows, this needs further popularisation and universal consideration. Considering the current gap, going forward, there is a need for formulation of area-specific regulation and guidelines at all levels i.e. international, regional and national.

On the other hand, although contamination of and encroachment on water resources is punishable in almost all countries, serious gaps exist between policy and implementation and this needs serious review.

As regards advocacy towards sustainable water use efficiency, the area has largely been left to well-wishers with main-stream government and government agencies playing a dormant role. In my view, the mainstream government needs to take it up as a serious issue that forms part of its day to day business especially regarding the education of masses on the promotion of water use efficiency.

Application of scientific knowledge and Behaviour change

The above three aspects will largely be guided and enabled by the use of scientific principles and ensuring behaviour change.

For instance, scientific principles will be needed to guide every future endeavour aimed at achieving sustainable water use efficiency, be it research, technology and regulation.

On the other hand, unless human behaviour is adjusted and aligned to the tenets of sustainable water use efficiency, the endeavour is likely to remain futile.

From the foregoing, it can be concluded that more dedicated effort is still needed if we are to achieve sustainable water use efficiency. And yet, this is not optional but rather a MUST. For if timely interventions are not sought and implemented, going by the current trends, over-exploitation of freshwater sources to the extent of drying up in some parts of the world, while the causing of severe events such as floods and droughts is very likely.

Sustainable Water Use Efficiency

Seventy one per cent of the worlds’ surface is water. 4% of it exists as fresh water-a more easy and less costly form to treat for suitability to the various water needs of domestic, industrial or agricultural (irrigation and livestock). Startlingly, of the 4% only 5% is safe for human consumption. Whereas fresh water is a renewable resource, it is also finite. The other forms of water include sea water and fossil ground water (very deep ground water).

Water demand can be defined as the total volume of water required to satisfactorily meet the water needs of particular society at a specific time. In the context of water use efficiency, water demand can be defined as the total volume of water that can be precisely used through careful optimisation in such a way that the best possible productivity per unit of water (e.g. cubic meter) is achieved.

As noted above, water is mainly required for industrial, domestic and agricultural purposes. A careful analysis will reveal that the total amount of water required to meet these needs since time immemorial to-date has been on the increase. And this demand is projected to soar in the future. Why? In the past, using the Stone Age error for example, owing to less sophisticated way of living and less population then, man only needed a few litres of water to meet all his daily water needs.

However, as man has been growing more sophisticated in all aspects, including the invention of various methods/ways or technologies such as dish washers, washing machines, flushing toilet, etc., of exploiting and using water, most of which aimed at improving sanitation and hygiene, so has the demand for more water to meet those needs.

On the other hand, as the current developing countries inevitably transition into developed ones, more factories that need water for various uses will be set up while the surface area for irrigation will increase. Furthermore, human population is only projected to increase. These will further add additional demand for water.

From the above discussion, it is also important to note that the per capita water demand has been increasing over time. Per capita water demand is the volume of water required by an individual to meet all their life and hygienic needs in a given time span e.g. daily. This is largely influenced by level of economic development and ease of accessibility of water. For instance, an urban dweller that uses a flashing toilet surely needs more water than his rural counterpart who uses a pit latrine. However, accessibility to safe drinking water is now rightly viewed as a fundamental human right. Therefore, as rural people develop through well focussed commercial farming, for example, and as issue of accessibility is addressed, this disparity may not be anymore, bringing with it more demand for water.

There is no more readily available water now than there was centuries ago when the world population was only a small fraction of its current size. Unsurprisingly, according World Resources 2000, the availability of fresh water, has dropped from 17000m/person in 1950 to 7044m in 2000.

Worryingly as the situation seems to be, and projected to deteriorate further if well thought multidisciplinary decisions aimed at achieving sustainable water use efficiency are not implemented, it is important to note that the Homo sapiens (human beings) are not the only species who need water.

A Substantial amount of the readily available fresh water is also required to sustain natural aquatic ecosystems. It is important to note that inadvertently, the survival of human beings directly or indirectly depends on the health of these natural ecosystems. These systems are regulators of water quality and quantity. On the other hand, species such as fish are now economic goods, directly fending incomes for very many people along the fishing-eating value chain.

Therefore, the abstraction of water for such uses as domestic, industrial or agriculture must be carefully and properly done in order to ensure water needed to sustain the health of the aquatic systems is not compromised. On the other hand, pollution of aquatic ecosystems as well as encroachment and reclamation on those systems should be checked.


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