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Ethiopia’s future — from hydropower to coffee — is tied to water

Dr Ellen Dyer and Meron Teferi Taye of the University of Oxford discuss how Ethiopia’s future challenges with climate change and agriculture relate to its water issues in this article.

 

REACH Conference a Success

The REACH programme hosted its second international conference at the end of March with a focus on improving water security for vulnerable communities. Speakers covered a wide range of water security issues from the need for better wastewater treatment to sustainable manufacturing; from how to meaningfully include communities in research to the implications of waterlogging issues for vulnerable communities; from planning for climate resilience to the challenges of achieving safe water.   One important aspect of the plenaries and panels was that speakers represented governments, researchers, private sector, and civil society so that different concerns and dynamics were emphasised.

A highlight of the conference was that over half of the speakers were from the countries where REACH works: Bangladesh, Kenya, and Ethiopia. This meant that participants were able to hear on-the-ground perspectives on how REACH research is impacting policy and practice and what still needs to be done. Breakout parallel sessions each day enabled participants to delve into the detail with presenters on everything from co-producing knowledge across stakeholders to groundwater risks and rural water security.

Major themes of the conference reflected the research that REACH has conducted over its first three years, one of those themes being gender and water security. Organisers reflected this focus on inclusivity in the conference format (over half of the speakers were women and over half were from developing countries) and protocol with chairs encouraging young women to ask the first question at each session. This framework did help ensure a lively and more diverse discussion throughout the three days of the conference. Here is the inclusivity conference guide that also came out of the conference.

 

Smart handpump impacts recognised by UK research council

The UK’s Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) recent Impact Report highlights the role of Oxford’s innovative smart water pump research in helping secure rural water supply in Kenya.

The UK’s Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) recently highlighted the significant contribution of Oxford University’s research to securing African rural water supply in their annual Impact Report. Oxford’s innovative smart water pump research is included among a selection of case studies demonstrating the societal and economic impact of the ESRC’s research funding. This not the first time Oxford’s smart handpump research has received recognition: last year Patrick Thomson’s poster, documenting the work, received the award for “Best Poster Presentation” at World Water Week.

The development of smart handpumps has dramatically reduced response times for those tasked with locating and repairing broken pumps in rural Kenya. It is estimated that as many as one in three pumps are out of service at any given time, with it often taking more a month or more to repair faults. The research uses mobile-enabled transmitters which automatically send SMS text messages to monitor pump performance. This enables a local maintenance company, FundiFix Ltd., to repair pumps within a couple of days. Information flows are informing institutional change in terms of sector coordination and sustainable finance with partners including local government, UNICEF and the private sector. Kenya’s Water Services Regulatory Board has also acknowledged the innovative nature of the approach in its national reporting.

The smart handpump research, is among a number of examples of Oxford’s groundbreaking work on rural water security being showcased by researchers his month at the ESRC-DFID’s Impact Initiative’s Pretoria conference, Lessons from a Decade’s Research on Poverty: Innovation, Engagement and Impact. Further information on the Impact Case Study and the Impact Initiative can be found below:

Updates of our researchers work in Africa can be found on their respective project websites. Below is a selection of recent posts outlining some of the many ways Oxford University’s water research is making an impact:

Gro for GooD

Dr Rob Hope outlines the importance of groundwater for the development of Kenya’s Kwale County as part of the Gro for GooD project (Groundwater Risk Management for Growth and Development).

REACH

Following the successful Water Security 2015 conference in December, REACH researchers have had a busy start to the year travelling to Kenya, Ethiopia and Bangladesh to develop research workplans with country partners. Here is a selection of recent items from the REACH website:

         In an article for Kenya’s Daily Nation, Dr Nic Cheeseman and Johanna Koehler draw from REACH’s recent Kenyan Country Diagnostic Report, identifying the drivers of water insecurity. Read more…

         Johanna Koehler and Susie Goodall, report on a recent workshop, run by Kitui County Government and UNICEF Kenya, for the County’s water staff to help develop sustainable water services. Read more…

Materials relating to the Water Security 2015 conference “Improving water security for the poor” are now available online:

       •       News article on the conference ‘Water Security: less talk, more action’

       •       Video and audio of the conference sessions

       •       REACH Country Diagnostic Reports – Kenya, Ethiopia, Bangladesh

       •       Social media summary of the conference on Storify

       •       Conference photos on Flickr

       •       “Securing Water, Sustaining Growth”  GWP/OECD Task Force report 

Water Security: less talk, more action

andrew-hamilton-oxford-university

Professor Andrew Hamilton, Vice-Chancellor of Oxford University © REACH

Water security is an increasingly urgent and complex challenge facing society, both rich and poor. Over 200 people from 20 countries met to debate using a risk-based framework to respond to the global and local challenges at the Water Security 2015 conference held at Oxford University on 9-11 December.

The Vice-Chancellor of Oxford University, Professor Andrew Hamilton, welcomed Ministers from Bangladesh, Ethiopia and Kenya who led discussions on the significance and shared challenge of water security for countries in Africa and Asia.

‘Water security is an issue of life or death for Bangladesh’ said Mr MA Mannan MP, State Minister of Finance and Planning. The country’s population, especially the poor, are highly vulnerable to water hazards, including frequent floods, droughts and arsenic-contaminated groundwater.

The World Bank and Oxford University presented new evidence on the global status of water security risks, showing the scale, urgency and cost of the challenge. Findings from the OECD and Global Water Partnership report ‘Securing Water, Sustaining Growth’ provide the economic rationale for investment in infrastructure, institutions and information.

Professor Jim Hall, Director of the Environmental Change Institute at Oxford University said: ‘investment finance needs to have a sense of where the priorities lie. We have developed a common language to look at the scale of the risk, evaluate the benefits of risk reduction, and make proportionate interventions and investments in water security.’

The conference continued with a focus on water security and poverty in Africa and South Asia, marking the first year of REACH: Improving water security for the poor. The programme is funded by the UK Department for International Development (DFID), with a £15 million investment in water research. DFID’s Chief Scientific Adviser, Professor Charlotte Watts, flagged the programme as critical to providing robust evidence needed for designing and implementing water security interventions.

Professor Charlotte Watts, Chief Scientific Adviser, UK Department for International Development © REACH

Professor Charlotte Watts, Chief Scientific Adviser, UK Department for International Development © REACH

Gaining government support will be key for REACH to bring about transformational change beyond its focussed ‘Water Security Observatories’ or study sites. Attendance from three State Ministers from Bangladesh, Ethiopia and Kenya – the countries where REACH works – was an important step in building these science-policy partnerships with senior academic, enterprise and policy collaborators.

Ato Motuma Mekassa, Minister of Water, Irrigation and Electricity, Ethiopia, shared his country’s vision: ‘It is my Government’s ambition and commitment that all Ethiopians especially women and children have a future where they can live, learn and grow without the burden of water insecurity both in terms of water quality and quantity.’

Mr MA Mannan MP, State Minister of Finance and Planning, Bangladesh (left); Ato Motuma Mekassa, Minister of Water, Irrigation and Electricity, Ethiopia (right) © REACH

Mr MA Mannan MP, State Minister of Finance and Planning, Bangladesh (left); Ato Motuma Mekassa, Minister of Water, Irrigation and Electricity, Ethiopia (right) © REACH

The Cabinet Secretary of the Ministry of Water and Irrigation in Kenya, Mr Eugene Wamalwa, spoke of unprecedented floods taking place in his country. Referring also to recent floods in Cumbria in the UK, he said that water is a global issue that connects us all. He tweeted with enthusiasm about his support for REACH and willingness to work in partnership to find new solutions to water insecurity.

Dr Rob Hope, REACH Director, Oxford Universityl (left); Eugene Wamalwa, Cabinet Secretary, Ministry of Water and Irrigation, Kenya (right) © REACH

Dr Rob Hope, REACH Director, Oxford Universityl (left); Eugene Wamalwa, Cabinet Secretary, Ministry of Water and Irrigation, Kenya (right) © REACH

Mr Sanjay Wijesekera, Chief of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene at UNICEF, highlighted the drive towards achieving universal access to water and sanitation, as part of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The need to address inequalities and target the poorest and most vulnerable is a priority across the SDGs, and in UNICEF’s work, he said. UNICEF is a global practitioner partner in the REACH programme with strong collaboration across regions and countries in Africa and Asia.

Sanjay Wijesekera, UNICEF © REACH

Sanjay Wijesekera, UNICEF © REACH

Three Country Diagnostic Reports on Bangladesh, Ethiopia and Kenya were launched at the conference. The reports illustrate significant but complex interactions between water security risks and poverty. Each Country Diagnostic Report outlines Water Security Observatories where REACH will focus its work over the next seven years.

Speakers from a session on ‘engendering water security’ showed how gender is a thread that weaves its way through all water security issues, from disasters, to water supply and sanitation, water management and technologies, and climate change resilience. The different values, needs and uses of water by men and women, and boys and girls, must be considered, to ensure that policies are effective. Eight parallel sessions convened panel discussions by senior policy, academic and enterprise leaders on issues of finance, monitoring, climate, poverty, health, data science, political accountability and groundwater.

In final remarks, REACH Director Dr Rob Hope said: ‘REACH will generate outstanding science to support policy and practice to improve water security for millions of poor people. The focus is on research with purpose and not producing academic papers that will gather dust.’

A call for partnerships and action was crystallised with the launch of the REACH Partnership Funding.

Presentations, audio and video will be available on the conference website soon – www.watersecurity205.org.

See the social media summary of the conference on Storify

Conference photos

Global leaders call for increased action and investment in water security

A number of global leaders have backed a Policy Statement committing to policies that contribute to water security, based on research led by Oxford University.

Water-policy-statement-2015-23.10The Statement underlines the importance of water security for sustainable economic development, social equity and environmental sustainability. It calls for countries to finance initiatives that ensure water availability and quality, and protect society from water risks, especially droughts, floods, and pollution.

A High-Level Panel prepared the Statement at the 7th World Water Forum in Korea, 13 April 2015, as part of the Global Dialogue for Water Security and Sustainable Growth, an initiative of the Global Water Partnership (GWP) and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

The Statement sets out a number of Policy Recommendations, including the need to integrate investments into long-term planning and sequence investments along a coherent pathway. Countries are urged to adopt risk management strategies, based on preventative action rather than reactive responses.

The Policy Recommendations are based on evidence from a Task Force on Water Security and Sustainable Growth, co-chaired by Professors David Grey and Jim Hall at the Oxford University.

A growing number of governments back the Statement, including Ministers from China, Denmark, Hungary, Indonesia, The Netherlands, Portugal, Singapore, South Africa, Korea, Spain and Belgium.

Related links

Read the Global Dialogue on Water Security and Sustainable Growth Policy Statement

Read the report Securing Water, Sustaining Growth

The report Securing Water, Sustaining Growth will be presented and discussed at the Water Security 2015 conference in Oxford, 9-11 December www.watersecurity2015.org

Sustainable finance for universal rural water services

Achieving the global goal of universal water services in rural Africa requires new and sustainable financial models. Oxford University and partners convened a special session at World Water Week 2015 in Stockholm, to present new evidence and debate emerging approaches being tested across rural Africa.

rob

Operation and maintenance costs for waterpoints in rural Africa are estimated at around USD 1 billion per year, according to new cross-country evidence (Foster). Mobile money platforms provide a promising but largely untested approach to improve rural water cost recovery (Nique). Public and private sector initiatives in rural Rwanda and Kenya illustrate emerging impacts and wider implications for Africa (Sano, Mikkelsen, Hope) with UNICEF supporting many initiatives across the region.

The session on 25 August saw Oxford University collaborating with partners from UNICEF (East and Southern Africa Regional Office), the Government of Kenya Water Services Regulatory Board (WASREB), Rwanda’s national Water and Sanitation Corporation (WASAC), Grundfos and GSMA (mobile industry).

The following conclusions were drawn:

  1. Water service regulation and financial support in Africa largely focusses on urban piped services with insufficient attention and support to promoting sustainable models in rural areas.
  2. The legacy of uncoordinated investments in rural areas has wasted significant resources with competing infrastructure cannabilising sources.
  3. The non-functionality rate of millions of rural handpumps is twice as high without revenue collection.
  4. Communities struggle with low probability, high cost repair costs often leading to use of more distant, dirty and often expensive water sources.
  5. There are affordability concerns for vulnerable groups. Interventions must leave no one behind through a universal service delivery approach.

Next steps identified include:

  1. Institutional investments to promote coordination and regulation of existing and future infrastructure assets and financial models.
  2. Information systems that provide timely and reliable operational and financial data to inform more robust institutional design and performance.
  3. Understand the potential of private sector engagement in testing new models at scale in partnership with government and civil society.
  4. Generate evidence of novel financial instruments that optimise rural water sustainability blending user payments (tariffs), donor contributions (transfers) and government (taxes).

 

Presentations

Why financial sustainability matters – evidence from Africa
Tim Foster, Oxford University
presentation slides

Mobile water payment systems
Michael Nique, GSMA
presentation slides

Financial sustainability of rural water wupply
James Sano, Water and Sanitation Corporation (WASAC), Rwanda
presentation slides

Public private partnerships for sustainable rural water supply
Rasoul Mikkelsen, Grundfos Ltd.
presentation slides

Financial sustainability for universal rural water services
Rob Hope, Oxford University
presentation slides

Understanding financial flows for rural water services in Africa

Financial sustainability is a necessary but often forgotten condition to advance global goals of universal, reliable, safe and affordable water services. Oxford University researchers are designing and testing new financial models to find out what works for the rural poor in Kenya.

IMG_5377

In rural Africa people are four times more likely to get their water from an unsafe source than those living in urban areas. Around one in three handpumps are broken at any one time.

The Water Programme at the Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment is trialling novel financial models to improve rural water sustainability and results from ongoing research in Kenya are published in two new Working Papers.

The unpredictable timing and magnitude of costs associated with operation and maintenance is a chronic problem for communities. The first study assesses the case for handpump insurance to reduce financial risks, and is supported by a grant from the UK Department for International Development and the Economic and Social Research Council.

While it seems unlikely that a standalone insurance product would offer a viable business model, the concept of pooling finances and spreading risk across multiple communities could help them pay for services that last.

The second study supported by UNICEF, builds on the teams earlier work and tests a model where water users pre-pay for a professional maintenance service that uses mobile-enabled data on handpump use. The report argues that improved institutional coordination and investment, and improved monitoring systems are necessary conditions for achieving universal rural water services.

The two papers will be launched at World Water Week 2015 in Stockholm, Sweden.

Read the reports

Insuring Against Rural Water Risk – Evidence from Kwale, Kenya
Financial Sustainability for Universal Rural Water Services – Evidence from Kyuso, Kenya

The Oxford Water Network at World Water Week

Oxford University will be active at this year’s World Water Week in Stockholm, Sweden on 23-28 August 2015, with several presentations and an Oxford Water Network booth.

water and development

The annual World Water Week is widely considered ‘the’ place to be for researchers, business, decision-makers and practitioners interested in global water issues. This year’s theme is Water for Development and the event takes place just weeks before world leaders adopt the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the successors of the Millennium Development Goals.

The theme is timely for us, given the recent launch of our global seven-year programme REACH which addresses water security risks in Africa and South Asia, specifically targeting the poor.

We will also be sharing insights from our Smart Water Systems research which designs and tests new mobile technologies and institutional models to transform water resource management and water service delivery in Africa.

The Stockholm International Water Institute’s report Water for Development – Charting a Water Wise Path frames the challenge. It argues that getting water management right is a prerequisite for sustainable development. Experts reflect on wide-ranging topics, such as the dedicated water SDG, reducing the risk of disasters, and the role of Information Communications Technology (ICT) for water and development.

Dr Rob Hope, Director of the Water Programme at the Smith School for Enterprise, will be leading a session on sustainable finance for universal rural water services, alongside UNICEF, the mobile operators network GSMA, the world’s largest pump manufacturer Grundfos Ltd and a water supply company in Rwanda.

An Oxford Water Network booth (located at G3 on the map) will provide a hub for people to meet and find out more about water research and education at Oxford University. If you are in Stockholm, then do come along and meet our researchers at the booth! A number of themed informal discussions have been scheduled.

Download the programme of presentations by Oxford University researchers.

Download the full schedule of activities at the Oxford University booth.

Follow World Water Week on twitter with the hashtag #wwweek and follow our activities via @oxfordwater and @reach_water

Watch the video One Water – for Sustainable Development

Schedule of presentations

Sunday 23 August

11:00-12:30, Room FH 300
Implementing the SDGs in the post-2015 development agenda
Convenors: GWP, Stockholm International Water Institute, UN-Water
Patrick Thomson presenting Implementing, monitoring and financing the water SDG in rural Africa

14:00-15:30, Room FH 300
Implementing the SDGs in the post-2015 development agenda
Convenors: GWP, Stockholm International Water Institute, UN-Water
Dr Katrina Charles presenting Can shared sanitation in slums be adequate sanitation?

Tuesday 25 August

9:00-10:30, Room FH Little Theatre
Eye on Asia: taking actions for a water secure Asia
Convenors: Asia Pacific Water Forum, Asian Development Bank, International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development, International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis, World Wide Fund for Nature
Dr Katrina Charles presenting Reducing water security risks for the poor

9:00-10:30, Room NL Music Hall / Musiksalen
Sustainable finance for universal rural water services
Convenors: University of Oxford, Grundfos, UNICEF, GSMA
Dr Rob Hope will lead a session providing new evidence of models that advance sustainable finance in Africa.
Tim Foster presenting Mobile water payment systems

11:00-12:30, Room NL 357
Information technologies for a smarter water future
Convenors: @aqua, Akvo Foundation, DHI, Stockholm International Water Institute
Patrick Thomson presenting Distributed monitoring of shallow aquifer level using community handpumps
This presentation will also be part of the interactive poster exhibition in the FH Congress Hall Foyer. Poster presenters will be available for questions during the coffee breaks at 10:30-11:00 and 15:30-16:00

Wednesday 26 August

9:00-10:30, FH Congress Hall B
Water as a driver for sustainable development and poverty eradication
Convenors: Stockholm International Water Institute, The World Bank Group, WaterAid, We Effect
Johanna Koehler presenting Pump-priming payments for sustainable water services in rural Africa.

Thursday 27 August

14:00-15:30, Room FH 307
(Re)thinking governance
Convenors: University of Nebraska, Stockholm International Water Institute, UNDP Water Governance Facility, Water Integrity Network
Johanna Koehler presenting Can decentralisation improve water security and promote equitable post-2015 development?

Schedule of activities at the booth

Monday 24 August

10:30-11:00
Groundwater risk, growth and development
Dr Rob Hope and Patrick Thomson

11:00-14:00
REACH: Improving water security for the poor
Dr Rob Hope and Dr Katrina Charles

14:00-15:30
Smart Handpumps
Patrick Thomson and Johanna Koehler

Tuesday 25 August

15:30-16:00
Meet the DPhils
Johanna Koehler, Tim Foster, Julian Kirchherr

Wednesday 26 August

14:00-17:30
MSc in Water Science, Policy and Management (WSPM) alumni

Thursday 27 August

14:00-16:00
Applying to Oxford University

RCUK highlights Oxford’s ‘innovative’ smart handpumps project

The Research Councils UK is showcasing an Oxford University project which uses mobile phone technology to transmit data on handpump use in rural Kenya.

RCUK-handpump-story

Research trip to Kyuso, Kenya. L to R: Handpump mechanic in Kenya; Patrick Thomson, Oxford; Dr Rob Hope, Oxford; and Dr Peter Harvey, UNICEF.

The ‘Smart Handpumps’ project is led by Dr Rob Hope, an Associate Professor at the School of Geography and the Environment and Director of the Water Programme at the Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment. It is one of 13 projects funded by the seven Research Councils highlighted as ground-breaking and innovative research at the RCUK’s first ‘Research, Innovate, Grow’ conference, attended by business leaders, entrepreneurs, and policymakers.

The project, part funded by the Economic and Social Research Council, harnesses mobile phone technology to enable smart handpumps to send automated data on when and how much they are used. This flags up when they are broken so they can be fixed quickly, significantly improving waiting times for maintenance services. In rural Africa, one million handpumps supply water to over 200 million villagers. Yet up to one third of pumps are out of action at any one time.

Researchers work in two test sites in rural Kenya, Kyuso and Kwale, to resolve the problem of broken pumps and provide reliable water. From a delay of a month, the pumps at the sites are now fixed in under two days. Previously many households were paying nothing toward the service, but after a free trial many villagers are willing to pay for the new maintenance service based on past performance.

The smart pump data also show how much water the pump is using and its reliability. It is therefore possible to charge communities that use their pump less at a lower rate than those who use the pump more frequently. Equally, the first ever hourly data on observed handpump water use provides important insights into water demand and seasonal variation. For example, in both sites the researchers have evidence to show that when it rains people switch to alternative water sources which may be less safe.

Professor Rick Rylance, Chair of RCUK, said: ‘We are delighted to be holding such an exciting and engaging event to show how the UK is a world leader in research and innovation, with a reputation for excellence of which we are immensely proud. We truly punch above our weight on the global stage in terms of the quality of research we produce and its high impact on economic growth and prosperity. Strong, sustained investment in the UK research base is essential to strengthen and let fly the excellence, creativity and impact of the UK’s world leading researchers, innovators and businesses. We need to invest now to secure its future.’

The Government of Kenya has identified the translation of the research into a business model as an important contribution to their efforts to find new and sustainable ways to maintain water services. Local businesses set up by the project now gather data that monitors the performance of the agencies delivering water services in a measurable and accountable manner.

The work is expanding in Kenya, with other countries in Africa and Asia interested in adopting the model based on the evidence the project has provided on innovative engineering solutions and institutional design, including mobile water payment systems.

Research from the project has recently been published as an open access article in the journal World Development.

Koehler, J., Thomson, P. and Hope, R. (2015) Pump-priming payments for sustainable water services in rural Africa. World Development, 74: 397-411.

Read the Oxford University press release

The RCUK Research Innovate Grow event

Eleven projects featured in the RCUK event

Dr Rob Hope

Smart Water Systems research

Is the Western US drought caused by climate change?

Climateprediction.net has launched a new experiment to find out if climate change has made the drought in California, Oregon and Washington more likely.

The Western US drought has ranged from troublesome to severe. Californians have just experienced a fourth winter of drought, following three years that have marked some of the most severe drought conditions in the past century.

Oregon is in its second year of drought thanks to very low snowpack because of warm, mild winters. Washington is in its first year of drought – a result almost exclusively tied to warmer winter temperatures.

This past winter, Governor Jerry Brown issued water restrictions for the first time in the history of the state. In 2014 alone, the drought cost $2.2 billion and caused over 17,000 farm workers to lose their jobs.

In the video above, Abby Halperin, Myles Allen and Friederike Otto at the Environmental Change Institute explain how serious the ongoing drought is, and how this Weather@home experiment will help determine what effect, if any, human-induced climate change has had on the likelihood of the drought.

With the help of volunteers all around the world running simulations on their home computers, the experiment will simulate and compare thousands of possible Western US winter seasons in the world as it might have been without climate change, with possible winter weather in the world as we know it. If the chance of a drought in these two worlds is the same, then climate change cannot be blamed for this particular event. However, if the chance of a drought is greater in the world with climate change, this indicates that climate change increased the risk of drought.

Read more about the Weather@home experiment and how you can get involved