Improving access to water and sanitation reduces the risk of poverty and disease. The Groundwater2030 project surveys of well use and groundwater quality will enable us to discover how this has changed and the impact on the local community.
The poor and contaminated groundwater
Under the Millennium Development Goals (running until 2015), an international target was set up to improve access to water and sanitation thereby helping to lessen poverty and disease. Another target being proposed is to measure how far the poorest population groups can access safe water.
By looking at the socio-economic characteristics of groundwater source users, and correlating this information with our fieldwork survey data, we hope to discover whether the quality of groundwater consumed by the poorest households is worse than that consumed by those who are better off.
In September 2013, we revisited both the neighbourhoods in Kisumu that we surveyed in the past (between 1999 and 2004) , to see how easy it would be to track down the original groundwater sources in our baseline study. Despite it having been a decade after the sites were last visited, (and thanks to careful record-keeping from the original survey at VIRED International) we were able to revisit around a dozen of the original groundwater sources.
Early in 2014 we took further measurements in these areas, and from these data we began to map the long-term changes in groundwater quality and usage over a 13 year period.
How is groundwater use changing?
Our initial pilot fieldwork has already suggested some interesting trends. While based on only a few groundwater sources and somewhat anecdotal at this early stage, the results are still interesting.
Some of the boreholes that were functioning when we first surveyed the area have since fallen into disuse or are no longer operational due to lack of maintenance. Other groundwater sources however, remain relatively unchanged or some effort has been made to improve them. Sometimes older shallow wells still continued to be used, but as a supplement to utility piped water. In general, the gradual spread of piped water connections into both neighbourhoods was one of the most noticeable changes over the years since our first visits.
It also appears that people seem to be using water from different sources in various ways. Use of the more expensive (and presumed higher quality) piped water seems to be reserved for drinking, while groundwater from shallow wells and boreholes is mostly used for other purposes such as washing clothes, watering vegetables, and flushing toilets.
We shall be examining this further as the study progresses and should also see other patterns of long-term change emerging which will enable us to assess the future implications for the domestic water needs of Kisumu.