Rwanda considers groundwater use for drought-prone areas

Sunday February 18 2018

The government believes groundwater is the most

The government believes groundwater is the most suitable and viable solution for the persistent water shortage in the Eastern Province. FILE PHOTO | NATION 

By JOHNSON KANAMUGIRE
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The Rwandan government is hiring a consulting firm to help in gathering data on ground water reserves in the drought-prone Eastern Province. This comes as the country seeks to tap into aquifers to meet demand for water.

According to Water for Growth Rwanda, a joint initiative between the government and the Netherlands, the study will run for six months from February to July. It will involve a detailed study on aquifer types in selected areas in Eastern province.

The areas are Nyagatare-Gatsibo, Kayonza, Rwamagana, Ngoma, Kirehe, and Bugesera, which are the six districts most affected by recurrent drought.

Potential aquifers

The advertised tender shows the study will assess the availability of ground water, depth of potential aquifers, possible yields and water quality in addition to recommending the optimum sites for long-term production boreholes.

“The consultant will compile and submit a comprehensive report about the groundwater reserves,” reads the advertisement.

Over 80 per cent of the population in the six districts of Eastern Province depend on crop and livestock farming, which is still largely rain-fed, while demand for drinking water is also increasing.

Unsafe water

Amid a growing population and newly resettled residents, Water for Growth Rwanda said those who cannot access safe water are forced to rely on unsanitary stagnant surface water for their domestic use, which is dangerous for their health.

Official data shows water coverage rate for the Eastern Province stands at 52 per cent, far below the country’s average of 75 to 80 per cent for rural areas.

Unlike other parts of the country that get enough annual rainfall and have surface water sources, the government considered ground water pumping as the most suitable solution for the persistent water shortage in eastern province.

Lack of data

However, experts said lack of data on depths and volume of aquifers could pose risks of land degradation.

Water for Growth Rwanda secretariat was yet to respond to our request for additional information, but the tender shows the study could provide the required information and guide plans to accelerate programmes aimed at improving water supply in the region.

The study would identify the main aquifers, provide the hydraulic characteristics and water balances among other key details.

Other crucial data includes recommendations on drilling procedures and water treatment where needed.

Limited data on the country’s ground water resources has been cited as one of the barriers hindering irrigation schemes to maximise agricultural production.

A FAO-led team of experts, who have been mapping Rwanda’s regions, said it was difficult to determine the risks of drilling due to lack of data on depths and volume of groundwater reserves.

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