Secure access to water by the rural poor in Africa is central to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals. With more than 500 million Africans dependent on groundwater and the potential for expanded use, the resilience of aquifers in the face of climate, population growth, and land-use change is key. Evidence suggests however, that during extended periods of low rainfall, groundwater supplies from low storage aquifers can fail. It is unclear, therefore, whether planned development of substantial numbers of groundwater supplies as a means to meet the expected large increase in demand, will be effective in all areas of sub-Saharan Africa. In the absence of long historical records of borehole levels, we are reliant on process understanding and modeling to infer the stability of groundwater supplies. In partnership with national and local government, NGOs and researchers, the BRAVE project will incorporate new understanding of climate variability and observational capacity and its water resource impacts into the planning and operation of groundwater supplies in the Volta River Basin.
As a result of improved understanding of how water moves through catchments representative of the Volta River Basin, combined with output from state-of-the-art climate, land surface and groundwater models, new scientific knowledge allows appropriate tools to be developed for planning at a range of scales: basin-scale long-term regional planning of aquifer-based water supplies for domestic and productive uses; local-scale long-term and seasonal community management of groundwater supplies; and provision of information that allows timely emergency planning in the light developing drought conditions. New observational capacity and assessments of user vulnerability and an understanding of governance frameworks linking local communities to national government, along with this new scientific knowledge, are translated into forms that allow participatory decision-making to be made.
Bringing together communities, practitioners and policy-makers, the application of the planning tools are being piloted in a series of case studies within eight communities in Ghana and Burkina Faso. A set of meaningful groundwater management tools are developed with these communities that specifically address the information they want and need, and which are embedded within the existing local, district, national and regional governance structures. The use of the system in the pilot communities will provide insights into the extent such an approach can support sustainable decision making and equitable uptake. Furthermore, after consultation with our partners, we are developing a methodology to produce seasonal groundwater status reports which will be linked into the operational RAINWATCH Drought Early Warning System in Burkina Faso and Ghana.
BRAVE contributes to building the resilience of poor communities to climate variability and environmental change in the Volta River Basin. The project outputs will be of direct relevance to government departments responsible for water supply development, as well as humanitarian and development organisations. Actively working together from the project inception will encourage ownership, culminating in the co-design and implementation of the planning tools. This is delivering a strategic shift in future national disaster risk reduction, adaptation and resilience related policies to support increased water security for the poorest people in Ghana and Burkina Faso with lessons around resilience building for the wider Sahel region