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He tells us that: “In November 2019, I was in Nigeria and was asked “what is this groundwater project all about?” The feedback I got was that the project started in 2018, when a technical USAID focal point mentioned a concern with groundwater over water abstraction: “everyone is drilling boreholes everywhere, there is increasing abstraction but no clear data on safe abstraction limits.” The WASH department in Action Against Hunger, Nigeria works to improve access to water – sustainable development goal 6.1 and not just access, but safe and sustainable access. A fundamental principle for us is to do no harm. Yet, without a clear management of groundwater, we had drilled and rehabilitated over 400 boreholes since 2017. This became a turning point for AAH to device ways of ensuring sustainability and conservation of ground water in North East Nigeria, where ground water depletion is on the rise.




Action Against Hunger is working with the Nigerian Hydrological Services Agency (NIHSA) to identify and collate groundwater monitoring data that are available and published. At this point, the team generated a terms of reference to establish the ideal locations to install new monitoring instruments to help establish the health of groundwater. The goal was first to analyse the hydrogeology and location of historic monitoring wells to identify the top locations. Also joined a partnership between Geo 9 and one of the top hydrogeologists in Northeast Nigeria from the University of Maiduguri. Geo 9, love maps and information systems – a firm specialising in using geographic information system (GIS) to advance geology Geo 9 suggested that to understand the system we need to first consolidate the different data available into a single system. So that is what Action Against Hunger, Nigeria did. Through the partnership, all the available hydrogeological data which include maps, borehole logs, geophysical data, geological survey data, and articles were consolidated.




Action Against Hunger organised a workshop with the different stakeholders, explaining the project and requested stakeholders to share their data. Surprisingly, we realised how difficult it is to get hold of groundwater data from NGOs. In the end the project was able to bring together almost 300 different data layers (think maps) and information for over 3,300 water points. Currently working with the University of Maiduguri to digitise archived logs (hoping to add another 1000). With data system consolidated, we could proceed to explore and investigate the hydrology. To reflect on the health of the systems and consider where to install groundwater monitoring instruments (and what type). In addition to understanding the system, Geo 9 completed a review of the institutional, policy and legal environment to understand how groundwater is treated.

Starting out with a diverse monitoring network, but due to the security and access constraints in the Northeast, access could only be guaranteed in six hubs. The instruments have now been installed and we are collecting new data. Action Against Hunger worked with NIHSA to install the first sites and NIHSA installed the rest. “For me it’s been exciting to work with Nigerian agency,” Toms says. At the start of the project, the regional bureau was based in Abuja, since the project started they moved back to Maiduguri and they are now managing and collecting the data and equipment. In Northeast Nigeria, groundwater levels have been declining, the project was able to quantify present data that shows the rate of actual decline. We identified a range of water quality issues including, salinity, elevated nitrate, fluoride, thallium, arsenic and sulphates associated with different groundwater formations. The Groundwater Monitoring and Surveillance project also highlighted problems linked to poor enforcement of drilling standards; limited availability of operation and maintenance; gaps in the groundwater monitoring records; limited modernisation of water bore drilling and groundwater pumping systems.




So far, it has been two years of learning and contributing towards access to safe Groundwater in North East Nigeria. The situation is quite complicated, there are inherent uncertainties that has made it difficult to make recommendations. Data from previous years becomes crucial in determining the current groundwater status. The few data points from the 1960’s provide significant insight into the longer trends. So what’s next? Working to get data available to support the planning of new boreholes and make the history of previous sites available. Action Against Hunger is also improving drilling practices aimed at monitoring how relevant stakeholders and end-users ensure groundwater data isn’t lost. The USAID Bureau of Humanitarian Assistance funded project have been supporting the new Water Resources Bill (2020), establishment of Technical Working Groups and bringing together key stakeholders in the water supply sector. Longer term, we look forward to strengthening the science and considering if there are ways we can restore the groundwater, the ecology and ensure sufficient food production.

Interested to learn more? The full report is available here and a presentation here.

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