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Saturday, 21 April 2018

Water is Life, and We Need to be Nareful with It

By Dr. Timmo Gaasbeek, Coordinator of the Aqua4East and Aqua4Darfur Partnerships
Water is life. There are few places in the world where this is as clear as in Sudan, where people have been living with scarce water for centuries. Over the last decades, Sudan’s population has grown, and demands for water for people, livestock, crops and industry have grown as well. At the same time, rainfall is less than it was when Sudan gained independence. This means that Sudan faces an increasing challenge of balancing demand and availability of water. In many places, it is not possible to simply add more wells to meet the demand for water, because there is not enough water. That is like having a water bottle and putting more and more straws into it to allow more people to drink. It works for a while, but the more straws you put in, the quicker the bottle will be empty. Then, you do not need more straws but a bigger bottle. It is sometimes possible to make more water available by letting more water sink into the ground, where it recharges the wells.
March 22nd is World Water Day, a day on which to reflect on how the water needs of the world can be met, and how challenges can be addressed. On this day, it is worth sharing some of the work that the Aqua4East and Aqua4Darfur Partnerships are doing.
With financial support from the UK Government and the European Union, the two partnerships are implementing projects in Darfur and in the East of Sudan that aim to develop replicable approaches to integrated water resources management. In about 25 catchment areas, the stakeholders (locality authorities and water users, including villagers, farmers, pastoralists etc.) are brought together to analyse the water situation along their wadi. With technical advice from state-level government experts and input from international hydrological experts, they analyse how much water is available, how much is needed, and where the problems are. Then, they come up with a plan to address the issues for the entire area. This approach is necessary, because developing water infrastructure in individual communities can easily lead to scarcity somewhere else, which will lead to problems.
An example is that in some grazing areas there is no water. In order to drink, livestock needs to walk through farms to get to the wadi. This causes damage to the farms, and conflicts between farmers and pastoralists. If a way can be found to make water available in the grazing areas, the livestock no longer needs to walk through the farms, and the need for conflict is taken away.
In some areas, there is water scarcity near the beginning of the wadi, and flooding near the end. If water can be slowed down, both the water scarcity at the beginning and the flooding at the end of the wadi can be reduced.
After three years of hard work, the first results are becoming visible. Water users and authorities have teamed up to jointly find solutions for their water problems. The first ten water resources management plans are being implemented, and more are being developed. The first small recharge dams have been built, and we can see that the water level in nearby wells has increased. Plans for ensuring operation and maintenance of water infrastructure are being developed. In some states, the state government is actively looking for integrated solutions to their water resources management problems. There is still much to be done, but there is good reason to believe that at least part of the water problems that Sudan is facing can be addressed.