By Jenipher Nakuti
Authorities in Mbale city, together with the city-dwellers, have turned their attention to groundwater as an alternative source of water contributing to the fight against water scarcity and the effects of climate change.
According to records, groundwater usage in the city stands at 45%. Some of the commonly used sources include spring wells, boreholes, and water ponds, among others.
James Kutosi, the City’s Spokesperson, says the city council has the political will to ensure increased use of groundwater sources as well as strategies for their sustainability.
“The council understands that our population is diverse and their status differs, so we have earmarked groundwater as an alternative source of water for communities that cannot afford national water services,” Kutosi affirmed.
Rhoda Nyariibi, Mbale City Principal Environment Officer, says in the next financial year, more money will be allocated to rehabilitate the already established sources in addition to creating new ones.
“Our budget will seek to improve groundwater coverage in the city, particularly those densely populated areas,” Nyariibi revealed.
A couple of city schools, such as Demiro Nursery and Primary, in Half London, have also embraced the use of groundwater. The school has drilled a borehole where its learners draw water for drinking and cleaning.
Besides schools, highly populated places within the city have boreholes, spring wells, or open pits from where water for domestic and commercial purposes is fetched.
Mohamed Muto, a resident of Busajja Bwankuba cell Northern Division in Mbale city urges the communities to embrace the use of groundwater and to protect and preserve the environment in their respective areas.
Residents, through their saving groups are establishing own groundwater sources as well as conversation associations.
For instance, in Manafwa District, a certain sub-county known as Bubulo has a group of over 200 members that has planted a couple of water sources and trees both in Manafwa and Bududa districts which have frequently been affected by natural disasters such as flooding.
Having suffered several natural disasters, including the recent one in June 2022 in which River Nabuyonga burst its banks leading to a deadly flash flood, Mbale city authorities and residents are keen to jointly take precautionary measures to avoid the negative impacts of climate change.
To support residents of Mount Elgon region in Uganda and Kenya in their efforts towards the sustainable use and management of groundwater, the Nile Basin Initiative (NBI) is currently implementing a project aimed at strengthening the knowledge base, capacity, and cross-border institutional mechanisms.
The project targets three aquifers, namely Mt. Elgon aquifer, shared between Kenya and Uganda; Kagera Basin Aquifer, shared by Burundi, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Uganda, as well as Gedaref-Adigrat aquifer shared between Ethiopia and Sudan.
The USD 5.3 million project – ‘Enhancing Conjunctive Management of Surface Water and Groundwater Resources in Selected Transboundary Aquifers will further build and expand on the understanding of groundwater resources through detailed mapping and assessment of the three aquifer systems.
It will also aid the national achievements and reporting of water-related Sustainable Development Goals, and will be supportive of environmental protection whilst enhancing the socio-economic development of the Basin’s population.