Research projects

Unlocking the Potential for Groundwater for the Poor (UpGro)


Collaborating Organisations: Flinders University and NCGRT, British Geological Survey, University of Sheffield, Cambridge University London, ODI UK, Richard Carter & Associates, Addis Ababa University - Ethiopia, Makerere University - Uganda, University Malawi - Malawi and WaterAid

Researchers: Dr Eddie Banks & Professor Peter Cook

This collaborative inter-disciplinary research project brings together physical and social sciences, and engineering to provide a step change in scientific understanding of groundwater service functionality and the human behaviours and arrangements that shape this in three countries in Africa, Malawi, Uganda and Ethiopia.

The overall aim of the project is to build a robust, multi‐country evidence base on the causes of the unacceptably high rates of groundwater system and service failure (Figure 2; some 30-40 % hand pump boreholes fail in the first year) and use this knowledge to deliver a step‐change in future functionality, with recommendations for (1) diagnosing existing problems in country programs, and (2) developing policy and practice to mitigate risks.

The research sampling methodology involves 3 comprehensive surveys that include both a physical and social sciences directive:

  • Field Survey 1: Representative sample of handpump boreholes for upscaling.
  • Field Survey 2: Comprehensive survey, involving wells being taken apart and more time spent with groundwater users
  • Field Survey 3:  Methodology of establishing handpump borehole functionality (UpGro, 2015)
  • Longitudinal surveys to capture performance functionality at a level of detail that includes the time component which cannot be captured from the snapshot functionality assessment in survey 1 or 2.

Research Fellow Eddie Banks and Professorial Research Fellow Peter Cook from Flinders University are leading the longitudinal physical surveys and working together with BGS and the in-country researchers to develop an understanding of the groundwater flow processes and recharge mechanisms of the aquifer systems which are the source of water for the shallow handpump boreholes. 

UpGro Flims

Unlocking Africa’s Groundwater Potential (with subtitles)
Introducing groundwater (with subtitles)
Groundwater in Africa (with subtitles)
Groundwater and the future (with subtitles)
Groundwater and society (with subtitles)
Groundwater and handpumps (with subtitles)


Drinking water quality from rural handpump-boreholes in Africa