Resilience In Groundwater Supply Systems: integrating resource-based approaches with agency, behaviour and choice in West Africa (RIGSS)
Developing and testing an innovative framework for understanding the interplay between environmental resources, social systems and behavioural choices affecting the resilience of groundwater supplies.
Access to safe and reliable water supplies is a key goal for households and governments across most of Africa.
Water security is one of the most pressing risks across Africa. In urban areas, rapidly growing populations coupled with rising incomes, falling costs, and often an absent or unreliable public water supply, mean that increasing numbers of households are choosing to install private boreholes to meet their domestic water needs.
This trend is particularly prevalent in emerging global mega-cities such as Lagos, Nigeria. Taking three areas in Nigeria as test-cases, this multidisciplinary study addressed the question: Does the proliferation of private boreholes strengthen or weaken the resilience of communities to future environmental shocks?
The study finds that the collective enthusiasm for unlimited and expanding groundwater extraction in cities such as Lagos increases individual resilience to water shortage in the present. However, coupled with a demonstrated lack of groundwater governance and regulation, this may reach a tipping point where vulnerability is transferred to the wider community or to the future.
Understanding the role of agency and communicating the potential risks associated with uncontrolled groundwater development, across a range of actors and agencies, may be critical to avoid future conflict between individual and societal resilience to environmental shocks.
The results are relevant to a wide range of African cities, which are experiencing similar development trends.
The project team
This research is supported by the Natural Environment Research Council (Grant number NE/P01545X/1)