Stories from the field-Uganda: Rural Water Supply Development in Northern Uganda

After waiting out two years of COVID-19 — and then an outbreak of the Sudan Ebola virus — five team members, an astrophysics student, a photographer, and Paul Bauman (Project Lead) are back in Northern Uganda 20 days after the country was declared Ebola free. And while for 20 years the White Nile offered a physical barrier and some protection for Joseph Kony and the Lord’s Resistance Army (the LRA), from Ugandan forces to the south, the singular passage across the Karuma Bridge likely helped safeguard Northern Uganda from any Ebola cases.

This project is once again funded by the Geoscientists *without* Borders program, along with generous support from BGC Engineering and its humanitarian foundation BGC Squared, a grant from the Kingston-North Kitsap Rotary Club, and a very generous equipment donation from Guideline Geo AB. GWB’s project partner here is, once again, the small Israeli NGO IsraAID.

Both Lamwaka Proscovia (l) and Aba Serina (r) were participants in the 2016 GWB Uganda rural water exploration program. Though neither had any background in water supply or geoscience, both are now working in geophysical siting of boreholes, manual drilling, and hand pump repair.

IsraAID has been providing our on-the-ground logistical support and, most importantly, the community engagement. In particular, IsraAID was tasked with identifying at least 10 Acholi villages, schools, or health clinics highly dependent on water wells that are no longer functioning, and 10 villages, schools, or health clinics with no reasonable access to a safe source of drinking water.

The overall goal of this project is to improve access to safe drinking water for the approximately 3 million Acholi speaking people of Northern Uganda. This community suffered extreme privation during and following the civil war with the LRA from 1988 to 2012. Beginning with the top priority, this goal is being addressed through several objectives including:

  1. Repair non-functioning handpumps in 11 villages.
  2. Apply geophysical methods to site new boreholes in 10 villages and 1 school lacking any safe water source.
  3. Drill boreholes, complete wells, and install hand pumps in the geophysically-sited water well target locations.
  4. Carry out surface and borehole geophysical surveys at the well repair sites to better understand the physical properties of typical weathered crystalline basement aquifers.
  5. Continue the training of Acholi trainees in well repair, manual drilling, surface geophysics, field aqueous geochemistry, and well and pump evaluations.
  6. Carry out a moderately extensive hydro-geochemistry sampling program including microbiology, stable isotopes, major anion and cation chemistry, turbidity, iron, and fluoride.

Well repair, well siting, E. coli testing, and water sampling are now complete. The first of 11 water wells will likely be completed on March 3. Drilling of the remaining water wells will follow

immediately. The team estimates that the repaired water wells will benefit at least 500 households of approximately 3000 persons. The yet-to-be drilled village wells (along with one school), will benefit an estimated 2800 persons and a school with a student population of 1200.

This project directly addresses Goal 6 (Clean Water and Sanitation for all). For more info on UNSDGs, please visit:

Learn more about our grantee partner.

We found the Geonics EM34 terrain conductivity meter to complement ERT imaging as a crew can be quickly trained, and the EM34 depth of investigation is well-suited to reconnaissance mapping of relatively conductive weathered crystalline basement rock. The Acholi trainees are capable of independently operating both the EM34 and Guideline Geo’s LS ERT system.