Climate Change, Water use efficiency, and water management: How my experiences during my internship at IWMI increased my interest in research

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After my Master's program in Water Resources Management and Engineering, I got the chance to do an internship with the International Water Management Institute. I had no working experience at that time, so I wanted to explore something new. I conducted several literature reviews on fecal sludge management, small-scale irrigation, public-private partnerships, and business models in Resource Reuse Recovery. I was challenged by the workload during the internship, but I did my best to gain knowledge in these exciting areas. The review that I did on Disaster Risk and Resilience in West Africa caught my interest, leading to my desire to conduct further research on climate change impacts and adaptation.

During my internship, I had the chance to visit a field project site in the Keta Municipality in the lower region of Ghana. The communities within the municipality are located in-between a lagoon and the sea. Farming is the main source of income in these communities, and they depend on groundwater supply for irrigation. However, the communities face salinity challenges and frequent wells drying due to groundwater over-exploitation, shallow wells, and saltwater intrusion from the sea and the lagoon. The shallow wells' depth was between 6-12m and could go as deep as 15m, which contributes to frequent drying of wells. The farmers also lamented about the presence of ferrous substance in the water.

Author conducting water quality testing at Anyanui village in Ghana (Photo by Rita Gyimah)

Availability of fresh water for domestic and agricultural use is becoming scarcer over time due to climate change, so highlighting the need to use water efficiently has become prominent in the water sector. Moreover, with population growth, resource competition, and climate change issues, water users need to adopt best industry practices for water efficiency and new strategies that adjust for changes in water quantity and quality.

One way to achieve efficient water use and increase farmers' resilience to lower crop yield is by improving water use efficiency.  I joined a team from the International Water Management Institute to conduct a series of capacity trainings with the farmers on the importance of Water Use Efficiency (WUE) and related economic benefits. Water quality sampling was also conducted to check the salinity in the wells. In collaboration with the farmers, the team brainstormed innovative solutions to ensure that the farmers participate and get involved. The participants were grouped into four to discuss lessons learned from the presentation and exercises, their take-home practices of new ideas, and practices they would like to experience to increase their Water Use Efficiency. Some of the innovative solutions proposed during the meeting included closing the wells with increasing water salinity and drilling new ones, controlling the rate of water abstraction, moving wells to new location. The farmers agreed to regulate their rate of abstraction from the groundwater sources and consider the depth of drilling new wells. The participants were also introduced to solar-powered water pumps to improve energy efficiency and time saving. They were pleased to learn new ideas at the workshop and expressed interest in participating in more water management initiatives and field trials.

After my training with the International Water Management Institute, my research has been focused on climate change impacts on water supplies and demand, including how these will affect future water availability and quality. I am currently conducting a systematic literature review to understand how water service levels have been impacted by climate change and other environmental factors influencing water availability and quality in similar settings.

Dry well on a farmland at Anyanui village in Ghana (Photo by Rita Gyimah)

Let's create a water secure future together.