Using Basic Soil Science to Inform Drought Risk Reduction Planning

CWS Japan | October 3, 2019

    Women from Umerkot team up to draw water from their existing deep well. Photo: CWS

    Two Umerkot Village Management Committee members testing an existing well. Photo: CWS

    With plans to use lessons learned from a continuing project in Pakistan, CWS Japan team members are happy to report strong results from working with Japan Conservation Engineers, Co. Ltd. and strong community leaders in drought risk reduction project in Sindh Province in Pakistan. The project’s aim is to detect underground water using Electronic Resistance Surveying (ERS) and analysis as well as community-led water management to reduce drought risk and impact. Even in extremely water-scarce areas near the Thar Desert, monitoring shows sweet water (vs. brackish saltwater) layers of water underground, so the team is hopeful of sourcing these. And, so far, key lessons learned are these:

    1. Although limited, there is sweet water potential
    Umerkot is at the tip of an Indus River flood plain. So, eyeing vegetation spread and elevation patterns and conducting Electronic Resistance Survey (ERS), potable water can be found.

    2. If a well is over stressed, brackish (salt) water intrudes
    With too many people relying on a well, too much sweet water is used and heavier brackish (salt) water rises. Since it is 3% heavier than sweet water intruding saltwater does not go away. So, overusing wells leads to diminished future potential and community rules for sustainable sweet well water use are critical.

    3. Deeper is not necessarily better
    Looking at ERS findings, it is clear that saltwater is deeper in the soil than sweet water. So, it is necessary to identify exactly where the sweet water layer is and stop digging below that layer. The inclination to dig deeper for more water must change to avoid introducing non-potable/unusable water.

    4. Reservoirs have pros and cons
    Open reservoirs are prone to contamination if livestock graze in the same area as their waste can lead to cholera and diarrhea, etc. So, keeping a clean environment is critical for reservoir (pond) water’s safe used. Also, in arid areas as much as four times more water evaporates than is stored. So, assessments as to whether open air reservoirs are useful and sustainable, and not harmful, must always be done.

    5. Health and hygiene awareness are also essential to water projects
    While awareness is lower than optimal, it is clear that strong members of Village Management Committee and youth groups can be change agents with CWS support for their leadership.

    As CWS Japan continues working with private partners to build on community strengths combined with science and technology, lessons learned about reducing drought risk can help people maximize their resilience to ever growing and changing climate risks.

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