Climate Justice Fund: Artesian Well Rescue

Climate Justice Fund: Artesian Well Rescue

“Water is life, water is actually needed
not only for our drinking but for all the food we eat for our industry and
importantly for the ecosystems around us. As we were working in Malawi, we found
hundreds of boreholes that were drilled they were just letting water go just
having it going out onto the ground and these Artesian boreholes needed to be
captured. This Water Food Nexus, this connection between water and agriculture
can be solved with these Artesian boreholes and what we wanted to do is
actually find a way to help those that are out there managing these resources
find that Water Food Nexus.” In April 2016, a borehole was drilled in Chikhabado village in the Eastern part of Chikwawa district. When the drilling reached 17 metres underground, pressurised water was struck. This pressurised water started flowing
from the borehole at over 5 litres per second. This particular Artesian borehole was left uncapped when it was installed and water was allowed to flow
out uncontrolled through drainage channels into nearby streams for over
six months. This amounts to over 70,000 cubic meters of water which was lost
from underground storage during this time. While local farmers managed to make
use of this flow by digging a network of irrigation channels to water their
crops, only a fraction of this water was being used and most continued to flow
away and was wasted before it was used. When this news reached Professor Kalin
and his team at the University of Strathclyde, they decided to carry out
work on the borehole to prevent this uncontrolled loss of water and ensure
this water resource could be properly controlled and sustainably managed for
the future. This was also a perfect opportunity to invite water technicians,
engineers and drillers from across the country, to observe the works and learn
the skills and techniques required so that they could also perform the same
techniques on some estimated 250 uncontrolled Artesian Wells scattered
across the country. “Fundamentally, we’re going to go down take out the existing
borehole infrastructure. Put in place a packer which will seal up this borehole
and with that we’re able to then put a valve at the top and use the pressure
inside of the borehole to deliver water to local communities and local
irrigation projects.” While the team had a plan of how to refit the borehole and
control the pressure, they had little in way of accurate records giving them
detail of how the well was drilled and the method in which the casing and the
packing material was installed. It was necessary to bring a drill rig
and compressor back to the site to complete the works. With the ground
leveled and the drill rig set up, a first attempt was made to remove the 100 millimeter PVC casing with the use of compressed air to loosen the packing
material around the casing. This proved to be unsuccessful, however; the team had a
back-up plan. On the second day, the team ran a series of pressure tests using an
inflatable packer which proved that the casing and the
packing material already installed in the borehole had formed a sufficient
seal that was able to hold a sufficient amount of pressure. Following an
overnight pressure test, the team was satisfied that with the use of an
inflatable packer, the Artesian pressure could be controlled and went to work
installing the borehole with the necessary seals, pipe work and valves. Today, the borehole is properly under control
and the flow can even be fully switched off stopping the uncontrolled waste of water. It will now be possible to use this
water as and when it is needed as part of a piped network. This will allow the
irrigation network at Chikhabado to be expanded to include an additional 30,000
square meters of land to be irrigated and even will be able to direct water
uphill or utilising the natural pressure within the system. More importantly, vital
skills have been passed on to water industry professionals within Malawi who
can utilise these techniques to properly control other Artesian boreholes
preventing more uncontrolled waste of water and ensuring that underground
water resources can be controlled and managed sustainably. “I’d like to take the
opportunity to thank a few people first of all the Scottish Government for the
funding under the Climate Justice Fund: Water Futures Programme and the Government
of Malawi for the continued engagement on working together with us
strategically for the water resource management of the country. I’d like to in
particular thank Drilcorp of not only the time and effort that’s been put in by
David Gowans but also the support behind the scenes in helping to train new
individuals on what these technologies can do and importantly partners like;
Water For People; BASEflow Malawi; students at the University of Malawi;
students at Strathclyde University and the staff that had actually worked here. With all of us working together we’re trying to come up with Sustainable Water
Resources and try to actually meet that Water Food Nexus across Malawi.”

One thought on “Climate Justice Fund: Artesian Well Rescue

  1. Great and wonderful job Prof Robert Kalin and the entire team. This was really a commendable initiative and job well done

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