Developing Artificial Wetlands in Uganda

Under its RAIN brand, Aidenvironment has developed an innovative method of harvesting water: creating an artificial wetland by building elevated culverts in existing roads. Water is retained and creates shallow wetlands which recharge the groundwater. Currently the team is in the field to look for new sites.

A major problem in the district of Agago, North Uganda, is access to water. Obtaining clean water can take up much time and energy. During the dry season, people form long queues at hand pumps, which are worked continuously for 12 hours a day and regularly break down; many stop working altogether. Every drop of water comes from these pumps. People depend on them not only for drinking water, but also water for washing, bathing, animals, brickmaking, etc. This situation also threatens agricultural production as many communities rely on rain-fed agriculture and the lack of a reliable water supply leads to low yields and affects the quality of life.

The answer to this problem lies is in the provision of surface water as an alternative to the pumps. But because regular water harvesting methods such as surface water dams were not a feasible option in this area, RAIN developed another approach: store water in the landscape by building elevated culverts in existing road crossings. Raising the culverts causes the water to accumulate, creating an artificial wetland upstream of the road crossing.

Preliminary results are positive, and the water table has been raised. Recent studies in the area have also shown that the creation of shallow bodies of surface water has resulted in quick regeneration of wetland vegetation. Wetlands store water in times of excess, making it available for livestock consumption, the establishment of tree nurseries, small-scale irrigation, and domestic supply in times of drought. Managing water supply with road infrastructure has multiple benefits, such as increasing productive consumptive use of water and improving community livelihoods through access to markets.

There are also challenges. The elevated road subsided into the muddy soil and reduced the storage capacity. However, we are now looking at new sites, where with new ideas we can store more water to alleviate the pressure on the pumps. RAIN managed to attract eight interns, four from Europe and four from Uganda, to work on the selection of new sites. From April to May 2019 the trainees carried out road measurements and assessed the potential for implementing road catchments in Lapono and Kotomor subcounties of Agago district. The results from the assessment indicate that there is development potential in creating artificial wetlands and retaining water during the dry season.

For more information, please contact Arnoud Keizer, James W Kisekka and/or Tumuhaire Raymond

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