Geology for Global Development


External Conference Opportunities

A number of interesting and relevant external conferences have come to our attention this week. If you’re interested in water and sanitation/hydrogeology or disaster risk reduction then these may be of interest to you!

**Hydrogeology and WASH Conference – What can hydrogeologists contribute to safe water supply and poverty reduction?**

When: Thursday 5th June 2014
Where: Geological Society of London, Burlington House, London, UK
Cost: £10 for students

Summary: Groundwater plays a key role in the provision of reliable water supplies in many less-developed regions of the world. Due to its complexity, a detailed understanding of the groundwater environment is often required to ensure that resources are exploited in a safe, sustainable and cost-effective way. This one day meeting aims to promote links and discussion between experts from the groundwater community and those actively involved in the delivery of WASH (Water, Sanitation and Health Engineering) projects.

Sponsorship: We’re very pleased to be able to offer one student the opportunity to have the cost of their ticket covered as well as £30 to put towards travel/food. Send 100 words outlining why you would like this opportunity, together with your contact details and university/course by 5pm on Friday 18th April. The winning student will be contacted via email shortly afterwards, and will be expected to write a couple of articles for the GfGD blog about the conference sessions.

If you were inspired by the Guest Blog on Monday and would like to know more about working in water and sanitation – linking hydrogeology to development – this is a great opportunity to network and find out more.

**UCL IRDR Annual Conference**

When: Wednesday 18th June 2014
Where: University College London, London, UK
Cost: Free

Summary: A day of thought-provoking discussions, talks by experts and presentations of the latest research in risk and disaster reduction, aimed at researchers and practitioners, NGOs and City professionals, and the interested public.

**ODI Event – ‘Everybody wins – Bridging the Gap Between Scientific and Local Communities’**

When: Tuesday 6th May 2014 (3-5pm)
Where: Overseas Development Institute, London, UK
Cost: Free (also streamed online)

Summary: The world of science and technology has a lot to offer those affected by or responding to the risk of disasters. But producing and using knowledge about disaster risk is far from a straightforward process. At-risk people and communities, humanitarian and development agencies and those with formal scientific and technological training are all producers and users of disaster risk knowledge – but with different ideas about what is useful or important information. The challenge is in bringing together this wealth of local and scientific knowledge to enable communities to become more resilient in the face of disasters. One crucial way of promoting dialogue and supporting decision making processes are participatory games and exercises. This event will comprise debate, games and workshop demonstrations.

**Understanding Risk – Producing Actionable Information**

When: Monday 30th June 2014 – Friday 4th July
Where: Excel Centre, UK
Cost: Free


Understanding Risk (UR) is an open and global community of experts and practitioners in the field of disaster risk assessment. UR community members include representatives of government agencies, the private sector, multilateral organizations, nongovernmental organizations, community-based organizations, research institutions, and academiaEvery two years, the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR) convenes the UR Forum—a five-day event designed to showcase best practices and the latest technical advances in disaster risk assessment. The Forums provide organizations with the opportunity to highlight new activities and initiatives, build new partnerships, and foster advances in the field. Previous events have been held in Washington D.C and Cape Town, attended by 500 experts from more than 80 countries. The third biennial Forum will be held in London from June 30 – July 4, 2014, organized in partnership with UCL Department of Science, Technology, Engineering and Public Policy. It is expected that more than 800 people will attend the event. The current programme can be found online here.

Guest Blog: Groundwater Quality Management in Rural Uttar Pradesh, India

DJMDonald John MacAllister, serves on the Executive Committee of Geology for Global Development. He is currently leading the Hazard Factsheet project. Donald John is a PhD student at Imperial College London and is researching the application of self-potential monitoring to seawater intrusion problems in coastal aquifers. He has a BSc in Geophysics from the University of Edinburgh and an MSc in Community Water and Sanitation from Cranfield University. He is currently working with UNICEF India on a project to support the Government of Uttar Pradesh to improve their water quality management structures. In this blog he writes about the background and aims of the project.

UNICEF, the United Nations Children’s Fund, is mandated by the UN general assembly to improve the health and well-being of children through the development and promotion of community services. In India that is achieved by providing technical support to the government departments responsible for those services. One key area of UNICEF’s work is to provide safe and sustainable access to water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) services and facilities for all. UNICEF invests in WASH because it is essential for child survival, health and development.

Diarrhoeal diseases are one of the most significant causes of child mortality in India, and without investment in improved WASH services this is a sad statistic that is unlikely to change. Due to the prevalence of open defecation in India microbial contamination of water supply is common, however this is a commonly overlooked water quality problem. This is partly because India also suffers from high levels of Arsenic and Fluoride in groundwater, which is commonly the focus of government interventions in water supply. Groundwater is overwhelmingly the main source of water in the state, and sustainable management of this resource is extremely challenging. However this is not to say that arsenic and fluoride are not also major problems. Longer term exposure to arsenic can lead to severe diseases such as arsenicosis and cancer and fluoride exposure leads to skeletal fluorosis which can cause physical disability. However microbial contamination can kill almost instantly, and children are more vulnerable.

Groundwater is commonly believed to be safe from microbial contamination, however work by UNICEF suggests that many of the handpump sources in the state are contaminated with coliform bacteria, mostly due to poor construction and sanitary conditions of handpump sources. Clearly there is a significant challenge for the authorities who are responsible for water supply and sanitation – how do they target and prioritise their interventions? This is where my small project with UNICEF begins.


Handpump in Uttar Pradesh, India (Credit: Donald John MacAllister)

The government of Utter Pradesh (UP) is currently testing every single water source in the state (that equates to about 2.5 million handpumps!) for 8 key water quality parameters. These water quality parameters are known to affect consumer acceptability and more importantly consumer health, both in the short and long-term. For the first time this includes testing every single source for microbial contamination, as well as arsenic and fluoride. However what do you do with this vast resource of data and information once it is collected, how can you meaningfully interpret this to prioritise and target your interventions? How can you ensure that the results you get are accurate and reliable? I aim to answer these questions by developing quality assurance and control mechanisms and a composite drinking water quality index for two blocks in one arsenic affected district and one fluoride affected district. The water quality index takes each water quality parameter and aggregates them to produce one number that summarises the overall quality of each water supply, this can then be mapped and used to identify areas where water quality is most impaired. This allows non-experts, policy and decision makers to better understand the complexities of water quality and potentially helps in targeting interventions in priority areas. Although my area of work represents a very small percentage of the water sources in UP, if successful the plan is to scale the method up and potentially apply this throughout the entire state, and possibly in other states in India.

I want to thank the trustees of the Dudley Stamp Memorial Award and the Jeremy Willson Charitable Trust or making this work possible. I hope in a small way my work here can contribute to the betterment of the health and well-being of the children in this amazing state.

For more information on UNICEF India check out their website:

For more information about the Jeremy Willson charitable trust:

For information about the Dudley Stamp Memorial Award visit this link.

To contribute in your own small way to the work of development charities, why not consider getting involved in our Hazard Factsheet project? For more information please follow this link: – or e-mail: publications[at]


From Our Archives: Guest Blogs (2)

blogWe’ve gone back even further into our archives (back to our old blog site in fact!) to bring you some brilliant guest blogs written by students and professionals on topics ranging from water to ocean nutrients! 

**Hydrogeology/Water and Sanitation

Donald John MacAllister – Groundwater Use and Challenges in South Asia

Christopher Barry – Water of Life Project – Safe Drinking Water in Burkina Faso

Geraint Burrows – Hydrogeologists Without Borders

Richard Boak – The Importance of Groundwater Monitoring

**Development and Natural Resources

Rosalie Tostevin – Is there blood in your mobile?

Louisa Fearn – Rethinking development in the age of scarcity and uncertainty

Dr D Vasudevan – Some thoughts on Agrogeology

**Disaster Risk Reduction

Claire Fyson – Earthquake Education in Central Asia


Jonathan Stone – The Social Geologist

Rosalie Tostevin – Ocean Nutrients: Geoscientists have the right balance

Laura Rose Wilson – Attachment with the Geological Survey of the Solomon Islands

Guest Blog: Before the wells run dry… New Competition!

wells compGeraint Burrows, Head of HWB-UK, shares an exciting competition that Earth Scientists could enter in collaboration with engineers or other stakeholders…Hydrogeologists without Borders UK (HWB-UK), in partnership with Engineers Without Borders UK (EWB-UK), have launched a competition entitled ‘Before the well runs dry’. The competition challenges innovators to design a new cost-effective technology to measure water levels in boreholes and wells. An introductory workshop outlining the competition brief will be held on 5th November at Birmingham University led by Professor Richard Carter and Peter Dumble. It will be available on-line shortly afterwards on the ‘Before the well runs dry’ competition workspace hosted by Engineering for Change.Prospective applicants are asked to join the competition workspace and to download and complete a registration form. The deadline for registration is the 30th of November 2013.The winning design team will be awarded a £1000 cash prize plus an opportunity to work with an award winning product design company to take their idea forward to prototype with a view to test its suitability for manufacture. Runners up will also be awarded £1000 worth of prizes. Competitor ideas will be placed under a Creative Commons licence which enables the ideas to be used by anybody, with credit given to the inventor.

The competition is sponsored by Sinclair Knight Merz (SKM), Peter Dumble Hydrogeology and Creactive Design.

Further details are provided in the linked competition brief.