Assessing climate resilience of multi-village water supplies in Ethiopia

PI: Dr Abraham Geremew, Haramaya University, Ethiopia

Bristol Collaborator: Dr Anisha Nijhawan (Civil Engineering)


Climate change threatens the drinking water supply of millions of people in rural Ethiopia, where less than 10% of the population has access to water that is free from contamination. Most communities rely on shared water sources, generally managed by local community volunteers. These are prone to frequent mechanical breakdowns during drought and faecal contamination after heavy rainfall. To address the risks posed by current climate patterns and future climate change, the Government of Ethiopia is building multi-village, piped-water supplies managed by professionalized rural utilities. These systems have the potential to minimize the low levels of safe water access and the high vulnerability of existing water supplies to erratic rainfall.

The goal is to use a framework called How tough is WASH? to determine how multi-village piped-water supplies are likely to respond to climate threats. The ability of water supplies to cope with climate effects i.e., their climate resilience, depends on multiple aspects of service delivery including local government support, effective management, and well-designed infrastructure. We have secured support from the Ministry of Health and Water Development Commission of the Government of Ethiopia to test this framework at selected sites and the outputs will be used to inform national monitoring of climate-resilient water supplies.