World Water Day is celebrated on March 22, a United Nations commemorative day that focuses on the importance of freshwater and aims to raise awareness of the 2.2 billion people living without access to safe water. This month’s celebratory feature puts a spotlight on one of RTAC’s researchers seeking to protect communities from unsafe water through their work on groundwater use and management. The feature also highlights a product developed by RTAC on the impact of hydroelectric dams on Amazonian ecosystems as well as technical assistance implemented by RTAC in partnership with global scholars working on water quality issues.
OLAYINKA OSUOLALE is a Senior Lecturer at Elizade University in Ilara-Mokin, Ondo State, Nigeria. His areas of expertise include microbiology, environmental health including water quality, and infectious diseases.
Dr. Osuolale was first introduced to water research as an undergraduate and continued his work on wastewater research and sanitation for his PhD. Since he lives and works in a rural community, Dr. Osuolale has observed the major role groundwater serves in his community as the main water source. “Since there’s no water networks, groundwater is the natural source for their various domestic needs… While the lives of people and communities depend on their groundwaters, importantly they need to pay attention to the quality of the water they consume and its proper management,” explained Dr. Osuolale.
Dr. Osuolale finds that many in the community understand the importance of water, but few truly understand that water can be deadly if unsafe to consume. One of his biggest challenges is knowing that many people in the community rely on poor groundwater, leading them to be at increased risk for contracting waterborne diseases. This led Dr. Osuolale to focus his research on assessing groundwater quality in the community for their microbial and physicochemical qualities. By geotagging water points to identify polluted groundwater and analyzing brands of packaged water to assess water quality compliances, Dr. Osuolale is working to better understand the unknown about the community’s water quality.
While the lives of people and communities depend on their groundwaters, importantly they need to pay attention to the quality of the water they consume and its proper managementDr. Olayinka Osuolale PhD
With poor groundwater management, there is a need for education around groundwater use and management. Dr. Osuolale hopes his research can contribute to increased knowledge on the topic as well as contribute to better implementation of policies around safe water.
Taking an Ecosystem View of Hydroelectric Dams in Brazil
Building from research led by Dr. Camila Ribas at Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas da Amazônia, RTAC produced a policy brief which offers recommendations for decisionmakers in Brazil to improve existing policy assessments for new dams in the Amazon basin to ensure they include considerations for flooded habitats and impacts on the broader ecosystem.
The Amazon River basin is a source of water, nutrients, habitats, and biodiversity throughout South America. As the demand for hydroelectric power in South America grows, evidence suggests that hydroelectric dams are harming Amazonian ecosystems, changing landscapes, wildlife diversity, and food security for local communities. These impacts are greatest on specific, unique, and fragile ecosystems—even in areas distant from the dams themselves—and may have widespread and permanent consequences for the economies, people, plants, and animals of South America.
Preserving the ecosystems of Amazonia requires better environmental assessments, which while they are mandatory before dams are constructed, they do not consider consequences for landscapes, wildlife, and people upstream or downstream from construction. Assessments also fail to require consideration for floodplains and wetlands, even though hydroelectric dams may impact these flooded habitats more severely than other landscapes. Taking an ecosystem view of the impacts of hydroelectric dams – including considering flooded habitats and impacts on the broader ecosystem- can help improve policies on the amazon river basin.
Research-to-Action Plans Guide Global Scholars Working on Water Quality Issues to Research Utilization Goals
As outcomes of technical assistance workshops, RTAC produced Research-to-Action (R2A) Plans for two teams of global scholars working on water quality issues: a research team from the Marine Science Institute at the University of the Philippines working on persistent and emerging pharmaceutical wastewater and a team from Kenyatta University working on enhancing efficient utilization of soil moisture for smallholder farm productivity in Kenya.
The R2A plans are a resource for the teams to guide development of their research goals and objectives and implementation of related activities. The R2A plans map out the steps needed to achieve these research objectives and, ultimately, their research utilization goal. The plans are “living” documents that research teams may update based on research progress and new opportunities identified.
Damming the Ecosystems of Amazonia
November 3, 2020This innovation brief describes the growing impact of hydroelectric dams on the Amazon River ecosystem in Brazil, including changes to landscapes, wildlife diversity and food security for local communities. It offers recommendations for improving existing policy instruments to ensure that assessments for new dams in the basin include flooded environments and impacts on the broader ecosystem.
Agriculture and Food Security