EU Science Hub

Ethiopia: JRC teams up with UNICEF to locate lifesaving groundwater

Cows next to a groundwater lake in an African landscape The JRC contribution was framed in the Memorandum of Understanding between EU, represented by the Delegation to Ethiopia, and UNICEF signed in February 2016.
©Fotolia, Shaun Colin Bell
May 20 2016

Many areas in Ethiopia are currently facing water-related emergencies due to El Niño-induced drought, which has left 5.8 million people across the country without access to safe water. The JRC has provided satellite images of the worst affected districts so that UNICEF can locate deep water and organise drilling of wells. Otherwise, the affected communities have to rely on expensive commercial trucks to haul in water as rains are too limited to compensate and maintain sufficient water in the shallow groundwater wells.

Groundwater (compared to rivers/lakes or other surface water) supplies 80 % of all drinking water in Ethiopia. The most sustainable groundwater is very deep. To locate it and then to drill and extract it is a major challenge. Information derived from different types of satellite images are important inputs along with geological data in the complex analysis undertaken by hydrologists to map areas of potential groundwater reservoirs and select appropriate sites for drilling.  So far, due to the cost of accessing and processing high-spatial resolution satellite imagery, limited groundwater investigation had been undertaken in this country. UNICEF was able to overcome this problem thanks to JRC support to process and analyse data from various satellite sensors over seven districts, mainly in Afar and Somali regions.

Lineaments (in red) are a key input in the preparation of field work in groundwater exploration. Example of Shinile woreda, Afar region, Ethiopia
Lineaments (in red) are a key input in the preparation of field work in groundwater exploration. Example of Shinile woreda, Afar region, Ethiopia
© EU, 2016

UNICEF considers the results to date to be very encouraging and aims at expanding this project to a larger scale of the country.


EU-UNICEF Memorandum of Understanding

The JRC contribution was framed in the Memorandum of Understanding between EU, represented by the Delegation to Ethiopia, and UNICEF signed in February 2016.
This successful partnership is an example of how JRC's technical support and expertise produces concrete and efficient results for drought-affected communities.