Gloria Maliana is a 4th-year Water Quality and Management undergraduate student who has been placed with BASEflow as part of the Malawi University of Science and Technology (MUST) Work Integrated Learning Programme.

I recently had a field trip, participating in a comprehensive and eye-opening experience in the realm of borehole forensics with members of BASEFlows’ Hydrogeology Department. Borehole forensics involves a detailed technical assessment of the surface and subsurface conditions of the borehole. Using modern technology, borehole forensics helps uncover the major causes of borehole failure and, where possible, provides insight into remedies to the problem through rehabilitation, maintenance or replacement. Therefore, this field visit offered a unique and intriguing opportunity for me to apply the knowledge I gained in my studies from courses like hydrogeology, water quality monitoring and assessment, water safety, and governance, in a practical setting but also, to delve deeper into the investigation of the true nature of boreholes.

My field visit took place in several villages in Traditional Authority Ngolongoliwa, in Thyolo District, where Habitat for Humanity is implementing a project to ensure that communities have access to a sustainable and reliable groundwater supply through further development of groundwater systems in the area. Conducting Borehole Forensics involved examining pump parts and conducting surveys such as borehole camera surveys, water pumping tests, hand pump surveys, and civil works surveys. All these were done in order to have a better understanding of the groundwater resources in the area. The surveys were done through a mobile data management application called mWater.

Gloria handling the Dipper, a tool used to measure the water level in a borehole.

A pumping test was performed to evaluate the performance of an aquifer; an underground layer of rock that holds and transmits water. This survey allowed me to understand the different types of pumping tests (step drawdown, constant rate test and recovery tests). It also allowed me to understand the hydraulic properties of different aquifers (like how fast water moved through the aquifer and the ability of the aquifer to store water).

A borehole condition and design survey (borehole parts assessment) was performed to assess the physical condition and design characteristics of a borehole. This survey allowed me to understand different types of borehole casings and how they are arranged and also that over time most boreholes develop precipitates, silts, and debris, and that they need redevelopment.

A civil works and hand pump survey was performed to assess the condition of the parts of the hand pump and the civil works, it was also done to know if the hand pump was made of standard materials. This survey helped me to differentiate between standard and nonstandard hand pump parts, and I also gained the knowledge of rating the condition of hand pump parts.  

Overall, I had the unique chance to work alongside the experts, engaging in discussions, sharing knowledge, and learning cutting-edge techniques. My experience in borehole forensics served as a catalyst for a transformative learning process that expanded my horizons as a water quality and management student, and unveiled the details of this exceptional opportunity, highlighting the significance of this cutting-edge scientific endeavor.

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