Borehole siting and construction in rural Malawi: A sociotechnical process?

Timothy Larson, Zuze Dulanya, Evance Mwathunga

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Choosing the site for a new water well in rural southern Malawi is essentially a political process with competing priorities and stakeholders. For a new well (or borehole) to be sustainably used and maintained, the relevant stakeholders must be fully engaged in the siting process and given meaningful responsibility for the final siting decision. However, without sound technical information, a siting decision based solely on stakeholder priorities such as proximity to the headman’s compound or accessibility to the center of population, may not result in a satisfactory borehole. Instead, in addition to stakeholder interests, we used a process that includes electrical resistivity tomography (ERT) as a tool to guide and constrain the local decision-making process. Within the region of the crystalline-basement aquifer, ERT profiles indicate variations in weathering thickness, hence aquifer storage. In a lacustrine setting, the ERT profile delineated a zone of moderately large resistivity associated with a deposit of fresh-water saturated sand. This ERT-derived technical information becomes one element in a comprehensive sociotechnical approach to the location of sustainable water resources. We used this sociotechnical approach to complete boreholes for all four villages in our project and have a high confidence that the villagers will be motivated to use and maintain these resources.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2022


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