Brief description of the project
The Water Security Project has the overall aim of ‘putting in place the foundations for water security in Sierra Leone’. Water security means different things to different water users. However, the common feature for all is the assurance of sufficient quantity and quality of water for all the uses to which water is put. This, combined with low risk from water­related hazards (floods and droughts) constitutes water security.

The Water Security Project has been working in the middle reaches of the Rokel­Seli River Basin, the largest and arguably one of the most strategic river basins in Sierra Leone. The Rokel­Seli River Basin contains a microcosm of the water management and water security issues which occur in Sierra Leone. Large­scale hydroelectric power production, mining, urban water supply and irrigated agriculture compete for surface water, while rural and small town populations depend heavily on spring flows, small streams, wells and boreholes for their domestic water supply.

A series of River Basin Maps are available that demonstrate the extent of the project intervention.

What problem is the project addressing and what solution does it propose?

Overall, the Water Security Project has been addressing the following main issues:

  • To demonstrate the importance of water resources management even in a country that is perceived as having abundant water resources.
  • To demonstrate how to begin to re­establish water resources monitoring in Sierra Leone;
  • To show how to most usefully analyse, interpret and present hydrometeorological data;
  • To demonstrate how to involve all stakeholders in decision­making over water management;
  • To guide Government as it considers its policies and procedures for national­scale water resources management.

The solution proposed revolves around developing models of sound practice that can be replicated and up scaled incrementally. In practical terms this has meant establishing two water security projects within the Rokel-Seli River Basin.

Our practical fieldwork started by identifying a number of core principles (assumptions) that are set out below in a conceptual framework and identifying how these can be applied in practice. At the end of the project the aim is to share learning experiences and provide guidance to other organisations that plan to undertake some form of water resources monitoring and management.

Water Security Overarching Principles

Figue 1. Water Security Overarching Principles


How was the solution implemented?
The approach taken in the Water Security Project has been to re­build experience of water resources monitoring incrementally, with the eventual aim of scaling up to sustainable national networks once again in the near future. The benefit of this approach is two-fold. First it allows government technicians to build experience and expertise in water resources management incrementally. Second it ensures that national water security plans are developed from local (grassroots) initiatives.
A starting point for the project was the imperative to monitor water resources (quantity and quality). The justification for this is that there is currently a dearth of routinely collected data; most of the former monitoring infrastructure and many of the data records were destroyed in the war (1992-­2002); and in the absence of hard data, improved management, decision­making, design and infrastructure improvements can only be based on hearsay and anecdote.

In the Water Security Project, our monitoring work had two main aims, first to gain experience of ‘what works’ and ‘what doesn’t work’ in regard to practical hydrometeorological monitoring; and second, to gather a significant quantity of data with which to start to develop a better understanding of the surface and groundwater hydrology of Sierra Leone, particularly in the Rokel-Seli River Basin.

The project had limited resources and limited duration (20 months). It focused therefore on the development of models of good practice in data collection, sharing, publication, decision­making, water management and infrastructure improvement. It led the way via grounded practice and experience­ sharing, but it could not establish national hydro­meteorological monitoring systems and water management institutions alone. This work is to be undertaken in Phase II, which is designed to support the establishment of a National Water Resources Regulating Agency.

Who are the key stakeholders or partners involved in this intervention and what are their roles?
A wide range of national and local stakeholders and partners have been involved in the Water Security Project. This is because different stakeholders have different concerns about quantity and quality of water resources as the basis for water supply, or as the recipient of discharges.

  • Communities which so far lack improved water supply express concerns about seasonality of quantity and quality of (self­supply) water sources (mainly springs and streams);
  • Communities with improved water supply cannot take the reliability of their engineered sources for granted. Communities have concerns over seasonal groundwater fluctuations – as evidenced in the 2012 Water Point
  • GoSL and the operators of hydroelectric dams are concerned to maximise energy production 
while assuring dam safety. Together these legitimate pre­occupations can affect both upstream and downstream communities and entities, which are affected by reservoir water levels or dam releases.
  • GoSL, represented by the Ministry of Water Resources and its watershed management authorities (Bumbuna Watershed Management Authority), is concerned about the environmental and social impacts of large-scale reservoir storage, both on lakeside communities, and for water users downstream of major impoundments.
  • Major abstractors, such as Addax Bioenergy, drawing water from rivers are rightly concerned about quantity and predictability of flows, as well as water quality (depending on the purpose to which water is to be put).
  • Minor abstractors of river water for domestic consumption are especially concerned with water quality, and the extent to which that may be impacted by upstream effluent discharges by rural and urban communities and mining companies.
  • Industrial and other entities (such as Mining Companies), which discharge effluent into surface or groundwater should be concerned about (a) meeting acceptable standards of effluent quality whether imposed by a regulator or not, and (b) avoiding potential bad publicity which may arise from failure to observe the highest professional environmental and social standards.

These stakeholders have all worked collaboratively to improve current water management practices and to ensure collective rather than individual water security is achieved. A series of workshops and training sessions have been conducted involving a diverse range of stakeholders.

What learning has emerged from the project? And how do you ensure learning across the project?
To date the Water Security project has demonstrated the following:

  • Communities and schools can play a participatory role in collecting hydrological data – often with high degrees of accuracy. Monitoring results generated by communities were often more accurate than industrial companies using Automatic Weather Stations.
  • However, communities and schools will require incentives to remain motivated.
  • Ensure that water resources monitoring leads to appropriate follow up action, such as subsequent improvements in community water supplies or reduced pollution.
  • Monitoring of groundwater levels using automatic equipment and trained Government staff;
  • Support to local observers and Government scientific staff through international 
  • Integration of information sources provided by extensive on­line and hard­copy document 
searches, working with a wide range of stakeholders, and undertaking focused field based monitoring. 
It has also been clear that:
  • Recurrent monitoring costs are not insignificant and are an important consideration when designing hydrological monitoring networks. The scale of national monitoring networks must be proportional to institutional capacities (human resources, finances and logistics).
  • Water resources management should not be undertaken for its own sake and it must be used to solve real water issues at local level.
  • National water security plans can be developed from local level initiatives – as opposed to implementing de-facto IWRM solutions that are often by international organisations. Water resources management activities need to be grounded in local context.
  • Even a country as apparently well­watered as Sierra Leone needs effective and reliable hydrometeorological monitoring networks. Without effective monitoring, water resources cannot be managed well to the benefit of people, food and energy production, and industrial development.
  • Demands on water resources, and polluting pressures on those resources are growing. Hence there is an ever­present need for better monitoring of quantity and quality of rainfall, surface water and groundwater.

Learning is achieved through workshops and learning forums, examples of which include the communities and schools rainfall observers day held at Bumbuna and the Hydrological Monitoring learning Forum held in Freetown in December 2013.

Project experiences have been documented and published in three separate but interlinked volumes. The project team has also submitted publications to the Journal of Hydrology. In addition earning will be captured on a dedicated website:

What is innovative and significant about the project?
Our general approach was to start small, start local, and start something. The philosophy was to gain experience through action and learning-­by-­doing, rather than to invest a great deal of time in developing a strategy, which would then be implemented in a top­down fashion. On the contrary, the approach was to build up guidance and strategy from the bottom up; our interim conclusions in regard to national strategy for water security are presented in Volume 1.

At the outset of the Water Security Project we became aware of a number of major initiatives to develop hydrometeorological monitoring in Sierra Leone. Eighteen months later, there has been only limited progress in most of these national programmes, while in contrast we have been able to implement a significant programme of monitoring and data collection, albeit in only a limited geographical area.

What learning materials or products have been produced?
Three Volumes of interim findings and guidance from the Water Security Project are presented:

  • Volume 1 consists of strategic guidance to national Government.
  • Volume 2 presents practical guidance on water resources monitoring.
  • Volume 3 sets out analyses of our own and other water resources data.

In addition hydrological monitoring data and further details of our work will be available at:

In 2014 the Ministry of Water Resources and Bumbuna Watershed Management Authority will be producing a short video on water security planning in Sierra Leone. A publication has also been submitted to the Journal of Hydrology.

Is there any further work necessary to solve the problem? What are the remaining gaps?

  • A good deal of training, support and institutional strengthening has been needed in order to make significant achievements in a relatively small geographical area;
  • Much more will be needed to take the experience of the Water Security Project to national scale.
  • In future GoSL will need to expand this work to other river basins of strategic importance.
  • The passing of the new Water Resources Law will lead to the establishment of a National Water Resources Management Agency who will have regulatory oversight for water resources in Sierra Leone. However, this work will need to be undertaken over a sustained time period to achieve water security at transboundary, national and local levels.


Project Contact
Name:  Singe Day
Organization:  Adam Smith International
Position:  Technical Advisor
Telephone:  076 345387