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The long-term success of water projects in water-stressed communities hinges not only on providing access to safe water, but also on equipping communities for sustainable resource management. Coupling research with education facilitates sustainability by growing local hydrogeologic knowledge and supporting prudent management. Adjusting management practices requires time, and it is helped through collaboration and trust between researchers and stakeholders.

Research and education were integrated during an evaluation of groundwater resource sustainability and wastewater management practices at Restoration Gateway, an orphanage in northern Uganda. Basic hydrogeologic understanding was established through field work, staff interviews, and literature. An opportunity to collaborate with a visiting surveying and master planning team leveraged time spent on-site for greater results. Hydrologic education occurred formally and informally, through science lessons at the orphanage school and daily interactions with the Restoration Gateway population. Staff were interviewed regarding as-built designs, water usage, and wastewater management practices. Knowledge gained enabled researchers to make recommendations for preserving groundwater quantity and quality. Site-specific information was incorporated into a master plan for future development. Education efforts and trust gained through immersion in the life of Restoration Gateway increased awareness and acceptance regarding groundwater sustainability.

In international work, it can be easy to focus on maximizing time for research and associated tasks. This case study presents ideas for spending time in local participation and education. Participation in the local community, involving them in research efforts, and building their hydrogeologic understanding improve the chances of recommendations being adopted and can foster long-term partnerships that enhance groundwater sustainability.

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