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 must be 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 the population, may not result in a satisfactory borehole. Instead, in addition to stakeholder interests, we have 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 delineates a zone of moderately large resistivity associated with a deposit of freshwater saturated sand. This ERT-derived technical information becomes one element in a comprehensive sociotechnical approach to the location of sustainable water resources. We use this sociotechnical approach to complete boreholes for all four villages in our project, and we have a high confidence that the villagers will be motivated to use and maintain these resources.

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