There appears to be more groundwater in Africa than we thought a week ago.
The BBC reports that a vast reservoir of groundwater exists in Africa, a continent where access to improved water supplies is still far too low and where groundwater remains the predominant source option for most.
A few quick thoughts:
- The British Geological Survey (BGS) and University College London are extremely sound at this type of work, and would only publish after extensive research and reflection. As such, their announcement of the “find” is encouraging
- Their recommendations on use and extraction are interesting. They caution against high-yield boreholes and instead suggest low-yield handpumps and simple irrigation techniques. I will be interested in how people respond to these recommendations. In a world of climate change, changing rainfall patterns and aquifer recharge challenges such recommendations are warranted. I imagine some will grumble (perhaps silently or behind closed doors) about this however as they will make the case that the potential for more dramatic economic development in some of the poorest parts of the world merit a more aggressive, but not careless, extraction strategy. These are (rather simplistically to be sure) the politics of aquifer management…
- Linked to the above, I imagine that the news of vast amounts of water underground could help with some important debates in Africa on water resource management in general. I love the International Water Management Institute (IWMI) who recently and rightly won the Stockholm Water Prize. They have focused, among other things, on the real problems associated with a lack of storage capacity in Africa. Ethiopia’s poor water storage capacity cripples the country’s economy IWMI argues. Great programs like the Nile Basin Initiative are looking at really creative ways to equitable and effectively utilize water resources for the economic, social, political and health-related benefits of users. These organizations, among others, are at the forefront of trying to work through the challenges of water resource management with governments, communities, businesses and others stakeholders in the region. I look forward to their views on this news out of BGS, and imagine some novel ideas will come with the rare news that Africa might have more water than it thought.