South Africa is a water-stressed country where groundwater contributes significantly to rural and urban water supply, as well as irrigation. An estimated 80 000 to 100 000 boreholes are drilled each year. To manage groundwater resources efficiently and sustainably, the Department of Water and Sanitation collects a large amount of data of various types, such as borehole data and groundwater monitoring data.
The year of groundwater 2022, strengthening the mandate for groundwater management in political agendas
Not only was it the first time that the theme of World Water Day was aligned with that of World Toilet Day, but IGRAC and UNESCO-IHP also committed to organising the first UN-Water Summit on Groundwater as culmination of a year of groundwater awareness raising. With this year coming to an end, it is time for a review on the main outcomes of this ‘groundwater year’, but also for looking forward towards its follow-up activities in 2023.
For the first time, the World Water Day and World Toilet Day shared the same theme, namely: "Groundwater, making the invisible visible". To connect both international celebrations, IGRAC proposed to ask people from all over the world to share their groundwater stories with the hashtag #MyGroundwaterStory, an initiative that started on 22 March (World Water Day) and ended on 19 November (World Toilet Day).
Hundreds of contributions were shared, from school children to old farmers and from small NGOs to individual environmentalists. Below you can find some examples.
A new regional transboundary aquifer map for the African region has been released. It is based on the Transboundary Aquifers of the World Map (TBA Map) that was updated in 2021 and showcases the occurrence and extent of Transboundary Aquifers across the African continent. Globally there are now 468 transboundary aquifers and aquifer systems identified, underlying almost every nation. Across Africa, there are now 106 transboundary aquifers, an increase from 72 in the 2015 inventory. They range in size from 10 km2 (AF108) to 2,500,000 km2 (AF063).
In 2019, Mohammed Hammie decided to quit his job and dedicate his life to a cause that was really close to his heart. He wanted to give a platform to those whose voice is often unheard, the rural communities. As a human rights to water and sanitation journalist and author, Hammie went to those communities in his country Tanzania and started radio programme 'Sauti Yangu', which is Swahili for 'My voice'. Recently, his new book 'Mandiga's well' nominated for the James Currey Prize for African Literature 2022 and the Quramo Writers' Prize 2022. In this interview, Hammie shares the remarkable stories he was told over the past years, as well as his plans and ideas for the future.
World Toilet Day celebrates toilets and raises awareness of the 3.6 billion people living without access to safely managed sanitation. It is about taking action to tackle the global sanitation crisis and achieve Sustainable Development Goal 6: water and sanitation for all by 2030. This year, the theme for World Toilet Day 2022 is 'Sanitation and Groundwater', but how are sanitation and groundwater related?
Groundwater is an essential resource for mankind. It is vital for drinking water, food production and sustaining river flows and wetlands and as such, it needs to be protected. One important aspect is its quality, which can be affected by both human activities and naturally occurring contaminants. Today, global groundwater resources are under unprecedented pressure from a wide range of factors, all of which can potentially deteriorate its quality. But what are these factors?
Following a world tour, WATERLICHT has returned to the Netherlands, with an exhibition at Loevestein Castle on March 25th and 26th. To support the mission of World Water Day, the new WATERLICHT movie was launched on 22 March. The theme of World Water Day 2022 is 'Groundwater, Making the Invisible Visible', and with this exhibition at Loevestein, artist Daan Roosegaarde gave an excellent example of how art can raise awareness and make the invisible visible.
The majority of large aquifers globally are transboundary. Almost every nation state shares a TBA. In particular, TBAs cover around 40% of the continental area of Africa and South America. About 30% of the African population and 20% of South America live in these areas. At the global scale, we know the location and extent of TBAs fairly well. However, TBA delineation represented on maps are still only a vertical projection of the aquifer extent at the surface.
The population of Western Africa is booming. The region was home to 316 million people in 2007, they are now 391 million, and could reach 796 million in 2050. The population is growing more rapidly in cities than in rural areas, partly due to migration. The rapid growth of urban areas comes with planning and infrastructure challenges including water supply and sanitation. As many cities rely on groundwater for water supply, there are risks of groundwater over-exploitation and contamination.
The need for having sustainable groundwater is a key element in global resilience to climate change, as a shield against ecosystem loss, and as a defense against human deprivation and poverty. Groundwater is the underpinning of irrigated agriculture and energy production. It therefore supports food security and economic development. It is essential to the health of all living things. Groundwater provides drinking water to at least 50% of the global population, and worldwide, approximately 2.5 billion people depend solely on groundwater resources to satisfy their basic daily water needs (UNESCO, 2012). In these times of Covid-19, groundwater promotes hand washing in isolated rural communities.
The intensification of climate-related disasters is calling for the development of contextualised early warning systems (EWS) adapted to people’s needs. In this context, impact-based forecasting has been pushed as the de facto EWS approach to use for translating forecasting information into information adapted to local conditions and local needs. The output permits to define risk levels and action measures to take from local to national level. However, even if forecasting of weather events has improved, the associated impacts are yet not clearly identified limiting the ability to assess risk and take appropriate actions. As the IFRC mentions “Early warning systems are only as good as the actions they catalyse”, impact assessments are thus an urgent gap to fill to improve disaster preparedness.
IGRAC has published 'National groundwater monitoring programmes: A global overview of quantitative groundwater monitoring networks'. This document provides an overview of quantitative groundwater monitoring networks at national scale. It is prepared to encourage sharing of monitoring experience, assist in improvement of monitoring and data processing and increase awareness of a general lack of groundwater monitoring. The full report, as well as four regional report and all 81 country profiles, is now available for download.
When you would ask a random Dutch person to describe the weather in the Netherlands in only one word, it is very likely that this word would be: ‘rainy’. Nevertheless, probably the most pressing water-related problem that the Netherlands is currently facing, is drought. The year 2020 has already been the third consecutive year of drought, with several negative effects on (ground)water, ecosystems and soil as a result. But how come that a country that always had abundant water resources, now struggles with drought? And which interventions should be carried out to adapt to this new reality?
Recently, the UPGro programme was closed and that marked the end of seven years of groundwater research, with special focus on Africa. The programme brought together researchers, citizens, governments, the private sector and NGO’s, representing over 50 organisations from Africa and beyond, with the aim to improve the efficient use of great potential Africa’s aquifers have to offer.
Source: The Guardian. Written by: Susie Cagle.
When Carolina Garcia’s well began pumping sand and air instead of water in 2016, she didn’t know where to turn. The Garcias had been living in Tombstone Territory, a quiet four-street community in California’s San Joaquin Valley, for 10 years. In the middle of the state’s historic drought, many of the farms surrounding Tombstone Territory had installed new wells and deepened existing ones. Despite being just two miles from the Kings river, Tombstone was drying up.
Due to climate change and increased human impact, water use and protection have become one of the major regional issues in Central Asia. As availability of surface water is decreasing and becoming erratic, the reliance and pressure on groundwater resources are continuously growing. That is also a case with the Pretashkent Transboundary Aquifer (PTBA), located between the Republic of Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan.
Actively moving water underground, a practice known as managed aquifer recharge (MAR), is increasingly popular today. There are about 1,200 managed aquifer recharge projects in 62 countries, according to the IGRAC based in Delft, the Netherlands. In addition to helping manage water over- and under-supplies, MAR can be used to restore depleted aquifers, rehabilitate ecosystems and cleanse polluted water. But there are challenges as well.
Although the first solar pumps were introduced already in the late 1970’s, it took about 40 years before they became increasingly popular and used for groundwater pumping. What geared this sudden development and what are the main benefits and challenges of solar pumping?
In Ouédo, a fast-growing suburban town in southern Benin, residents are encountering declining shallow groundwater levels and attributing this drawdown to the development of a new wellfield in Ouédo which supplies Cotonou, the largest city and economic capital of Benin.
In September 2018, the SADC Groundwater Management Institute (SADC-GMI) organised the first annual SADC Groundwater Conference. IGRAC's Researcher Arnaud Sterckx attended the conference and interviewed four young professionals about their background, challenges and ambitions.
The potential of regional mapping of suitability to Managed Aquifer Recharge (MAR) using a standardized index was investigated during a 4-months internship project by Fanny Dupont. Continuing the work of INOWAS (TU Dresden), the potential of the MAR Site Selection Standardization Index (MARSSSI) to map the suitability to spreading methods was investigated with a new case study.
Groundwater is an increasingly important resource for human development, including domestic water supply, irrigated agriculture and industry. In addition, groundwater has an important environmental role in sustaining rivers’ baseflow, ecosystems and associated ecosystem services. Groundwater is of strategic importance to achieve global water and food security under a changing climate.