Today, the 41st Congress of the International Association of Hydrogeologists (IAH) gets underway in Marrakech, Morocco with a workshop on long term groundwater records.
The session is being led by Prof. Richard Taylor (University College London) and Dr. Guillaume Favreau (IRD) and is part of the UPGro work on the Africa Groundwater Atlas. So far we have heard cases from Tunisia, USA, Australia, Niger, South Africa, Morocco, Tanzania and Burkina Faso.
Many of these areas show similar trends of long term groundwater decline, punctuated by some periods of rapid recovery – often associated with very high rainfall and even flooding.
The impacts of abstraction for irrigation and of land use change are of concern in many of these areas. However, the picture is complicated by the vagaries of climate phenomena, such as El Niño, and the uncertain role of natural processes in the soils and rocks, the interaction with rivers and the effect of vegetation with roots that can reach down 40 metres or more down into the earth.
Long term understanding of groundwater is critical for the economies of many countries, whether for farmers at the foot of the High Atlas mountains in Morocco, or public water supply to Dodoma, the political capital of Tanzania.
Over the next week it will be exciting to see what the latest groundwater research can tell us about how to use this vital resource in a way that the wells don’t go dry.