Going underground at the Africa Water Week

by Isaiah Esipisu at the 7th Africa Water Week, Gabon

Groundwater is one of the most important sources for drinking water, livestock water and irrigation in Africa, representing 15% of the continent’s renewable water resources, according to the UN Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA).

However, its hidden presence under the ground has left it largely under-valued and under-utilised both for social and economic gain. But even worse, scientists have confessed that very little studies have so far been done to unlock the potential of this scarce resource.

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“We do not know what we have because we have not done adequate studies yet. Some studies have been constrained by lack of adequate monitoring data, for example data for rainfall,” said Prof Daniel Olago, a Senior Geologists at the University of Nairobi in Kenya.

“We also do not have very good data on river-flows, and how much they contribute to groundwater systems,” he said.

It is based on such understanding that UpGro, in collaboration with the African Ministers’ Council on Water (AMCOW) have decided to convene a daylong session at the 2018 Africa Water Week in Libreville, Gabon, to discuss issues related to groundwater in Africa.

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According to UNECA, groundwater constitute the most important buffer and reserve during surplus periods as well as a source of water for streams and/or direct withdrawals in times of shortage, given the changing climatic conditions.

The UN therefore reckons that groundwater management in Africa can be an essential component of climate change adaptation strategies.

“Renewable groundwater resources in Africa are underutilised, yet groundwater can play a major role in assisting farmers to increase food production and to overcome threats to food security if climate change leads to greater rainfall variability,” reports UNECA in a policy brief.

During the groundwater session at the 7th Africa Water Week, the conveners will take a deeper look at its contribution to Africa’s water security and exploration of aquifers as a key for water security on the continent.

There will also be some focus on operation of the Africa Groundwater Commission (AGWC), which was established in 2008, but 10 years down the line, it has not been as proactive as expected.

To find out more:

  1. Don’t miss Groundwater Thursday at AWW-7!
  2. General introduction to UPGro
  3. Background Paper: Groundwater’s Contribution to Water Security in Africa
  4. Background Paper: Experiences of Research into Use within UPGro
  5. Africa Groundwater Atlas

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