Download now: Groundwater’s Contribution to Water Security in Africa

We are delighted to announce that the latest UPGro Working Paper is now out and ready for download.

Edited by Dr Kirsty Upton and Dr Kerstin Danert, this paper has been prepared by researchers within the UPGro (Unlocking the Potential of Groundwater for the Poor) Programme, along with colleagues from the International Association of Hydrogeologists, Africa Groundwater Network, and GRIPP.

It is intended as a working paper, presenting a summary of our current understanding of groundwater in Africa along four themes:

  1. urban water security,
  2. socially inclusive and sustainable rural water services,
  3. groundwater for agricultural growth and transformation, and
  4. groundwater resources and renewability.

Achieving water security for Africa presents a challenge, particularly given the increasing pressures on water resources related to population growth, climate change, rising living standards and land use change.  Water security can be defined as the availability of an acceptable quantity and quality of water for health, livelihoods, ecosystems and production, coupled with an acceptable level of water-related risks to people, environments and economies (Grey & Sadoff, 2007).

Groundwater – the fresh water naturally stored in rocks beneath the ground surface – makes a significant contribution to the security of water supplies for both domestic and productive uses across the African continent.  Its importance and use are increasing markedly.

Groundwater can help achieve universal and equitable access to resilient water services for both rural and urban populations in Africa.  With the relevant methods and expertise, groundwater can be found across much of Africa, with even the least productive aquifers often capable of providing sufficient yields to supply communities with handpumps or low-intensity, small-scale irrigation schemes.  The volume of water stored underground in Africa – estimated to be 20 times more than the freshwater stored in lakes and reservoirs – can also provide a critical buffer against short-term rainfall variability, making groundwater reserves less vulnerable than surface waters to drought.  Groundwater is also less vulnerable to contamination.

The implications of resilient, safe, and sustainable water services for all, where groundwater forms a critical part of an integrated approach to water resource management, are significant and wide-reaching in terms of national growth, economic development and poverty reduction.  Groundwater development is not, however, without risks. Securing equitable access to groundwater for both domestic and productive uses across rural and urban Africa requires a detailed understanding of groundwater resources coupled with adequate governance arrangements so that the potential gains of groundwater investment can be balanced against the associated risks for people, the environment, and the economy.

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