Although localised groundwater depletion is evident, particularly beneath growing urban centres, there has been no substantial declines in groundwater storage at a basin scale in Africa over the last 15 years and in some areas, there are substantial unused or under-used groundwater resources. Investment in detailed hydrogeological studies can highlight potential areas for groundwater development that can provide economic opportunities, such as those in Kwale County, Kenya.
Using more groundwater for irrigation, improves agricultural production, reduces the risk of crop failure and helps to increase household incomes.
New industrial developments bring opportunities for growth but some of these require a lot of water.
Africa also has significant mineral deposits, which have led to major investments. If we understand the groundwater resources around such deposits, we can prevent environmental damage and conflict. If we do not, investments are a gamble.
Improved understanding and management of groundwater can help to reduce tensions and ensure that essential activities and investments can continue, even when water is scarce.
It is also essential to build trust and connections between local authorities, local people and investors. UPGro experiments with Transition Management, a Groundwater Game, the use of radio programmes and a school water club showed promise in demonstrating that communication, when done the right way, can build trust and reduce conflict and vulnerability.
References and further information
- Hope, R., Thomson, P., Koehler, J. and Foster, T. (2020) Rethinking the economics of rural water in Africa. Oxford Review of Economic Policy, 36(1): 171-190. doi: 10.1093/oxrep/grz036.
- Ferrer-Ramos et al. (2020) Evidence of groundwater vulnerability to climate variability and economic growth in coastal Kenya, Journal of Hydrology
- Ferrer-Ramos (2019) Groundwater supplies on Kenya’s coast must be managed for people and industry, The Conversation
- Thompson et al (2019). Six pathways identified for Sustainable Groundwater Futures in Africa.
- Groundwater Serious Game: https://www.un-igrac.org/special-project/groundwater-game
- Garrick et al (2017) Valuing water for sustainable development, Science