Fossil groundwater vulnerable to modern contamination

Study shows that over half of global groundwater is over 12,000 years old

Most of the groundwater in the world that is accessible by deep wells is fossil groundwater, stored beneath the earth’s surface for more than 12,000 years, and that ancient water is not immune to modern contamination, as has been widely assumed.

This study, led by Dr. Scott Jasechko (University of Calgary) and co-authored by an international team of researchers including Professor Richard Taylor (UCL Geography & UPGro GroFutures), is published online today (April 25) in Nature Geoscience.

Groundwater is the water stored beneath the earth’s surface in soil pore spaces and within the fractures of rock formations. It provides drinking and irrigation water for billions of people around the world.

Jasechko, Taylor and his co-researchers dated groundwater from over 6,000 wells around the globe. By measuring the amount of radioactive carbon in the water, the team was able to determine the age of the groundwater. They discovered that the majority of the earth’s groundwater is likely fossil groundwater, derived from rain and snow that fell more than 12,000 years ago. The team determined that this fossil groundwater accounts for between 42 to 85 per cent of total fresh, unfrozen water in the upper kilometre of the earth’s crust.

Until now, the scientific community has generally believed that fossil groundwater is safe from modern contamination but this study has proved otherwise.

“Deep wells mostly pump fossil groundwater but many still contain some recent rain and snow melt, which is vulnerable to modern contamination,” says Jasechko.

Rain and snow that fell after the 1950s contains tritium, a radioactive isotope that was spread around the globe as a result of thermonuclear bomb testing. Disturbingly, traces of tritium were found in deep well waters, which indicates that contemporary rain and snow melt can mix with deep fossil groundwater and, in turn, potentially contaminate this ancient water.

According to Taylor, this discovery has important ramifications that should influence the way humans use groundwater in the future,

“Our results reveal not only current use of fossil groundwater but also the potential risks to water quality associated with the use of deep wells. Indeed, we need to better understand how the construction and pumping of deep wells themselves may connect fossil groundwater to the present-day water cycle.”

Scale of global water crisis could be unknown due to inadequate metrics, study suggests #worldwaterday

Re-posted from UCL

A new study by UCL researchers exposes substantial limitations in the ability of current metrics to define ‘water scarcity’.

 

21 March 2017

A new study by UCL suggests the scale of the global water crisis could not be properly known at due to inadequacies with the current metrics used to measure it.

With today being World Water Day, the research, led by the UCL Institute for Sustainable Resources and UCL Geography, exposes substantial limitations in the ability of current metrics to define ‘water scarcity’.

The report finds that the misrepresentation of freshwater resources and demand is particularly severe in low-income countries of the tropics where the consequences of water scarcity are projected to be most severe and where most of the global population now live. Simply put, the authors argue that we do not know the dimensions of the global water crisis.

Ensuring the availability of adequate quantities of freshwater to sustain the health and well-being of people and the ecosystems in which they live, remains one of the world’s most pressing challenges. This question is reflected in UN Sustainable Development Goal 6.4 which seeks to reduce the number of people suffering from water scarcity.

The authors call for a renewed debate about how best to measure ‘water scarcity’ and argue that it be redefined in terms of the freshwater storage required to address imbalances in freshwater supply and demand. Such an approach, they contend, would enable for the explicit consideration of groundwater, the world’s largest accessible store of freshwater which accounts for nearly 50% of all freshwater withdrawals globally.

Further the authors suggest that such a metric could be used pragmatically to explore a wide range of options for addressing freshwater storage requirements beyond dams alone that include use of renewable groundwater, soil water, and trading in virtual water.

Prof Richard Taylor, co-author of the paper says:

“How we understand water scarcity is strongly influenced by how we measure it. Grossly misrepresentative measures of water scarcity can identify scarcity where there is sufficient and sufficiency where there is scarcity. An improved measure of water scarcity would help to ensure that limited resources are better targeted to address where and when water-scarce conditions are identified.”

Click here to download the paper

Authors:

Simon Damkjaer, UCL Institute for Sustainable Resources
Prof Richard Taylor, UCL Department of Geography

UPGro GroFutures: http://grofutures.org/

Photo: Irrigated maize crop supplied by groundwater in Zambia – Richard Taylor

Piecing together Africa’s groundwater history

The UPGro programme, supported by AfriWatSan & ESPRC, conducted a pan-African capacity-strengthening and knowledge co-production workshop at Sokoine University of Agriculture in Morogoro, Tanzania from the 10th to 12th of February, 2017.

40 participants from 12 countries in Africa took part and analysed multi-decadal, groundwater-level data (“chronicles”) from 9 countries including Benin, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Niger, Sénégal, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda and Zimbabwe.

Continue reading Piecing together Africa’s groundwater history

GroFutures at the Association of Tanzanian Water Suppliers (ATAWAS)

reposted from: http://grofutures.org/article/grofutures-at-awac-2016-in-tanzania/

Professor Japhet Kashaigili presented recent research from the GroFutures Site Observatory in Tanzania (Makutapora) at the 4th Annual Conference (AWAC 2016) of the Association of Tanzanian Water Suppliers (ATAWAS) held on 8th and 9thNovember 2016 in Dodoma, Tanzania. Under the theme of “Knowledge, Capacity and Learning in the Water and Sanitation Sector,” the development of water supplies and sanitation as well as the current challenges faced by organisations across Tanzania were discussed by professionals working in water sector including policy makers and those involved water governance.

Professor Japhet Kashaigili, based at Sokoine University of Agriculture (SUA), presented a paper entitled, Assessing the sustainability of groundwater-fed water supplies to intensive pumping and climate variability: evidence from detailed monitoring of the Makutapora Wellfield, drawing on collaborative research conducted by SUA, University College London, University of Sussex (UK), and the WamiRuvu Basin Water Board within the Ministry of Water and Irrigation. Key stakeholders including the Dodoma Regional Administrative Secretary and Technical Manager of the Dodoma Urban Water Supply and Sanitation Authority (DUWASA) expressed great interest in the GroFutures Team’s evaluation of the sustainability of intensive groundwater abstraction from the Makutapora Wellfield, which is currently the sole perennial supply of freshwater to the rapidly growing capital city, Dodoma. Japhet’s presentation highlighted the bias in wellfield replenishment (recharge) to heavy rainfall and the observed dependence of recharge on the duration of ephemeral river discharge to the wellfield. He also reported on the establishment of telemetry-based, high-frequency (hourly) monitoring of groundwater levels in boreholes enabling the WamiRuvu Basin Water Board and GroFutures team to download real-time monitoring of groundwater levels for wellfield management and research.

presentation_guest_of_honour_awac_edited-768x477

Grofutures launch in transboundary Iullemmeden basin

re-blogged from GroFutures

GroFutures was launched in the transboundary Iullemmeden Basin at a workshop held at Abdou Moumouni University (UAM) of Niamey in Niger on 23rd August 2016. The workshop was opened by the Vice Chancellor, Hon. Professor Amadou Boureima, and welcomed by the Director General of Water Resources in the Ministry of Hydraulics and Sanitation of Niger, Mr. Abdou Moumouni Moussa; Engineer Koné Soungalo representing the Niger Basin Authority; Dr. Oumarou Malam Issa, Country Representative of IRD in Niger; and the Deans of Faculties of Sciences and Agronomy (UAM).

Continue reading Grofutures launch in transboundary Iullemmeden basin

Groundwater Serious Game played during GroFutures workshop in Niamey, Niger

re-blogged from IGRAC

On August 22nd and 23rd, a stakeholder workshop to kick off the GroFutures comparative study in the Iullemmeden basin was held at Université Abdou Moumouni in Niamey, Niger. During this workshop, IGRAC and the GroFutures Team facilitated a session of the Groundwater Serious Game that was attended by 28 participants. Among the participants of the game session, there were researchers from the university (professors and students), local authorities, hydraulic engineers from local organisations as well as farmers using groundwater to irrigate their crops. The game session, which featured simultaneous translation into French and Haoussa, helped the project team and the stakeholders to better understand the groundwater dynamics and the challenges to be faced in the coming years. 

After the session the team had the opportunity to discuss the experience during the game session and to highlight the importance of opening up the discussion of sustainable and joint management of the groundwater resources as a shared resource (domestic and irrigation uses, surface water versus groundwater). The Groundwater Serious Game session also proportioned a good integration of the stakeholders of the Iullemmeden basin in a lucid and dynamic way.

The Serious Game on Improving Groundwater Management Through Cooperation and Collective Action, developed by IGRAC, is being applied to case studies of GroFutures (Groundwater Futures in Sub-Saharan Africa), a 4-year research project, funded by the UK government under its UPGro(Unlocking the Potential of Groundwater for the Poor) programme,  seeking to develop the scientific evidence base, tools and participatory processes by which groundwater resources can be used sustainably for poverty alleviation in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). This project involves comparative studies in Ethiopia (Upper Awash Basin), Niger and Nigeria (Iullemmeden transboundary Basin) and in Tanzania (Great Ruaha Basin).

GroFutures Serious Groundwater Game in Niger

EL NIÑO FLOODING IN TANZANIA

re-posted from Grofutures.org

On April 4th and 5th 2016, members of the GroFutures Team visited the Makutapora Wellfield in central Tanzania to observe up close and with project partners, WamiRuvu Basin Water Office of the Ministry of Water, rare flood conditions that are associated with the 2015-16 El Niño Event and, it is expected, conditions favourable for episodic replenishment of the wellfield by recharge. In advance of the El Niño Event, the GroFutures Team established high-frequency sensors to monitor both surface water and groundwater levels resulting from what was expected to be anomalously heavy rainfall associated with the 2015-16 El Niño Event.  The team was not disappointed by the rain but road conditions did present challenges to the downloading of data from installed sensors! After getting stuck twice in the very wet roads, the team will return again later in the year when conditions are drier.  Nevertheless, a lot was learned from seeing the wellfield basin in flood.

 

Groundwater Game used at GroFutures workshop in Tanzania

from: IGRAC

IGRAC developed a Serious Game on ‘Improving Groundwater Management Through Cooperation and Collective Action’, which has been tested and applied to the case studies of the GroFutures project.

Groundwater Futures in Sub-Saharan Africa (GroFutures) will develop the scientific evidence base, tools and participatory processes by which groundwater resources can be used sustainably for poverty alleviation in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). This 4-year involves comparative studies in Ethiopia (Upper Awash), Niger and Nigeria (Iullemmeden) and in Tanzania (Great Ruaha) and is funded by the UK government under its UPGro (Unlocking the Potential of Groundwater for the Poor) programme.

GroFutures field trip
GroFutures field trip

stakeholder workshop to kick off this study in Tanzania was held on March 30th and 31st 2016 in Iringa, followed by a 4-days field trip. The Groundwater Game session was attended by circa 25 participants. Playing the Groundwater Game helped all participants better understand the challenges and consequences of groundwater use and potential challenges to be faced in the future. The integration of stakeholders from a range of perspectives into different teams playing the game also promoted direct sharing of thoughts and ideas in a relaxed manner. During the workshop, the project team welcomed the Director of Water Resources, Regional Commissioner for Iringa, Water Officers of the Rufiji and WamiRuvu Basins together with a range of other key stakeholders including District Water and Irrigation Engineers, local NGOs and farmers.

Grofutures launches in Tanzania

 

Under the heading “Using groundwater to reduce poverty” the GroFutures Team in Tanzania led by Japhet Kashaigili, Andrew Tarimo and Devotha Mosha hosted the GroFutures Inception Workshop in Iringa on March 31st 2016.  It was opened by the District Commissioner for Iringa, Hon. Richard Kasesela, and was attended by national, basin-level and local stakeholders (listed below) who discussed current groundwater use and management in the Great Ruaha Sub-Catchment of the Rufiji Basin and as well as both proposed and potential groundwater development pathways that might best reduce poverty.  The event was featured on national television news in Tanzania (see clip here) and leading newspapers.

Groundwater Inception Workshop in Tanzania (31st March 2016):

GroFutures Great Ruaha Inception Workshop featured on national television news (in Swahili)

The evening before the workshop, participants played The Groundwater Game in order to better familiarise with the kinds of groundwater development and management decisions that may be expected to arise as a result of groundwater use for poverty alleviation and improved food security.  Following the workshop, the GroFutures Team conducted a short field visit in the Great Ruaha Sub-Catchment to engage directly with local-level stakeholders and develop plans to establish the human and physical environments that will comprise the Great Ruaha Basin Groundwater Observatory.  The GroFutures Team also took time to visit the Site Observatory at the Makutapora Basin which was currently under rare, flood conditions associated with the 2015-16 El Niño Event.

GRB-inception-workshop-photos
GroFutures team participated at various activities in the Inception Workshop in Iringa, Tanzania (GroFutures)

Using groundwater to reduce poverty

New study to examine the potential of groundwater to expand irrigation and increase access to safe water in Tanzania

Groundwater flowing beneath the land surface of Tanzania has the potential to provide year-round sources of freshwater to irrigate crops when rains fail and to supply safe drinking water at low cost. There remain, however, key questions regarding the development of this vital resource including how much groundwater can be used sustainably, what groundwater development pathways will best reduce poverty, and how use of groundwater will affect other water sources such as rivers, wetlands and lakes.

Continue reading Using groundwater to reduce poverty