Aiding Africa’s Quest for Water
Huge store of water is discovered underground in Africa.
Over 300 million Africans don't have access to safe, clean drinking water. Now, thanks to work led by Alan McDonald, from the LWEC-accredited Groundwater Science Programme, the scale and source of a vast store of water trapped underground in rock formations across the continent has been mapped in detail for the very first time.
The maps produced by geologists supported by the Department for International Development and Natural Environment Research Council, show the volume of water which flows through gaps in rock found beneath the soil's surface. This supply is known as groundwater.
However, caution will need to be exercised before such an underground resource - 100 times the amount found on the surface - is tapped. Small scale, community-led initiatives may be the best approach to extraction so that the water has a chance to replenish as it collects and flows through aquifers. With careful management, groundwater also promises to be relatively resilient to the effects of climate change.
Secretary of State for International Development Andrew Mitchell said:
"This is an important discovery. This research, which the British Government has funded, could have a profound effect on some of the world's poorest people, helping them become less vulnerable to drought and to adapt to the impact of climate change.
The fundamental aim of the Groundwater Science programme, is to enable communities across Africa, and indeed worldwide, to sustainably exploit and manage groundwater effectively. From generating detailed resource maps and water analysis to producing a ‘how-to’ manual on the development of rural water supplies (published by the charity Practical Action), the initiative is making a measurable difference to thousands of lives.
For example, Benue state in Nigeria was once a notoriously fruitless place to drill for water. Years of exploration yielded nothing but disappointment – but today it’s a very different story.
“Southern Benue’s now recognised as a great place to find water,” says Dr Alan MacDonald “We’ve provided tools and training that mean the authorities there know exactly where and how deep to drill the wells they need.”
A key focus is on providing guidance for governments, local authorities and communities in Africa itself.
“Often, we’re working on the ground with people who feel quite isolated,” Dr MacDonald comments
In every sense, this programme represents a lifeline for them. To find out more about the mapping work, please visit the project pages on the British Geological Survey website.