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African Underground Contains Enough Water for 9 Billion People

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Reuters reported on Friday that there are huge underground water reserves in some of the driest parts of Africa. This could provide a buffer against climatic change challenges for years to come. There are large aquifers, or underground water sources, that the researchers mapped. This was a pioneering project by the British Geological Survey and University College London.

The largest aquifers were found in North African countries like Libya, Algeria, Sudan, and Egypt. The scientists estimate that the underground water reserves across Africa are 100 times the amount found on the surface, or about 0.66 million cubic kilometers. But they altogether cautioned in the journal Environmental Research Letters that not all these reserves are accessible.

Though groundwater could not be seen as the ultimate cure for Africa’s ever increasing demand, especially considering its population explosion, harnessing this water could be part of an important strategy to cope with the challenges imposed.

Drilling may not be the solution to getting this water due to several reasons. For instance, drilling could quickly deplete the reservoirs, in some places the drilling could be economically and technically not viable, finally, other logistic problems when considered also undermine the need for investing on drilling projects.

To explain this, the researchers said that some of the largest deposits are in the driest parts of deserts like Sahara and the regions surrounding it. To make matters worse, the scientists found out that the wells are very deep (at 100-250 meters below the ground level). Dr Alan McDonald of British Geological Survey said, “At depths greater than 100 meters the cost of borehole drilling increases significantly due to the requirement for more sophisticated drilling equipment.”

Pumping problems were also identified especially in terms of cost against demand for water. Phoebe White, a water, sanitation and hygiene specialist for the UK Department for International Development based in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo said the cost of a hand pump for a community could go up to $13,000, while some deep boreholes needed $130,000 if drilling was to be used.

A UNEP (Nairobi) and World Agroforestry Centre study found there is enough water falling as rain over Africa that could well supply the needs of around 9 billion people.

 

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