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23 July 2019
New maps signpost Africa`s groundwater stocks Print
Tuesday, 27 March 2012 16:03


While rainfed agriculture accounts for more than 95% of farmed land in Sub-Saharan Africa, groundwater is pumped from the ground for use in most households in rural areas. The latter is also used for small-scale irrigation. As rainfall patterns become increasingly variable while climate change tightens its grip on the continent and water becomes scarcer, access to groundwater will become progressively more urgent.


Research institutions in Nigeria, Tanzania and Ethiopia teamed up with UK researchers from the British Geological Survey and the Overseas Development Institute to produce a series of quantitative groundwater maps for Africa—the first of their kind and a useful resource when regional entities formulate climate change adaptation strategies. While the maps inform regional conditions, further research and mapping will have to be done to inform the formulation of groundwater aspects of national climate change adaptation plans.


As part of this one-year DFID-funded research project, three case studies were undertaken. In West Africa, researchers found that groundwater was significantly resilient to climate variability with reasonable stocks available in the short term.


Two further case studies were undertaken in Uganda and Tanzania (high-yielding groundwater supplies) and in Ethiopia (access to improved water supplies and wealth).


The project objective was “to improve understanding of the impacts of climate change on groundwater resources and local demand”.


The study found that for much of Africa, carefully placed boreholes with rural hand pumps will be relatively easy to install for smaller water yields. However, the maps indicate that larger groundwater stores that can sustain high-yielding boreholes are often in remote areas at deep levels.


The good news is that “groundwater possesses a high resilience to climate change in Africa and should be central to adaptation strategies,” the researchers conclude.


Furthermore, “increasing access to improved groundwater sources based on hand pumps is likely to be highly successful.”


Linda Cilliers is the Online Media Specialist for DRUSSA