Your browser is no longer supported

For the best possible experience using our website we recommend you upgrade to a newer version or another browser.

Your browser appears to have cookies disabled. For the best experience of this website, please enable cookies in your browser

We'll assume we have your consent to use cookies, for example so you won't need to log in each time you visit our site.
Learn more

Africa water reserves need care

Water experts have reacted cautiously to news that huge reserves of groundwater have been identified in Africa.
Scientists from the British Geological Survey (BGS) and University College London last week published a report claiming that there is between 0.36M.km3 and 1.75M.km3 of underground water in Africa, more than 20 times the amount stored in its lakes.

But the resources are unevenly distributed, with the largest volumes in North African countries like Libya, Algeria, Egypt and Sudan.

Reserves in this area, which are around 250m below ground, could be exploited on a large scale, but they have taken thousands of years to build up and are not being replaced, according to report author BGS hydrogeologist Helen Bonsor.

“In the north, where there are the largest groundwater reserves, there is no current rainfall, so that’s a finite resource,” she said.

Sub-Sahara

“In sub-Saharan African there is less groundwater storage but that’s where rainfall is still occurring, and so those smaller groundwater stores are being replenished.”

The study suggests these reserves could support small scale, sustainable extraction using boreholes and hand pumps.

Mott MacDonald director James Montgomery told NCE: “The availability of low yielding sources to supply potable water to villages and communities is the basis of most of rural Africa’s existing water supply.”

“Many of the reserves quoted [in the report] have been known about for decades.

“It would be a mistake to think the issues of maintaining sustainable supplies to Africa have been solved in a stroke,” he added.

Bonsor said one aim of the study was to encourage national and regional research to inform planning policy.

Have your say

You must sign in to make a comment

Please remember that the submission of any material is governed by our Terms and Conditions and by submitting material you confirm your agreement to these Terms and Conditions. Please note comments made online may also be published in the print edition of New Civil Engineer. Links may be included in your comments but HTML is not permitted.