Photo courtesy of africavet.com
For the first time, scientists have carried out a continent-wide analysis finding a vast water reservoir that lies under Africa's surface in aquifers. Researchers from the British Geological Survey (BGS) and the University College London (UCL) have reportedly mapped out in quantitative detail of the amount and potential yield of a 'huge' groundwater finding in Africa.
These scientists report that there is more than 100 times the amount of total volume of renewable freshwater resources in underground aquifers as compared to Africa's surface- published in the Environmental Research Letters on April 19th.
Finding brings reason and cause for excitement.
On July 20th, last year, the United Nations officially declared famine in two regions in the southern part of Somalia. This was the first time a famine had been declared by the global body in about thirty years. Tens of thousands of Somalis died due to hunger and malnutrition, the majority were children.
Somalia wasn't the only country severely stricken, as theentire region of East Africa experienced what was called "the worst drought in 60 years" devastatingly affecting, Djibouti, Ethiopia and Kenya-threatening the lives of 9.5 million Africans, spreading further tothreaten people's lives and livelihoods in Sudan, South Sudan and parts of Uganda as well.
This year drought in West Africa's Sahel region has also become a humanitarian disaster reportedly affecting 13 million people. Oxfam has said that malnutrition rates across Chad, Burkina Faso, Mali, Mauritania, Niger and northern Senegal hovered between 10% and 15%, and in some areas had risen beyond the emergency threshold level of 15%.
Again, children are the most affected, with one million children in the Sahel region reported at risk of severe malnutrition.
Therefore, the water discovery has life-saving potential for a continent that has been slashed with severe droughts, famine, malnourishment and conflict.
More than 300 million people across Africa reportedly do not have access to safe drinking water and the demand for water is markedly increasing as the need for irrigation grows to sustain a 7-billion strong and growing global population.
These researchers say their new maps reveal that many countries in Africa currently designated as 'water scarce' have substantial groundwater reserves.
Outlining key countries with water reserves, BGS's co-author of the paper, Helen Bonsor said, "Where there's greatest ground water storage is in northern Africa, in the large sedimentary basins, in Libya, Algeria and Chad…the amount of storage in those basins is equivalent to 75m thickness of water across that area - it's a huge amount."