Groundwater: Achieving Global Development Goals


Water Cycle Innovation gave significant inputs to other new and highly relevant publications on contemporary groundwater at a global to regional scale. A highly-cited Nature review paper by Scanlon et al. ‘Global water resources and the role of groundwater in a resilient water future’ critically unpacks the trends of water resources across the globe, to find that the interactions between climate, surface water and groundwater leave regions with certain characteristics, e.g. regions with trending depleting groundwater due to a coincidence of high exploitation and little or decreasing rainfall, while other regions have experienced increasing groundwater storages due to changing landuse, going from more water-demanding natural vegetation (typically trees) to crops (requiring less water), while yet other regions have faced stable or growing groundwater resources because of increased rainfall over decadal timescales or because of significant return flows from large-scale surface irrigation schemes. The lesson is that we need to understand water resources in a natural, climatic, and human landuse context. Water Cycle Innovation participated in a podcast series addressing specifically this surface water-groundwater-irrigation nexus in a Sustainable Development Goals context and with a particular perspective on sub-Saharan Africa.

Drilling into land use at a more refined scale, a study by the International Water Management Institute (IWMI) and partners ‘Land Cover Changes in the Upper Great Ruaha (Tanzania) and the Upper Awash (Ethiopia) River Basins and their Potential Implications for Groundwater Resources’ points to how sub-Saharan Africa may witness similar trends in landuse, e.g. urbanization and intensification of agriculture, including to more irrigation. However, how this plays out in particular regions may vary significantly. While Ethiopia’s upper Awash River Basin is heavily influenced by growing water demands from cities and expanding irrigated areas, the upper Great Ruaha River Basin in Tanzania sees relatively less intensive landuse, and still relatively unexplored groundwater resources. The tool developed is important for fingerprinting areas and basins in terms of their landuse intensity and links to (ground)water use.

Remaining in sub-Saharan Africa, a newly published Routledge book ‘Sustainable Groundwater Development for Improved Livelihoods in Sub-Saharan Africa’ edited by Paul Pavelic, Karen G. Villholth, and Shilp Verma gives an overview of groundwater for irrigated agriculture, livelihoods and food security in the region. Despite the large diversity across settings, it is clear that groundwater plays a relatively small role for smallholder farmers in a landscape of mostly rainfed agriculture, while this role is slowly increasing as barriers are overcome, e.g. in terms of access to drilling and pumping technology, energy, financial support, and policies, with critical positive implications for especially rural female-headed households.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *