Monday, May 07, 2012

Africa’s water resources

According to an article in Environmental Research Letters, scientists have concluded that Africa’s groundwater resources are probably 100 times greater than those found in the continent’s surface rivers and lakes, and that the storage on offer provides a vital buffer against rainfall variability and climate change. Some of these stocks are found in vast ‘fossil’ (non-renewable) aquifers, located deep underground, and formed thousands of years ago when the climate was very different. The most widespread and important renewable resources for people, however, are found at shallower depths throughout much of Africa. Latest figures from the WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme for Water Supply and Sanitation, estimate that roughly 300 million people in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) do not have access to safe drinking water putting the whole region off track, with only 19 of the 50 countries expected to meet the drinking water target by 2015. The problems many SSA countries face in meeting demand for drinking water are rooted in poverty, inequality, governance and investment, not in the physical availability of water, as previous Water Policy Programme and BGS work makes clear. Rapid population growth is another factor: the population of SSA is rising faster than anywhere else on the planet, meaning that countries may be making significant progress in the absolute number of people served while still being persistently ‘off track’.  

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