MAP OF THE DAY: Africa Is Sitting On An Enormous Underground Water Supply

New research from the journal Environmental Research Letters reveals that Africa is sitting on a previously under-valued reservoir of groundwater.

The article reveals that there is thought to be some 0.66 million km3 (0.36–1.75 million km3) of groundwater storage under the continent. While not all that water is recoverable, it is thought that the amount will be around 100 times higher than annual renewable freshwater resources on Africa. 

Groundwater is rainwater that has seeped through soil and rock into the deep earth. It is hoped that the water may help end shortages on the continent, where freshwater supplies are limited and some 300 million people go without safe drinking water, the BBC reports. At present only 5% of the continent’s arable land is irrigated.

The research suggests that a strategy of “widespread drilling of high yielding boreholes” would prove unsuccessful. One author told the BBC that “appropriately sited and developed boreholes for low yielding rural water supply and hand pumps are likely to be successful.”

John Kufuor, the head of the World Bank-affiliated Sanitation and Water for All project, recently told water scarcity may contribute to political instability in sub-Saharan Africa, Bloomberg reports. One UN Development Programme (UNDP) report suggested that a lack of clean water could eventually lead to “water wars” on the continent.

This map shows where the resources lie:

Africa Water Map

Photo: Environmental Research Letters

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