The 7thAfrica Water Week (AWW-7), which took place during 29th October to 2nd November, 2018 in Libreville, Gabon, could be labelled “Groundwater Thursday”, as many sessions were dedicated to emphasizing the significance of groundwater in achieving AWW-7’s theme on “Water Security and Safely Managed Sanitation for Africa”.
Speaking on the sub theme “Influencing Policy and Practice” in a session convened by the African Ministers’ Council on Water (AMCOW) and Unlocking the Potential of Groundwater for the Poor (UPGro), Kitchinme Bawa Gotau, an AMCOW representative from Nigeria, said “AMCOW will set up a desk at the Secretariat in Abuja to coordinate all groundwater activities across the continent.” In addition, the council will work with all partners to harness their unique expertise that will enable the desk grow into an institution.
Timothy Williams, Director, Africa at the International Water Management Institute (IWMI), who spoke on behalf of GRIPP said, “AMCOW has a dependable partner in GRIPP, which is committed to serving as a platform for collating knowledge and evidence to promote sustainable groundwater development in Africa and beyond.” He also called on AMCOW and partners to coordinate and streamline the needs assessment across the continent to give a true picture of different groundwater needs in different regions.
Andrew Bullock, a Research Specialist for UPGro and supporting the Rural Water Supply Network in their UPGro knowledge brokering role, moderated the session and shared key issues that came up on “Groundwater Thursday”. These include: improving access to groundwater, identifying the exploitation bottlenecks, mapping and monitoring for different purposes and ascertaining the different impact pathways of groundwater. He also reminded participants that the greatest beneficiaries of groundwater are women, children and the vulnerable in society.
At least eight groundwater networks, including GRIPP, pledged to support AMCOW set up a desk to coordinate all groundwater activities across the continent (see box below).
Africa Water Week reiterates the importance of getting groundwater higher on the political agenda, which GRIPP has worked to do at Stockholm World Water Week around groundwater-based natural infrastructure and will continue to do so zealously. The immense contribution of groundwater to water security in Africa cannot be overemphasized since it is less vulnerable to drought and furthermore, every second person depends on it to meet his or her basic water needs.
Box 1. AMCOW convenes with African networks in support of a pan-African groundwater initiative to improve groundwater management for the benefit of the African people, 7th Africa Water Week, Libreville, Gabon.
Written on behalf of UPGro, RWSN, Federal Institute for Geosciences and Natural Resources (BGR), United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization – International Hydrological Programme (UNESCO-IHP), International Groundwater Resources Assessment Centre (IGRAC), Africa Groundwater Network (AGW-Net), International Association of Hydrogeologists (IAH), Southern African Development Community – Groundwater Management Institute (SADC-GMI), GRIPP and AMCOW.
Recognizing the dependency of the African population on groundwater, which makes a significant contribution to the security of water supplies for domestic and productive uses across the continent, providing a drinking water source for over 50% of the population and a buffering against climate change.
Further recognizing the potential of groundwater in adaptation and mitigation strategies, use in the agriculture and industrial sectors, and as part of improved, resilient and equitable water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) services, to make further and significant contributions to economic growth and poverty reduction.
Future development of groundwater resources will depend upon implementation of the following:
- Aquifer characterization and understanding
- Conjunctive use of water resources and Managed Aquifer Recharge (MAR)
- Management of transboundary aquifers and transboundary cooperation
- Capacity strengthening within the water sector for sustainable groundwater management
- Groundwater and land-use planning
- Coastal aquifer management to avoid seawater intrusion
- Sharing groundwater knowledge
A number of active groundwater networks convened in Gabon to forge a strong connection with the African political agenda around water. The networks displayed a number of examples where improved groundwater management is providing improvements to the lives and livelihoods of the African people.
Having taken stock of AMCOW’s original aspirations for a strategic pan-African groundwater initiative, the networks were cognizant of the efforts to forge a pan-African groundwater commission. In dialogue with the AMCOW Secretariat, the networks responded to the need for guidance to invigorate a pan-African groundwater program over the medium-term to demonstrate the benefits of a politically-connected pan-African approach. Having heard AMCOW’s outlook for the future, the networks expressed their support in that direction and their willingness to work in partnership with AMCOW to find a fruitful way forward.
See further key messages on groundwater In Africa in three languages from the 1stSADC Groundwater Conference in Johannesburg, 26-28 Sep, 2018.
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Photo Credits: Matilda Dennis Quaicoe, IWMI
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