Drought in desert. Trees are merely trunks. Barely any vegetation growing. Mountains and blue sky in the background.

Groundwater Use Could be Answer to Africa’s Water Issues

  • May 5, 2022

Tapping into groundwater can help communities in Africa diversify their water supply and strengthen their drought defenses, according to a study led by scientists at The University of Texas at Austin. 

The study, which was published in the journal Environmental Research Letters, tracked long-term water storage gains and losses across Africa’s 13 major aquifers and found opportunities for sustainably withdrawing groundwater across much of the continent. 

The data showed that even though certain sub-Saharan aquifers sometimes faced water level declines, the levels consistently and quickly recovered during rainy periods, which helps guard against overuse. 

“Groundwater levels go up and down,” said lead author Bridget Scanlon, a senior research scientist at the Bureau of Economic Geology, a research unit of the Jackson School of Geosciences. “People need to know the dynamics of this resource and optimize for its use.” 

The researchers used data from NASA’s GRACE satellites to track total water storage in the aquifers between 2002 and 2020. The result is an 18-year timeline that provides a longer-term perspective on water trends and what drives them. 

“Having visited Africa several times and looked directly at the challenge with limited access to water for basic drinking and agricultural needs, I think results from this study could be important for long-term planning as the population of Africa continues to emerge from poverty into prosperity,” said Scott Tinker, director of the Bureau of Economic Geology. 

Read more about this research at UT News.