A recent study has shown that the largely arid lands of Africa is sitting on a vast reservoir of groundwater, adding that the volume of water in the aquifers underground is 100 times the amount found on the surface.
According to the BBC, the team of scientists produced a detailed map of the hidden resource of water in Africa, a continent where over 300 million people lack access to safe drinking water.
Writing in the journal Environmental Research Letters, they stress that large scale drilling might not be the best way of increasing water supplies.
Demand for water is set to grow markedly in coming decades due to population growth and the need for irrigation to grow crops.
Freshwater rivers and lakes are subject to seasonal floods and droughts that can limit their availability for people and for agriculture. At present only 5% of arable land is irrigated.
Now scientists have for the first time been able to carry out a continent-wide analysis of the water that is hidden under the surface in aquifers. Researchers from the British Geological Survey and University College London (UCL) have mapped in detail the amount and potential yield of this groundwater resource across the continent.
Helen Bonsor from the BGS is one of the authors of the paper. She says that up until now groundwater was out of sight and out of mind. She hopes the new maps will open people’s eyes to the potential.
“Where there’s greatest ground water storage is in northern Africa, in the large sedimentary basins, in Libya, Algeria and Chad,” she said.
“The amount of storage in those basins is equivalent to 75m thickness of water across that area – it’s a huge amount.”