Like rivers and lakes, underground aquifers cross national borders, making it important to look at them from a regional perspective. This is especially true in Africa’s dryland regions—the Sahel, the Horn of Africa, and Southern Africa—where water security above ground relies on aquifers, or groundwater.
And, like water, people are not bound by national borders. Faced with water insecurity, they will move to places with water regardless of where these places are. People forced to leave home by drought or violence put pressure on water services and reserves in their host communities or camps.
Many development investments work toward strengthening water security, especially for rural and pastoralist communities, by artificially recharging groundwater aquifers, a watershed management approach that will improve water availability locally but at the cost of reducing runoff elsewhere.
The potential for adversely affecting surface water (in rivers and streams) and riparian communities downstream justifies looking at groundwater management in a regional context.
CIWA supports cooperation on groundwater
The Cooperation in International Waters in North Africa (CIWA) program is working to help regional bodies in Africa cooperate on groundwater. In Southern Africa, the South African Development Community (SADC) Groundwater Management Institute (GMI) was established in FY16 with support from CIWA.
In FY17, the GMI was refined, and additional staff hired, so that it could play its intended role as a regional center of excellence on groundwater management, gathering data, advancing research, and promoting infrastructure solutions.
In the Horn of Africa, CIWA initiated an analytical and technical assistance project with the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) in late FY17. A regional assessment will consolidate our knowledge base of the region’s resources of groundwater, and strengthen the analytical foundation for its cooperative management and development.
Ultimately, the project will help identify opportunities for investment projects to strengthen climate resilience and promote economic development.
In the Lake Chad region, CIWA supported a May 2017 workshop of modelers and regional organizations working on underground and surface water data collection. The workshop concluded with the formation of a working group with the collective aim of creating a platform or set of connected models to provide an overall view of the state of ground- and surface water in the region.
Such a modeling system will enable decision makers to understand the potential consequences of various development scenarios (for example, for irrigation) on the hydrological system, and allow them to make more informed development decisions.