African Aquifers, Floridan Follies?

 
Drought seen in sub-Saharan Africa
Erratic precipitation emphasizes the need for evidence-based freshwater management

Water is wet, and essential to our fleshy existence. Freshwater reserves are unfortunately disappearing across the globe, compounding the threats posed by human-caused climate change.

The United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP21) is underway in France, where Gulf South Rising’s delegation of frontline voices has been engaging with others most affected by climate inaction. These historic negotiations are set in ‘Le Bourget,’ a suburb of Paris. While the world’s elected officials and decision-makers convene here, other visitors are offered opportunities to attend various expert panels.

In our first trip to Le Bourget, I sat in on ‘Groundwater and Climate Change in the Sahara and Sahel Regions.’ From Tunisia and Chad, to Uganda and beyond, panelists shared insights on Africa’s dire situation.

In 2012, only two-thirds of the continent’s population had access to potable water. Within the sub-Saharan region, access is even lower. As climate change raises regional temperatures, it’s projected that 580 million people will live in water-stressed areas by 2030. By 2050, this value will swell to over 790 million.

With rivers and lakes already drying up, Africans have been forced to drill more and more wells to tap into underground reserves. These aquifers are typically considered ‘non-renewable,’ given their inability to recharge from seasonal rains. Management practices are tough too, since waterbodies often extend across arbitrary political boundaries. And once polluted, it’s near impossible to revert the trapped water to a drinkable form.

The challenges facing African residents are directly aligned to those of the Gulf South. The proposed Southeast Market Pipelines Project, whose longest leg is the so-called ‘Sabal Trail,’ threatens community members relying on the Floridan Aquifer to meet their daily life-sustaining needs. Many organizations have already highlighted the potential for irreversible harm to this sole-source of potable water, including our nation’s EPA.

In a world of unrelenting greenhouse-gas emissions, is it really wise to support more water-damaging infrastructure?

James Hartwell is GRN’s Coastal Wetland Analyst. He is currently in France as a member of the #GulfSouthRising Climate Delegation.

Photo courtesy of Oxfam International.

The above was originally posted December 4th, 2015.

 

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