World Water Day: Celebrating Groundwater As Living Element Deserving Value
Specific mineral resources are natural deposits located in particular places on earth, except for water, which is naturally available in all places. Thus, in different forms and with the aid of other natural elements, water is available through various sources such as oceans, seas, wetlands and deltas, lakes, ponds, rain, streams, falls, rivers, and underground. All these water bodies compliment each other. Through human ingenuity, where water cannot be accessed in its natural form, it has been channeled through various artificial means for personal and industrial use.
What is World Water Day?
The UN Secretary General, António Guterres in his message celebrating annual World Water Day (WWD), outlines that “water means protection. A well-managed water cycle – encompassing drinking water, sanitation, hygiene, wastewater, transboundary governance, the environment and more – means a defence against ill-health and indignity and a response to challenges from a changing climate and increasing global demand.” Invariably, water has an enormous role in sustaining our individual and collective survival, as well as the community’s development.
Each year, World Water Day brings to light specific aspects of freshwater. Commemorating the day in 2022, the International Groundwater Resources Assessment Center (IGRAC), in conjunction with UN-Water decided that “Groundwater: making the invisible visible” will be the theme for World Water Day. The selection of groundwater as a point of discourse is significant because groundwater sustains the ecosystem, by maintaining the base flow of rivers, which prevents land subsidence and seawater interference.
Also, more than half of our drinking water in the world comes from groundwater, with the remaining used for agricultural irrigation and industrial purposes. Thus, it is a vital part of the climate adaptation process and provides an alternative source in places that lack access to safe water.
Irrespective of the notable significance accorded to groundwater, its invisibility has made people to continuously underrate and undervalue it. According to IGRAC “Human activities (including population- and economic growth) and climate variability are rapidly increasing the pressure on groundwater resources: serious depletion and pollution problems are reported for many parts of the world.” Consequently, to remind people of the value of this invisible resource, World Water Day is instituted to bring to our awareness and share knowledge on how best to take care of our groundwater, especially for communities in developing nations.
Quality of Groundwater in Africa
The African city population is rapidly growing as a result of migration from the rural areas. IGRAC report on groundwater and fast-growing cities in Africa reveals that availability and quality of groundwater are major concerns in many African cities. In its view “these issues relate to the rapid growth of the cities and the lack of investments in water supply and sanitation, as well as the lack of groundwater management measures.”
In Africa, groundwater has in recent time been under extreme threat from increasing population, growing demands of agriculture and industry, and the worsening impacts of climate change, leading to slow and insufficient means for addressing the challenges.
With the growth in African cities, national water day dictates that water supply and sanitation must be seriously taken into the planning and infrastructural development of urban areas, to mitigate groundwater overexploitation and contamination arising from lack of access as well as indiscriminate access.
Impact of Drought In Africa
The impact of droughts in parts of Africa is prompting the shift to groundwater as an alternative source. In the eastern part of Africa, initiatives are being launched to explore prospective locations for groundwater availability to supply the population experiencing drought emergencies. But lack of funds and capacity are grossly hindering these. Even existing wells are not properly monitored or maintained. To address food security and water access, Kenya and Ethiopia are currently leading in the drought early warning system research, by assessing the amount of people that have access to water supply in the region.
UN Water Raising Awareness on World Water Day
Since its inception, World Water Day has been about taking action to tackle the global water crisis. A core focus of the day is to support the achievement of the UN 2030 Sustainable Development Goals 6 (SDG 6) of ensuring the “availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all.”
With the massive growth in globalization and industrialisation – through agricultural irrigation, which rely so much on groundwater, care needs to be taken so we do not deplete this resource by using it at a faster rate, thus denying it the space to replenish or recharge itself. Our use of pesticides and herbicides for agricultural plantations, leaks from our septic tanks, or improperly lined or managed landfills and soaking of toxic materials into the soil, are some of the ways we are constantly abusing groundwater.
Water Day reminds us of the fact that even though groundwater is unseen, the protection it offers to the environment and its inhabitants is very much within the grasp of all to be seen and felt. In reality, Water Day brings to our consciousness, it holds the key to the domestic, industrial and geographic balance of our ecosystem. It is very unfortunate that irrespective of the numerous areas groundwater contributes to making the world a better place for our inhabitation, we still treat it as if it does not exist or matter. The celebration of groundwater in the 2022 Water Day, brings us the inhabitants to see and feel how we can value groundwater as a living element and as a precious mineral. Water is living because it sustains the living, and when our use of it becomes abusive, other natural elements it interacts with to give us constant supply can react, leading to severe conditions that affect us all.
Written By: Innocent Umezuruike Iroaganachi