'For much of Africa, water resources are available'
3 May 2012
Deutsche Welle - 30 April 2012
Africa's chronic shortage of fresh water could be alleviated by stepping up efforts to access groundwater reserves, or aquifers. UK scientists have produced a pan-African map of reserves that are found deep underground.
DW spoke to Alan MacDonald, Chief Hydrogeologist at the British Geological Survey. He led the two-year study, which also involved experts from University College London.
DW: Where are the largest groundwater reserves in Africa?
Alan MacDonald: The largest reserves are in North Africa, under the Sahara desert. That's been known about for a number of years. But they are far from where most people live. So, the reserves I'm most interested in are the smaller ones, away from there, under the rest of Africa, sub-Saharan Africa, where most of the population are without access to clean water.
What countries specifically do we find these reserves in?
The largest groundwater reserves are in North Africa, so under Libya, Algeria, Sudan and Egypt. These large, sandstone aquifers are several hundred meters thick. Some of them are exploited at the moment, for example in Libya. But the issue with these large groundwater reserves is that they were filled up with rainwater 5,000 years ago, so they are not currently being recharged. It's what we call fossil water. It was laid down…when the climate was much wetter there.