World Water Day 2022: Tapping into groundwater’s potential

Tuesday, March 22nd, 2022

Drilling a well in Sierra Leone.

Water is everywhere, but you often can’t see it.

We are reminded of that fact in marking World Water Day 2022. This year’s theme is about the importance of groundwater. Its tagline is: “Groundwater is invisible, but its impact is visible everywhere.”

Groundwater is a significant source of drinking water around the world. It is particularly critical in drier places where rainfall is infrequent. When rivers and ponds dry up, wells with hand pumps access the water below the surface to provide communities with year-round access to water. Even still, groundwater is a limited resource. The aquifers underground depend on rain and snow to recharge over time.

Flushing a well.

Fortunately, wells with hand pumps used by rural communities do not draw much water, meaning that the aquifers they tap into can recharge. The Water Project supports borehole wells in Western Kenya, Sierra Leone, and Uganda to ensure communities have a reliable water source. However, groundwater is susceptible to contamination by people through pollutants, including farming chemicals and improperly dug latrines. That is why monitoring the water quality from wells is equally essential.

In Southeast Kenya, a region that does not receive enough rain, sand dams help trap water in seasonal river beds. The water stored in the sand helps recharge the aquifers below and allows communities to access water through wells with hand pumps. These projects help provide communities access to water throughout the year.

Filling up a container at a well.

But the story doesn’t end with drilling wells to access groundwater. Water points, like anything with moving parts, experience breakdowns over time. Parts need to be replaced. Like a car, routine maintenance is crucial to keep things running and prevent significant issues. And even if a car is adequately maintained, things happen. Something can break for any reason.

Wells are precisely the same. And that is why The Water Project monitors each water point four times a year and encourages communities to contact us immediately if there is an issue. That way, communities can access the groundwater they need for their daily lives whenever they want.

A recent video produced by the UK-funded Unlocking the Potential of Groundwater for the Poor (UPGro) research initiative explains groundwater in more detail and shares some key insights from the group’s research into groundwater in Africa. Watch it below:

Home More Like This

Tom Murphy

Tom is a Program Officer with The Water Project after working as a humanitarian journalist for 8 years. His work appeared in publications ranging from the Guardian to Foreign Policy to NPR, covering topics including water in India, agriculture in Kenya, public health in Haiti, and electricity access in Ghana.