Groundwater: The Precious Invisible Resource

The saying goes, “Out of sight, out of mind.” However, this does not mean the subject of discussion is completely absent. Every year since 1993, 22nd March marks World Water Day when the world celebrates water and raises awareness of the numerous people living without access to safe water. Commemoration of World Water Day is about taking action to tackle water crisis the globally. This year’s theme is aimed to appreciate how precious groundwater is and make visible the invisible benefits it has.

Water has both direct and indirect uses. Direct uses include activities such as drinking, bathing, and cooking, while indirect uses of water include wood processing for purposes of making paper and steel production for automobiles. Largely, the use of water in the world is for agriculture, industry, and electricity. Water also has a close relationship with tourism as a sector that influences the development of tourism and its related activities. Cruise tours depend on water as a means of transport, water parks, and water-related excursions such as water rafting among others. Water attractions such as lakes, rivers, and oceans are sources of numerous aquatic attractions that tourists travel to view and experience. Additionally, when tourists visit they consume a lot of water either in drinking, while bathing, for swimming, and other recreational activities among others.

Groundwater is defined as freshwater underneath the surface of the earth found in spaces between rocks, soil, and sand. Groundwater comes from precipitation; melt ice/snow, surface water, runoff, etc. Groundwater is used in agricultural activities, ecosystem support, energy resources, urban and rural water supplies among others. Although unseen and assumed to always be there, groundwater’s availability and quality are threatened by a number of factors including, climate change, overexploitation, pollution by natural and human elements, land degradation, etc. Among other factors that encourage climate change, tourism is a big contributor. With the increased degrees of heat due to carbon dioxide emissions, evaporation of groundwater is imminent. This prevents groundwater from getting replenished. With little to no groundwater, industries including tourism will have a hard time operating. Tourism is not only competing with other industries to use groundwater but also contributing to its depletion. Groundwater conservation is therefore important as it will ensure its availability and good quality is sustained.

Factors affecting availability and quality of groundwater

Groundwater makes up approximately 30.1% of the world’s freshwater. The use of groundwater by various industries causes stress on the resource. Some of the ways groundwater is used in the tourism industry include; growing food for guests and local communities, as a source to water basins such as lakes, wetlands, acting as a support to ecosystems that host wildlife; a tourism resource, supporting livelihoods, etc.

Here are some actions that improve groundwater conservation:

  1. Establishment of suitable policies and regulations to direct proper management and handling of groundwater.
  2. Proper enforcement of the groundwater management laws to instill the discipline of sustainable practice of groundwater procedures.
  3. Construction of effectively functioning drainage systems should be to direct waste and water to their appropriate management sites. This will minimize flooding, pollution of groundwater and improve its quality.
  4. Wetlands, flood meadows, and two-stage ditches should be created to reduce surface water runoff.
  5. More water treatment facilities should be developed. This will improve the sanitation level of the water that is released back to the environment.
  6. More research and monitoring of groundwater should be done. This will provide up-to-date data which is important in informing the right decisions.
  7. Sustainable water management plans should be developed and put to use in tourism facilities. The Ecotourism Kenya’s Eco-Rating Certification program includes an integrative plan that puts into practice responsible water management. Read here:

https://ecotourismkenya.org/blog/water-management-and-conservation-for-tourism-facilities/

  1. Any action that works on mitigating climate change, in the long run, works in the best interest of groundwater conservation.
  2. Increasing surface water supply reduces the demand for groundwater. This downs the drilling of more boreholes.

 

Good groundwater management is needed to achieve SDG target 6.6 to protect and restore water-related ecosystems, and SDG target 15.1 on the conservation of freshwater ecosystems and their services.

How else can we conserve groundwater? Let us know in the comments below.

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