Anti-Groundwater Extraction?

A few Friday’s ago, I saw an advertisement in the local dailies that I thought was ridiculous. I would have loved to share the image but I’ll just tell you about it. It was a drilling company that offered to end all ‘my water issues’ by drilling boreholes.

 

Let me start by saying that, my friend Po thinks that I’m anti-groundwater use but I completely disagree. What I am however is, anti-reckless-use-of-natural resources-whose-quantities-we-are-not-sure-of-and-lack-clear-means-and-methods-of-monitoring-their-extraction-and-use. A mouthful… I know…

Allow me to explain why with a background  from groundwater.org

Groundwater is found underground in the cracks and spaces in soil, sand and rock. It is stored in and moves slowly through geologic formations of soil, sand and rocks called aquifers.

Aquifers are typically made up of gravel, sand, sandstone, or fractured rock, like limestone. Water can move through these materials because they have large connected spaces that make them permeable. The speed at which groundwater flows depends on the size of the spaces in the soil or rock and how well the spaces are connected.

Groundwater can be found almost everywhere. The water table may be deep or shallow; and may rise or fall depending on many factors. Heavy rains or melting snow may cause the water table to rise, or heavy pumping of groundwater supplies may cause the water table to fall.

Groundwater supplies are replenished, or recharged, by rain and snow melt that seeps down into the cracks and crevices beneath the land’s surface. In some areas of the world, people face serious water shortages because groundwater is used faster than it is naturally replenished. In other areas groundwater is polluted by human activities.

 

Surface water on the other hand, is water that you can see such as lakes and streams. It is found above the earth’s surface.

So, instead of quickly turning to other options such as ground water and making it our main alternative, we need to keep the responsible authorities  on their toes for the proper management of the available surface water. Case in point, the river below…

20170122_123556

I don’t understand why it had all these watermelons during a drought.

See, when you have sufficient surface water. By that I mean, surface water of good quality and quantity, then there is barely need to extract groundwater. If you harvest rainwater in addition to the good quality surface water, then there’s no need to even think about groundwater.

Because, if we head in the groundwater direction and let our rivers turn into sewers, let the rainwater go to waste… we just may have research titles similar to the ones below in a few years…

Excessive Use of Groundwater Resources in Saudi Arabia: Impacts and Policy Options by Abdulla Ali Al-Ibrahim

or news articles such as

NASA Data Reveals Most Major Aquifers Depleting Faster Than They Recharge by Linnea Bennett

and

Beijing has fallen: China’s capital sinking by 11cm a year, satellite study warns

I understand that in some countries it is the only option. However, it is important that as the extraction is taking place, the amount being withdrawn is less or equal to the amount of groundwater recharge, for posterity.

Happy New Rant

It’s too early in the year to rant… but this is necessary…

GIPHY Originals annoyed sassy sigh hair flip

Nairobi residents have began the year with a term I haven’t officially heard for ages. “Water Rationing”. Last time the residents heard of this,was during the El Nino of 1998- 2000. During that period, Nairobi residents learnt to be prudent with all matters water by ensuring that they had water pumps for those who could afford it and enough storage containers  so that they were not left high and dry… see what I did there…:D , in the periods when there is no water. Prior to that first rationing, very few people knew what a water pump sounded like.

What fascinates me with the rationing however, is not the fact that we’ll have to wait until the wee hours of the morning to get a trickle of water into lucky vibuyu (jerrycans). Or the fact that there already was water rationing in most parts of the city  but it hadn’t been officially announced. These are some of the fascinating things that I have witnessed with my own four eyes *(counting my spectaculars).

1. On the first day of rationing, I saw a ‘clean water’ tanker outside.
2. In many neighbourhoods, especially the middle class, family homes have been brought down to make way for flats or apartments… tomato…tometo.
3. For the longest time the grass on the pavements leading to the city centre were watered, without fail, every morning just as the sun was coming up.
4. Nairobi is a hotspot for floods… not only because of its geology but also because of littering.
5. I heard that rainwater harvesting is illegal. I’m yet to find this legislation.

I have questions on each and every one of these:
1. Where do these ‘clean water’ tankers get their water from? Who has given these companies the go ahead to supply water to households? Has the quality of this water been tested? Why can’t the county buy water from these vendors and supply it to its people?

2. When family homes are being destroyed to pave way for flats, when whoever it is that gives permits for connection of their water lines and meters, do they ever do the math and put into consideration the carrying capacity of that land in relation to the resources available? For example… if this area is supplied daily with 1000m3 of water for 20 households with 5 individuals each. The math is spoiled (direct translation from Kiswahili) when they build flats which will now accommodate triple or quadruple the number of people with the same amount of water to the area. So when they give permits for such buildings to be put up, do they do the water math?

3. This one for watering the grass… Hmm… With the little agricultural knowledge that I have, watering of plants is done before dawn or after sunset to reduce the amount of evaporation. But that’s not even the issue here… why on earth are we watering grass when we have people who last saw water out of their taps more than two presidents ago?

the office eye roll over it stanley hudson leslie david baker

4. Ants and Squirrels. These little creatures often store when they have excess of anything. Food especially. This is done in preparation for periods of lack. Same concept did Joseph second to Pharaoh use in the Bible times. Read Genesis…Can you imagine how it would be like if all the flood water was harvested in preparation for drought? Then there would be a substitute to the  water available.

My ideas of sustainable solutions would include:
1. Rainwater harvesting
2. Adequate storage of water when we have surplus… i.e floods.
3. Data… Collect data and use it. We need numbers on who needs what, when and where… We need data on the amount of water we have available and the exact uses for this water.
4. Water Recycling… We need a system that recycles waste water for uses such as watering grass.

General good water governance is key. The country has sufficient water but if badly managed, the water available will be inadequate to quench its people’s thirst.