Vast African Water Source Found

The underground water source is seen in blue.

Geologists have discovered a vast underground water source in Namibia that could turn the deserts of the driest country in sub-Saharan Africa green for centuries to come.

The aquifier, named Ohangwena II, flows between the border of Namibia and her neighbor to the north, Angola. On the Namibian side, it covers an area roughly 70 km by 40 km (43 miles by 25 miles), reports the BBC.

“The amount of stored water would equal the current supply of this area in northern Namibia for 400 years, which has about 40 percent of the nation’s population,” said Martin Quinger, from the German federal institute for geoscience and natural resources (BGR).

Currently, the 800,000 people living the region rely on a 40-year-old canal that brings water down from Angola. There are also two rivers in the area, but farming is strictly limited to locations close to them.

The discovery is part of a larger continent-wide breakthrough in finding underground water sources, the BBC also reports. Writing in the journal Environmental Research Letters, the scientists argue that subterranean aquifiers can provide up to 100 times more drinkable water than above-ground reservoirs.

Scientists have discovered vast stretches of underground drinkable water in Africa.

While the water is believed to be 10,000 years old, it is thought to be cleaner than most other water supplies.

“If the water [has spent] 10,000 years underground, it means it was recharged at a time when environmental pollution was not yet an issue, so on average it can be a lot better than water that infiltrates in cycles of months or years,” Quinger explained.

Pressure from inside the source makes extraction a cheap and easy process. But a smaller, salty water table sits above the drinkable aquifier, making extraction a dangerous prospect at the same time.

“If people don’t comply with our technical recommendations they might create a hydraulic shortcut between the two aquifers which might lead to the salty water from the upper one contaminating the deep one or vice versa,” Quinger said.

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