Ethiopia: Government plans to supply groundwater to citizens (Trust)

| March 17, 2014

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Ethiopia’s Ministry of Water and Energy is hoping to supply almost all households with drinkable water by the end of 2015. But it will need new water supplies to meet that goal.

In response, the country is planning to tap into underground water reserves to alleviate the shortages faced by many of its 90 million residents. The government is exploring this as yet untapped resource in response to the changing climate.

While African’s largest aquifers in North Africa are not being recharged, studies show that rainfall is recharging Ethiopia’s groundwater.

The Ministry has yet to fully assess Ethiopia’s groundwater potential. It is currently undertaking a survey, hoping to map a quarter of its underground reserves by 2015.

Seifu Kebede is the head of the School of Earth Sciences at Addis Ababa University. He believes the benefits of groundwater are clear. Mr. Kebede says: “If there were no rainwater in Ethiopia for eight consecutive years … our groundwater [could] …sustain us through that period, and this can act as a climate buffer.”

Groundwater can be depleted through overuse, but can outlast surface water sources. Aquifers are less exposed and therefore more resilient to extreme weather such as drought.

Groundwater can also be more quickly exploited. Mr. Kebede says a conventional dam takes five to six years to construct, including finding the right location and the financing. Finding groundwater by drilling is much quicker, although the initial cost is often high.

Mr. Kebede continues: “We live in an age of ever expanding cities and population centres. The use of centralized water systems is becoming obsolete, leading to the need for [decentralization]. Groundwater provides [this].”

Using groundwater could also ease the perennial tensions between Ethiopia and the two other countries which rely on the flow of the River Nile: Egypt and Sudan.

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