Groundwater is not entirely fossil, but resupplied every year (Science Daily)

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Sub-Saharan Water: Not Just Fossil Water

July 22, 2013 — The Sahara conceals large quantities of water stored at depth and inherited from ancient times. A recent study by the IRD and its partners has just shown that this groundwater is not entirely fossil, but resupplied every year. Using a method based on data obtained by satellite, scientists estimated the variations in the volume of water lying under the northern Sahara desert: the current rate of recharge is on average 1.4 km3 per year, for the period 2003-2010. This represents 40% of withdrawals, mainly for irrigation to support the oasis economy. The inputs therefore do not compensate for the withdrawals, but their existence means that these transboundary aquifers, the main water resource of semi-arid regions in Algeria and Tunisia, could be managed sustainably.

Non negligible recharge

Until recently, groundwater in the northern Sahara aquifer system was considered as “fossil,” i.e. non-renewable, similarly to coal or oil. Precipitation in the region seemed too low and evapotranspiration too high to recharge deep aquifers. But scientists have shown that, in reality, groundwater in the northern Sahara aquifer system, to give it its exact name, is still being fed today. Indeed, the recharging exists and has been quantified, as revealed in a study published in Geophysical Research Letters.



Inflorescence of Gerbera (Photo WVC)
Inflorescence of Gerbera (Photo WVC)

Author: Willem Van Cotthem

Honorary Professor of Botany, University of Ghent (Belgium). Scientific Consultant for Desertification and Sustainable Development.

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