World Water Day: Groundwater-making the invisible visible by Mary Oluwatosin Afolabi



World Water Day is held annually on 22nd March as a means of focusing attention on the importance of freshwater and advocating for the sustainable management of freshwater resources.

World Water Day celebrates water and raises awareness to people living without access to safe water. The day is also set aside as an opportunity to learn more about water related issues and also taking action in tackling global water crisis.

The World Water Day was first formally proposed in Agenda 22 of the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro. In December 1992, the United Nations General Assembly adopted resolution A/RES/47/193 by which 22nd March of each year was declared World Day for Water. In 1993, the first World Water Day was observed.

This year's theme Groundwater-Making The Invisible Visible. Water is the driving force in nature. It is the lifeblood of humanity. There is no life without water. Life is water. It is more than just essential to quench thirst or protect health but water is vital for supporting economic, social and human development.

This year's theme draws attention to the hidden water resource that has always been critically important but not fully recognized in sustainable development. Groundwater is invisible, but its impact is visible everywhere. Out of sight, under our feet, groundwater is hidden treasure that enriches our lives. Almost all of the liquid freshwater in the world is groundwater.

Groundwater is a vital water supply for humanity. It is a vital resource that provides almost half of all drinking water worldwide, about 40% of water for irrigated agriculture and about 1/3 of water required for industry. Groundwater sustains ecosystems, maintains the baseflows of rivers and prevent land subsidence and seawater intrusion.

The importance of groundwater cannot be over emphasized. It serves many purposes. It helps grow our food. According to research, 64% of groundwater is used for irrigation to grow crops.

Secondly, groundwater serves as a source of recharge for rivers, lakes and wetlands especially through drier months when there is little direct input from rainfall. Also, it supplies water to wells and springs.

Thirdly, groundwater is an important source of freshwater for areas that do not have access to other sources of freshwater, such as areas that are experiencing droughts.

However, groundwater in Nigeria is widely used for domestic, agricultural, and industrial supplies. The Joint Monitoring Programme for Water Supply and Sanitation estimate that in 2018, 60% of the total population were dependent on groundwater point sources for their main drinking water source: 73% in rural areas and 45% in urban areas.

The cities of Calabar and Port Harcourt are totally dependent on groundwater for their water supply.

In 2013, there were around 65,000 boreholes in Nigeria extracting an estimated 6,340,000 m3/day. The majority of these (almost 45,000) were equipped with hand pumps and used for water supply in rural areas and small towns.

Estimates of total renewable groundwater resources in Nigeria are variable. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates that Nigeria has 87,000 Million m3/year of renewable groundwater resources.

Groundwater put a spotlight on the invisible resources and enhance knowledge.

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