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World Water Day: Addressing Global Groundwater Depletion

  • By Veronica Nzue
  • April 2, 2024

As the world marked World Water Day, a recent study shed light on the alarming rate of groundwater depletion across the globe. The study revealed that groundwater levels had been rapidly declining, with rates of decline accelerating in recent decades, leading to a depletion of 20 inches or more per year in some areas.

Groundwater serves as the primary water source for countless homes, farms, industries, and cities worldwide. According to the World Bank, it provided approximately half of the world’s population with drinking water and supported nearly half of all water used for crop irrigation. Moreover, it played a crucial role in sustaining rivers, lakes, and wetlands during periods of drought.

The study underscored that while various factors influenced groundwater levels, such as geology, climate, and land use, a significant drop in groundwater levels often indicated that extraction exceeded natural replenishment rates.

In Kenya, for example, urban population growth intensified the strain on groundwater resources. Victor Ndiege, Kenya Climate Ventures CEO, highlighted the escalating demand for groundwater in Nairobi, the capital city. Since the mid-1970s, groundwater abstraction in Nairobi had surged tenfold, mirroring the pace of urban population growth. Consequently, groundwater levels beneath Nairobi had plummeted at an alarming rate, with a median decline of six meters per decade since 1950.

The depletion of groundwater resources in Kenya was a pressing concern, with projections indicating a six-fold increase in depletion rates by 2120 if current trends persisted. Notably, areas like the Nairobi suburbs of Karen and Parklands, as well as Timau in Meru County, had experienced severe groundwater depletion due to population growth and agricultural activities.

The consequences of groundwater depletion are far-reaching, encompassing increased energy costs, water quality deterioration, and land subsidence. Furthermore, over-reliance on boreholes for irrigation exacerbated the depletion of aquifers, as highlighted by a World Bank study indicating that boreholes now supplied 43 percent of the world’s irrigation water.

“Effective water management practices stand as our crucial shield against the looming threats of water depletion. KCV’s engagement in collaborative endeavors underscores the shared responsibility in financing sustainable water extraction and utilization towards a water-secure future,” says Ndiege.

Addressing groundwater depletion required concerted efforts and comprehensive strategies. Victor Ndiege, our CEO, emphasized the need for sustainable water management practices to mitigate the complex factors contributing to groundwater depletion. Effective management, he asserted, was crucial in safeguarding water resources for future generations.

As World Water Day was commemorated under the theme “Leveraging Water for Peace,” it was imperative to recognize the urgency of addressing global groundwater depletion. Through collaborative initiatives and innovative solutions, efforts could be made towards ensuring water security and fostering peace and sustainability worldwide.