International Awareness of Groundwater and Equal Access

If groundwater was depleted and all we had was contaminated surface water, then our hope for a more satisfactory and equitable life is bleak.

Recently I was invited to speak at the World Water Day events by two organizations, Thought for Food and the Westchester Chapter of the United Nations Association together with Tau Omega Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. At both events, I spoke about the importance of heightened intentional awareness of groundwater and addressing the lack of equal access to water as these two go hand-in-hand.

It is factual that access to clean drinking water is also key to a healthy life, however, that access is not always assured and not always equal.

While water is essential for life, it is often taken for granted. As with anything, nothing is guaranteed. However, when it comes to having access to clean water to maintain a healthy life, this is something I instantly think should “ALWAYS” be available to “ALL” not just some, but ALL.

Recently, I learned about the Power and Privilege Wheel at the Vital Voices Leadership Journey Cohort. Implementing this wheel developed by a Canadian entity, you undoubtedly get to see the inequitable distribution. I learned that this is a tool global leaders can all find useful to start challenging the notions that say “equal access” is not achievable. And we can tailor this to my own experiences. We need a shift in the mindset.

Equal access to clean water is achievable. We need to Explore, Protect, and Sustainably use groundwater.

Oftentimes, the poorest and most marginalized communities stand to lose the most when it comes to access to water. Yet, what we should be exposing and educating people about groundwater in sub-Saharan Africa is largely underused and most people don’t even know that there’s so much water underground that could sustain us for years.

According to new research by WaterAid and the British Geological Survey, there is enough groundwater under the continent of Africa for most countries to survive at least five years of drought – and for some, more than 50 years.

The report goes on to say that groundwater, which exists almost everywhere underground, could save hundreds of thousands of lives and be the world’s insurance policy against climate change.

So, I think we need the right controls to access this water properly without damaging the environment. Using my organization JB Dondolo as an example, we can use a Scientific Approach to work with science and technology institutions to collect samples, test for quality, detect reservoirs and collect geological data. This provides information to us on whether to dig and how deep to dig, restore reservoirs, or install sustainable above-ground water systems.

Implementing monitors and sensors to check for the quality of water over time and collect data in real-time can encourage us to be proactive and respond faster to any problems before they occur, so we can protect groundwater to ensure its availability to all.

If groundwater is properly regulated, managed, protected, and treated from pollution like toxic chemicals, and contaminants including poor sanitation, then we have the assurance that everyone can have equitable access to clean water.

The report by WaterAid also explains that while groundwater in sub-Saharan Africa is largely underused, in other parts of the world – mainly in south Asia – it is overused. This, along with a lack of regulation and insufficient expertise and investment often leads to mismanagement, contamination, and pollution.