South Africa: Our Groundwater Is in Peril As Mismanagement of This Vital Resource Continues

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More than 700 global scientists, practitioners and experts in groundwater and related fields are calling for action to ensure sustainable climate adaptation and the protection of groundwater.

The drought in many parts of South Africa has brought the utilisation of groundwater resources to the forefront. Unfortunately, in many cases, the drought resulted in knee-jerk reactions, unsupervised borehole drilling, and operations leading to mismanagement of the resource. This mismanagement of groundwater threatens our drinking water, food production, critical ecosystems and climate change adaptation prospects, warns a statement signed by more than 700 scientists and experts from 83 countries.

The call to action, highlighted in Nature this week, cites recent scientific breakthroughs on groundwater's vital role in supporting rivers globally. It supplies more than 40% of the water used for the world's agricultural irrigation, drinking water to two billion people and it helps regions cope with worsening droughts. Millions of low-income smallholder farmers, in particular, rely on groundwater in arid and semi-arid areas and during times of drought, making it one of nature's best potential solutions to beat climate variability.

In South Africa, groundwater plays a strategic role in supplying unserved rural communities: 50 to 90% of communities are served with basic...

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