Water resource engineering (WRE) connects engineering hydrology and hydraulics with global, economic, environmental, and societal issues. Our student, Christine Smith, makes this connection here….

Kenya’s Giant Aquifer Highlights Groundwater’s Critical Role was an article that was published by National Geographic on October 2, 2013. This article focuses on the WRE issue of the supply of water specifically aquifers and how to find, access them, and the rate at which the water found there can be extracted. Recently there was a relatively large aquifer found in the Turkana region of Kenya which is an extremely arid region where most of the people are forced to lead nomadic lives, following sources of water, just to survive. You can imagine the tremendous impact locating an aquifer of roughly 250 billion cubic meters or 66 trillion gallons of water would have on this region. Nicholas Kulish from The New York Times wrote “malnutrition has been a growing problem among the Turkanan people, and a new supply of water could help head off conflicts”. Naturally people want to start tapping into the aquifer as soon as possible, but as they do so the sustainability of their actions needs to be considered. The issue of sustainability and consequential environmental impacts is a major concern for any aquifer, not only the one found in Kenya. The issue arises from the fact that in a large number of the known aquifers around the world are depleted of their water supply at a faster rate than it was able to be recharged. Walton addresses this sustainability dilemma in his article stating that “The rapid and largely uncontrolled expansion in groundwater exploitation generated major social and economic benefits, but more recently it is also encountering significant problems.” (Walton, 1964). Sustainability of our actions need to be more heavily considered specifically when it comes to aquifer use.

As the demand for water continues to rapidly increase so does the need for new sources of the needed water. This leads to the search for aquifers as one of the methods to try to meet the demand. To find these aquifers people are developing new methods and searching deeper within the earth. However the deeper an aquifer is located generally the longer the recharge time is. The general recharge rates of the world are found in Figure 1. One of the causes of this unsustainability is the fact that the technology has not be developed to accurately find the actual quantity of water is located in the aquifer. My personal opinion is that this is an important aspect and before we simply dip into our aquifer water supplies we need to ensure that we are giving the ground an adequate amount of time to recover and recharge or there will be consequence. This article failed to go into enough detail on what the impacts are environmentally, economically, etc. if we over exert the aquifer’s water supply.

Aquifer recharge rates for the planet

Aquifer recharge rates for the planet

This article and the issue of sustainable aquifers relates to the global issue of water demand and consumption. It effects where and how we meet the growing demand and the consequences that could result if not done suitably. Foster and Chilton write in their article Groundwater: The Processes and Global Significance of Aquifer Degradation that “in some cases current abstraction rate are not physically sustainable in the longer term, and in numerous others there have been varying degrees of aquifer degradation or environmental impact or both” (Foster and Chilton, 2003). This supports the fact that this extraction, when unsustainable, can be damaging to the environment. It is an economics issues as well since the demand of water is increasing which means a greater amount of money will be allocated to finding and treating water.

Work Cited

Basu Tanya. Kenya’s Giant Aquifer Highlights Groundwater’s Critical Role. National Geographic Web site. October 02,2013. Available at: http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2013/10/131002-kenya-aquifer-lotikipi-groundwater/. Accessed March 29,2014

Foster S.S.D. and Chilton P.J. Groundwater: the processes and global significance of aquifer degradation. November 05, 2003. Available at: http://www.jstor.org.esf.idm.oclc.org/stable/pdfplus/3558314.pdf?acceptTC=true&jpdConfirm=true. Accessed March 30,2014

Walton William C. Potential Yield of Aquifers and Ground Water Pumpage. February 1964. Available at: http://www.jstor.org.esf.idm.oclc.org/stable/pdfplus/41264136.pdf?acceptTC=true&jpdConfirm=true. Accessed March 30, 2014