World Water Day promotes a particular facet of freshwater every year. The theme of World Water Day 2022 will be “Groundwater: Making the Invisible Visible.”
Every year, 22 March is designated as World Water Day to increase awareness about the importance of freshwater. In 1992, the UN Conference on Environment and Development advocated the creation of a worldwide day. The UN General Assembly recognised the first World Water Day in the following year.
About half of the earth’s drinking water comes from groundwater. In addition, about a third of water supplies for industries are derived from groundwater. People without clean water often turn to groundwater to solve climate change adaptation. However, most people ignore invisible groundwater, despite these impressive statistics.
In many parts of the world, over-extraction and pollution issues are regularly reported due to human activities and climate variability. Notwithstanding the significance and apparent risks, the province and existing trends of the world’s most enormous groundwater resources are still unidentified.
Water is the vital foundation of life. However, it is more than anything; water is essential to quench thirst or safeguard health. Water is also responsible for supplying jobs and sustaining social, economic, and human development.
Earlier, YUVA has organised a nationwide campaign on World Water Day to educate and inform Mauritians to preserve water by playing dry Holi.
Significant Issues That Were Addressed
- Climate Change – In addition to being the world’s largest distributed freshwater supply, groundwater facilitates human adaptability to global warming, climate change, and unpredictability. Unlike groundwaters, aquifers can buffer extreme disturbances and are more susceptible to extreme events. Aquifers become more relevant to food and water security as the availability of groundwater declines due to climate change.
- Groundwater in Settlements – Many South Asian and other cities have significant challenges due to groundwater depletion and soil subsidence due to continual development, global warming, and water shortages. These challenges rely mainly on groundwater. Major cities need to cut pumping rates and balance by collecting urban rains, shifting rural to urban water, recharging aquifers with wastewater, shifting rural to urban water, and other similar techniques.
- Economics – Large international companies use groundwater extensively in their production processes worldwide. Global investors must therefore share the costs of groundwater. Investors and asset managers would be motivated to engage (along with public relations and regulations) by understanding groundwater value, leading eventually to a reduction of investment risk.
- Catastrophes, Disputes, and Human Rights – Aquifers can provide drinking water after a catastrophic event, such as a tsunami. Those who provide relief to displaced communities (following natural disasters or conflict) must know whether groundwater is available for the water supply. Furthermore, groundwater is a feasible option where clean drinking water is inaccessible.
- Sanitation, Health, and Pollution – World health officials continue to be concerned about water-related diseases. The primary strategy to reduce water-related infections is to improve personal hygiene, groundwater quality, and sanitation. Groundwater could be contaminated through farming, sanitation, dumps and cleaning services, industry and mining, transportation, and chemical reactions. Frequent groundwater surveillance, vulnerability analysis, safety from the juncture and disperse pollution, and air pollution control are appropriate steps in maintaining and enhancing groundwater quality.
- Groundwater and Environment – Aquatic (waterways, lakes, and rivers collecting groundwater), subterranean (karstic caverns in limestone formations), and terrestrial ecosystems (with phreatophyte plants, whether deep-rooted in arid zones or shallow-rooted in alluvial settings) rely on groundwater. Groundwater is, therefore, an essential component of any ecosystem-based adaptation and nature-based measure.
- Leadership, Water Law, and Transnational Water – Groundwater is a shared asset. It is commonly used individually, irrespective of the broader impact on the aquifer since neither usage nor effect is directly visible. It becomes significantly challenging once aquifers exceed national or state borders. Consequently, aquifers would need to be managed through a framework of shared effort and involvement, the availability of data and integrity, as well as a legal system. Otherwise, mining and polluting of groundwater would persist.
- Food and Energy Nexus – The vast majority of groundwater extracted for agriculture is farming. Groundwater overuse increasingly contributes to global food production. Food production and supply, including groundwater pumping, account for about a quarter of international energy use. As a possible source and a drain for warmth, shallow aquifers could serve a much more critical role in generating sustainable geothermal power.
How Can We Step Up Our Efforts?
It remains very challenging to show that invisible groundwater exists. It is crucial to increase our efforts in this area:
- An improved understanding of groundwater resources, particularly their conditions and variations, is needed.
- Enhance the sharing of knowledge and information: the impact of humans and global climate change on groundwater resources do not cease at institutional boundaries.
- Employ modern, dynamic management information systems as an institutional framework for global cooperation.
- Promote the myriad benefits of groundwater through tailored techniques and instruments like online platforms for a large audience.
It is vital to monitor, interpret/assess, and build confidence to manage any resource effectively. The international community must pay attention to these tasks when the resource is invisible, such as groundwater.
We cannot measure what we cannot manage – so we need to use groundwater carefully and sustainably. It needs to be explored, monitored, and analysed thoroughly. Though invisible, its impact is visible everywhere.
Groundwater is crucial to drinking water, food production, and even sanitation. Like climate change, it crosses borders. In a changing world, we should work together to enhance the way we manage trans-border groundwater resources.
Payal Mathur, YUVA Intern and PhD Research Scholar, Amity University, Rajasthan, India