Rechargeable groundwater discovered

Space age technology has brought about a quantum leap in geological theory, making it possible to develop vast stores of rechargeable groundwater in water-scarce regions.

Space age technology has brought about a quantum leap in geological theory, making it possible to develop vast stores of rechargeable groundwater in water-scarce regions.

Clean water supply doesn't require "rocket science" to reach most of the 1.2 billion people around the world who desperately need it. Space age technology, however, can help locate new water resources in locations previously determined insufficient using traditional models and methods, according to Robert Bisson, chief executive officer of Earthwater Technology International.

The distribution of clean drinking water should not be as difficult to achieve in many countries, as it seems. Pumps, pipelines, water wells, treatment plants, storage tanks and other water supply equipment and services are all available at low, medium and high costs. Reducing leakage rates of 30% to 50% in urban water distribution systems and implementing conservation policies could increase drinking water supplies tremendously. Most difficult to generate, however, is the political will and financial support of government leaders to back up their promises to extend coverage of basic water and sanitation services. These key factors would go a long way towards increasing coverage worldwide.

Yet water scarcity is a problem. Many countries are experiencing recurring droughts or are running short on water resources to supply growing populations and expanding economies. Alternative strategies such as desalination and wastewater reuse are providing additional industrial and municipal water supply not only in the Middle East, but also in Asia, Australia, Europe, and the Americas.

But what about groundwater? "Ten times more fresh water than previously calculated may be in active groundwater circulation under drought-plagued cities and villages across America, Asia and Africa," contends Bisson in his book Modern Groundwater Exploration, which he co-authored with Jay H. Lehr, the senior scientist at Environmental Education Enterprises. Highly recommended for anyone interested or involved in water resource development, this book presents a promising new method - the megawatershed paradigm - to help exploration geologists discover and develop vast stores of groundwater, especially useful for water-scarce nations. Megawatersheds are referred to as "sub-surface groundwater systems that are integrated in terms of recharge, discharge, storage, transmissivity and containment." John Wiley & Sons, Inc. published the book in July 2004 (www.wiley.com).

Numerous editorial contributions from notable experts, including Alexander Raymond Love, founding executive director, for the Partnership to Cut Hunger and Poverty in Africa; Ewan W. Anderson, Emeritus Professor of Geopolitics, University of Durham; and groundwater experts, such as Dr. Roland Hoag and Dr. Farouq Ahmed, make this book well worth a careful reading. Various perspectives on the new approach provide valuable insight into its policy implications, including historical, global, and its impact on developing countries progress in improving health, food production and coping with drought.

Co-authors Bisson and Lehr support their thesis by drawing upon experiences and technical data collected from work conducted within the past 20 years in Somalia, Sudan and Trinidad and Tobago (Cover story on page 11), which contributed to the development of the method. The book also explains how space age technology has sparked a quantum leap in geological theory, making it possible to measure and access vast stores of rechargeable groundwater. The megawatershed paradigm's use of modern tools moves this approach beyond the traditional, still prevailing, "fossil" groundwater model that does not recognise active recharge to vast groundwater systems, such as the major Nubian Sandstone system in North Africa.

Satellite imagery, remote sensing, geographic information systems' data integration and analysis, and advances in geophysical interpretive methods, enable scientists to discover new information about Earth's crust and the internal dynamics of its fluids, such as oil and water. Specifically, geologists have recently begun using accepted tectonic models and satellite imagery to map tectonically-induced crustal fracturing for recovering deep groundwater. These techniques were first used to recover more profitable resources, such as oil, gas and minerals.

Since water is now considered by many as an economic commodity, Bisson contends that groundwater should be classified as an "economic mineral and be investigated with the space age exploration tools that revolutionised the minerals industry over the past 40 years."

In Afghanistan, tunnel systems up to 20 miles long deep into the mountains represent the incredible efforts dedicated to finding clean water. The heavily faulted and fractured mountainous physiography, says Alexander Love, and high-elevation snow pack and precipitation also indicate that this region is highly likely to contain substantial groundwater resources. Discussions are underway to begin a countrywide megawatershed assessment. Stay tuned...

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