The 50th World Hydrogeological Congress, organized by the International Association of Hydrogeologists IAH, was held in Cape Town from September 18-22. Its slogan was “Groundwater: a matter of scale.” They discussed how groundwater can be used to provide water security for society and industry. The topic is particularly relevant on African soil, where up to one in three people have problems with access to drinking water.
Groundwater and the possibilities of its use in a crisis – the main theme of the 50th. IAH Congress
More than 500 scientists who deal with water resources in 53 countries on a daily basis gathered in the South African capital. They were not only hydrogeologists, but also ecologists, geologists, environmental engineers and sociologists. Target 50. The Congress of Hydrogeologists was to seek solutions for water management in the face of climate change, degradation of water resources and increasing urbanization. The solutions focused on how to use groundwater for socio-economic needs. Cape Town was not chosen at random – it was here that freshwater supplies in the water supply were almost completely depleted in 2017. Used properly, the groundwater helped prevent a humanitarian disaster.
Cape Town representative, Councilman Zahid Baroodien, in a statement said: “In our city, we have witnessed how sensibly managed groundwater can be a lifesaver in times of severe water security crisis”. They played a key role in stopping the disaster. Groundwater resources have proven to be a key reserve of drinking water for agriculture, industry and society at a time when uncertainty about the availability of surface water was great. Currently, groundwater accounts for 13 percent. South Africa’s entire water resources.
During the 50th. The IAH Congress of Hydrogeologists held five parallel thematic sessions, 11 special sessions were organized, and 120 papers were presented. The organizers made sure that the level of the conference was extremely high and covered many detailed topics. Research and development projects underway on the continent were showcased, and more solutions were sought to alleviate Africa’s water poverty.
Groundwater – voices of Polish specialists
The Congress of Hydrogeologists also included representatives from Poland. Employees of the National Geological Institute presented three papers. Specialists from Poznan and Gdansk also appeared. Dr. Anna Kuczynska presented a paper titled: “Critical zone science – a multidisciplinary, cross-scale science,” in which she presented the results of research conducted by her team on field quality control procedures during water sampling for analysis of PFAS compounds and pharmaceuticals.
Dr. Tatiana Solovey discussed the results of validating algorithms for assessing changes in water resources using satellite data from the GRACE gravity satellite.
Malgorzata Przychodzka, M.A., reported on the results of hydrodynamic studies performed in the border area between Poland and Ukraine. The presentation was designed to show how international cooperation can promote sustainable management of water resources at national borders.
The papers were the result of work carried out within the framework of the international EU-Waterres project, whose leader is the Polish Geological Institute-Public Research Institute (PIG-PIB). The participation of PIG-PIB representatives in the Congress was a valuable contribution to the exchange of international experience in hydrology and water resources management.
Worn-out infrastructure and lack of key investments – is groundwater the solution to the problem?
Africa is a continent facing severe drinking water shortages. The Cape Town Hydrological Congress stressed that groundwater is a key water resource and proper management is needed to ensure long-term global water security, especially in the face of changing climatic conditions, population growth and increasing urbanization.
The deputy minister of the Department of Economic Affairs. Water and Sanitation Minister David Mahlobo stressed that South Africa faces a huge challenge in securing an adequate water supply. The main problem is the water infrastructure, which has been neglected and unmaintained for years, and is becoming increasingly inefficient and sometimes even dangerous. Other African countries also face similar problems. Scientists estimate that faulty infrastructure leads to massive water losses of up to 45 percent. A major challenge is also the lack of planned investments to help supply water to a growing population, including as a result of population migration from the countryside to the cities. Groundwater can meet needs for years to come, but only if it is properly managed.
Council of Geoscience hydrogeologist Gladness Mohale said the current model for their use is unreliable. In most regions, groundwater is used when surface water runs out. They contribute to reducing the pressure exerted on the surface, so that water is not delivered. Climate change is a fact, and demand for water will increase – this model of groundwater use will become unreliable and unsustainable. The international exchange of experience and research is expected to help develop the most sustainable way to manage groundwater not only in South African conditions, but also around the world.