A cave in Indonesia. Firman, CIFOR

Groundwater quality: measuring the invisible

Groundwater is a precious resource, but it must be used sustainably

Cape Town, South Africa, is highly reliant on groundwater for its rapidly growing population. But one of the main sources under the city, long in the spotlight for its dwindling water supplies, is at serious risk of being polluted.

Run-off from small-scale farms, landfills, cemeteries, factories and informal settlements risks leaching into the Cape Flats aquifer, which lies under much of Cape Town, found a recent study from the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

Cape Town isn’t the only major city struggling with groundwater contamination. Urban centres from Pakistan to the United States have in recent years seen pollution creep into important aquifers, potentially threatening water supplies for millions of people.

“Groundwater has always been critically important but not fully recognized in sustainable development policymaking,” says Leticia Carvalho, head of the Marine and Freshwater Branch of UNEP.

“Exploring, protecting and sustainably using groundwater aquifers, like other freshwater ecosystems, will be central to surviving and adapting to climate change, conserving ecosystems and meeting the needs of a growing population.”

World Water Day on 22 March is highlighting the hidden resource that stores 98 per cent of the world’s liquid freshwater – groundwater.

Continue reading the full story at UN Environment.

See also the International Decade for Action on Water for Sustainable Development, 2018-2028. UNEP is the United Nations Custodian Agency for Sustainable Development Goal indicator 6.6.1 on the protection and restoration of freshwater ecosystems. Learn more.

For more information, please contact Nina Raasakka: nina.raasakka@un.org or Lis Mullin Bernhardt: lis.bernhardt@un.org.

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