Monday, April 18, 2016

CSIR shifts attention to groundwater protection

By Edmund Smith-Asante
Mr Evans Manu

A Research Scientist at the Water Research Institute (WRI) of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), Mr Evans Manu, has stated that groundwater remains the only hope for Ghana for the provision of potable water for the population as most of the country’s surface waters have been polluted.

“Now as I speak, all the water bodies, especially the surface waters, are all gone. They are being polluted and the only hope that we have is the groundwater,” he said.

Mr Manu was speaking to the Daily Graphic after he had presented a proposal to conduct extensive research on the River Pra Basin at an ongoing in-house review seminar being organised by the CSIR.

Study of Pra Basin
He explained that the proposed study would look at the impact of human activities on the water resources, especially the groundwater resources in the Pra Basin, citing some of the activities as mine dewatering when open-cast mining was practised, mass cocoa spraying, the use of inorganic fertiliser on farms, and ‘galamsey’. 

“Water will definitely recharge groundwater aquifers; the ‘galamsey’ operations are destroying water bodies. Whatever affects the surface water also affects the groundwater so we want to know the chemistry between all these anthropogenic activities that are affecting our groundwater sources.”

According to Mr Manu, the research would employ a three-D model to know how much water Ghana had within the basin, how much was being abstracted, then draw the water budget.

Some of the participants at the training
He noted that the demand for water in the basin was so much, and that was why Obuobi et al. predicted that by 2020, the water resources in the basin would be scarce and that by 2050 the scarcity would upscale to absolute scarcity. 

Protection of country’s groundwater
He recommended that to protect the country’s groundwater sources, the best thing would be to look at current practices, especially fertiliser application and the nature of the rocks where they were applied, because if they were very soft and highly fractured “definitely there is the possibility of these chemicals getting into our groundwater.”

For his part, Dr Anthony Duah, a Research Scientist with the Groundwater Division, WRI, who presented the findings of a research conducted on the potential of groundwater in the Northern Region, said it was found that out of the 4,312 boreholes sunk between 1985 and 2012, only 1,099 were covered with proper water quality data.

Study of Northern Region groundwater
Dr Duah said what informed the research conducted from 2011, was the need to have adequate data on groundwater in the region to be able to give accurate information to guide the sinking of boreholes.  

The objective was to assess the availability, quantity, quality, suitability as well as the sustainability of groundwater resources for domestic water supply and industrial purposes. It was also meant to develop single-parameter groundwater use maps to show spatial distribution and variation of groundwater characteristics in the region.

Dr Duah said the findings included a high potential for the development of groundwater resources of the Northern Region in spite of the uneven distribution of the resource, and added that the average success rate of boreholes in the region was 60 per cent.

The research also showed that about 62.4 per cent of the population are served by the over 4,300 boreholes inventoried, which had an average depth of 49.7 metres instead of the ideal 100 metres or more.

“Research has shown that boreholes should have a depth of 80 to 100 metres. We recommend that at least you try 100 metres; sometimes you also go a little further.

“The boreholes generally have good quality and, therefore, suitable for domestic and other uses except for a few with high fluoride, iron, manganese and chloride in Gushiegu/Karaga, Savelugu/Nanton and Zabzugu,” Dr Duah noted. 

This story was first published by the Daily Graphic on April 9, 2016

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