Sussex Sustainability Research Programme


SSRP academic contributes to groundbreaking paper linking climate to the control of groundwater

Flooding in Tanzania (image courtesy of Gro Futures)

In a paper published today in Natureresearchers including Professor Martin Todd from Sussex Sustainability Research Programme (SSRP) have shown how countries in sub-Saharan Africa may be more resilient to climate change than previously thought after their study showed groundwater levels can be replenished surprisingly quickly.

Groundwater, water present beneath the Earth's surface, plays a central role in sustaining water supplies and livelihoods in sub-Saharan Africa due to its widespread availability, generally high quality, and intrinsic ability to buffer episodes of drought and increasing climate variability

The findings show, for the first time, how climate plays a dominant role in controlling how groundwater is restocked. The study highlights the need for improvements of climate models at both a local and large scale, which would improve assessments of water resources in sub-Saharan Africa

Professor Todd said: “With this improved understanding we are now in a position to develop much more reliable projections of the impact of climate change on groundwater, which has previously been over-simplified.”

Professor Joseph Alcamo, Director of SSRP said: “This paper shows the important knowledge academics can contribute towards the Sustainable Development Goals. 

 “Many people in the policy and science communities are hoping that the groundwater supply in Africa can be used to boost irrigation and help achieve Goal 2 (zero hunger), as well as provide the clean water for all promised in Goal 6, and help adapt to climate change, as spelled out in Goal 13. 

“In this paper Martin Todd and his other colleagues have provided the facts and figures we need to find out whether groundwater can indeed fulfil its promise.”

With climate change at the forefront of people’s minds, the paper has already had a big impact and been featured in The ConversationThe Telegraph and Nature comments.

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By: Fiona Hurd
Last updated: Thursday, 8 August 2019