In a move anticipating future drier summers, Belgian water company De Watergroep is planning to store millions of litres of drinking water underground.
1. Water storage
De Watergroep had previously attempted underground water storage at a site in Diksmuide, West Flanders, but the project was not successful. Now, a new feasibility study has been initiated in Oudenaarde and Aalst, pointing at the possibility of storing hundreds of thousands of cubic metres of drinking water about 100 m below the surface.
The water would be injected in winter and then pumped back up in summer. “It’s a reserve for the summer,” said De Watergroep’s Meneral manager Hans Goossens, quoted by the Belga News Agency.
It has been estimated that, in Aalst, a site with a capacity of 150,000 to 200,000 cubic metres of drinking water, could offer a reserve of 150 to 200 million litres. This storage site alone could potentially meet the needs of 10,000 to 15,000 households during a drought period.
2. Global challenge
Water shortages are a significant challenge faced by many regions around the world, impacting both developed and developing countries. As demand for fresh water rises, the world is experiencing a widening water storage gap, with more water storage needed than is available in many places.
Earlier this year, scientists raised the alarm saying Europe is “on the verge of a catastrophe” as groundwater water reserves seem to be increasingly scarce.
Confirming the predicament, the study published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters reveals that severe drought is damaging natural habitats, affecting agriculture and creating major energy shortages. Climate change, among other key factors such as population growth and urbanization, groundwater depletion, etc. are driving water shortages across the globe. Climate change, in particular, is altering precipitation patterns and intensifying extreme weather events, leading to droughts in some areas and floods in others — a reality that is becoming the norm in Europe. Changing climatic conditions disrupt water availability, exacerbating water scarcity issues.
In addition, rapid population growth, along with increased urbanization, is leading to strained water resources. As more people concentrate in urban areas, the demand for water increases, putting pressure on existing supplies.
Last but not the least, over-pumping of groundwater beyond sustainable levels is leading to the depletion of underground aquifers, particularly in areas without access to surface water sources, resulting in long-term water shortages. In the 1960s, farmers in northern India began using groundwater to irrigate their fields. The practice prompted a Green Revolution in agriculture and turned India into a food-secure country. Six decades later, however, high usage of groundwater across the country is steadily depleting a precious resource for millions of Indians.
“Freshwater storage is at the heart of adapting to climate change, most obviously by saving water for drier times and reducing the impact of floods,” said Saroj Kumar Jha, the Global Director of the World Bank Group’s Water Global Practice.