Flipping Book | Africa's Giants | Salini Impregilo Library

The most common image of Africa is that of a continent plagued by a chronic lack of water, a constant drought situation that significantly hinders economic development. The lack of water, and to a greater extent the lack of drinking water, leads to a lack of sanitation and health care services, with dramatic repercussions. Yet the paradox is that this is not actually the case. In fact, just the opposite is true: the African subsoil is very rich in water. The hard part is extraction and proper distribution. A study conducted by the British Geological Survey, specialised scientific agency, and by University College London analysed the total amount of groundwater in the African subsoil. According to the study, published by Environmental Research Letters, the continent’s underground water resources are 100 times greater than the amount found on the surface. This statement is quite a serious one, as the use of these reserves could change the lives of a large portion of the over 300 million Africans without access to safe drinking water. Moreover, it could allow, in particular, the irrigation of additional arable land over and above the mere 5 percent currently irrigated properly. Rivers and lakes, which are present in abundance, are subject to seasonal floods and droughts that reduce their availability for water procurement, making it difficult to use them on a regular and ongoing basis. And that’s not all. According to the survey, this scenario will likely worsen in the future. There are two main reasons for this: population growth and the need to irrigate increasingly large plots of agricultural land. The contradiction is that Africa has underground reservoirs rich in this resource, aptly referred to as blue gold. Just like gold, water is a precious resource, perhaps the most precious, to be used without waste. This is also because it is a source of wealth that is essential not only for life, but for economic development as well, as the availability of water resources means irrigation, agriculture and breeding, as well as better hygiene and health, more energy and, therefore, higher growth. Estimates indicate over half a million cubic kilometres of potable water reserves in the subsoil, a veritable treasure. More specifically, the figures indicate a spread of between 0.36 and 1.76 million cubic kilometres. A significant portion of the reserves are in the northern part of the continent, in countries like Libya, Niger, Chad and Sudan. Vast basins that have settled over thousands of years and are shown in the hydro-geological maps provided by the African countries themselves, as well as by studies and research on aquifers. Nature, therefore, has not been as harsh as we once believed, but major rationalisation work is required. And Italian companies have the necessary expertise to stay in the forefront, as they have already contributed to creating major infrastructures and improving the quality of life and of the environment. The problem is how to organise the rational use of resources, starting with water, eliminating waste and optimising on every opportunity. It is a scenario filled with contradictions: in zones like the Horn of Africa, people are dying from lack of water, while other territories are submerged by floods, drowning out any plans for development. Postcards from Africa depict arid zones, deserts, and savannahs that limit the presence of water to a few puddles around which the animals gather to drink.