This year’s tag line of the World Water Day points to the fact that, despite its size and importance, the vast amounts of water right below our feet are often overlooked and forgotten. As a society, we tend to overlook groundwater as a potential source of water for different purposes, and we also forget how fragile it is to contamination.
In low-income settings, the use groundwater is often limited by lack of resources (technology for drilling, energy for pumping, and supply chains to keep these systems operational). Nevertheless, several hundred million people across the globe have been providing water for themselves (“self-supply”), mostly from groundwater:
- In South Asia, Southeast Asia, and the Pacific, more than 760 million — or 31% of the population — rely on self-supply for drinking water.
- In Sub-Saharan Africa, 46 million rural and 125 million urban people rely on private groundwater sources, equivalent to 7% and 33% of the rural and urban population, respectively.
These people tapped into groundwater sources by their own means, usually without support from governments, donors, NGOs or development banks. For more than 1 billion people worldwide, self-supply is the best (and often the only) option to access water. With coordinated efforts and stronger support structures, many more may benefit.