Just some thoughts on a sunny Wednesday in Corvallis...
Yesterday I was chatting with the groundwatergeek herself - Maria Gibson - about the Kenya aquifer discovery (more on that and 'irrational exuberance' later). We were trying to recall the firm that was credited with making the discovery. I opined that it might be Robert Bisson's firm, the 'megawatershed man'; turns out it was Radar Technologies International (RTI).
But that started me thinking: what's up with megawatersheds? Over four years ago I took Bisson to task for putting a new name on a old idea and claiming credit for a concept that had been around for quite some time. See my post, 'Megawatersheds: New or Déjà Vu?'
Here is what Bisson said in the Megawatershed Wikipedia entry (since removed, just a month after my post):
Coined by groundwater pioneer Robert A. Bisson, the term "Megawatershed" describes deep-seated subsurface aquifer systems that may consist of gravel, fracture-hosted bedrock, and/or sedimentary structures, which are integrated in terms of recharge, storage, transmissivity, and containment. They may not coincide with surface topographic divides and may receive recharge from parts of several surface drainage basins including massive amounts of mountain block recharge. "Megawatershed" is a conceptual model, or paradigm, that describes this new class of groundwater domain [emboldening mine].
I also took him to task for this diagram, which appeared in the now-removed Wikipedia entry:
If you want to see my complaint about this erroneous diagram, read my blog post. I told Maria that if one of my introductory groundwater sudents had drawn this, he/she would have failed.
By the way Bisson's firm, EarthWater Global, also had its Wikipedia page removed and its name changed to EarthWater Technologies. The figure above has been removed and replaced with something more conventional, but not novel:
2) Kenya Aquifers
Ah, yes, Kenya quifers! They will provide a 70-year supply for the country. That's what a radio talk-show host told me a few days ago. I didn't correct her.A story from the New York Times was more circumspect, although a quote from a Kenyan minister initially bordered on what I call 'irrational exuberance' (apologies to Alan Greenspan), but then he nicely qualified it:
This newly found wealth of water opens a door to a more prosperous future for the people of Turkana and the nation as a whole. We must now work to further explore these resources responsibly and safeguard them for future generations.
The RTI firm has a nice description on its WWW site and states that the aquifers' reserves are about 250 BCM (billion cubic meters) with an annual recharge rate of 3.4 BCM. A lot of water, for sure.
Before we celebrate it is important to remember these points:
1) The amount of water in reserve is not necessarily the amount of water that can be withdrawn from the aquifer(s). The available water is less than the total amount of water in storage. Can you extract all the oil or gas in a hydrocarbon reservoir? Nope. The same holds for groundwater. Issues of sustainability are important, too.
2) The quality of the water is important and, to my knowledge, has not been determined. Quality determines use.
3) More test drilling ('ground-truthing') must be done.
4) Development of the aquifer and its response to development are extremely important. This can be done only after the aquifer's hydraulic parameters, initial head distribution and boundary/initial conditions are determined/estimated and a quantitative groundwater model constructed and operated.
5) Don't forget the tenets of IWRM (Integrated Water Resources Management)!
Here is a very good article by Tanya Basu on the National Geographic WWW site. It has a little more realism.
Seventy-year supply of good quality water? Maybe. We don't know. But the time for 'irrational exuberance' is not now.
3) 1001 (or 1000) Wells for Darfur
I am not going to beat up on Dr. Farouk El-Baz for this project; I did that last March. But I do want to mention that the students at Boston University raised $10,000 for the first well. Took what - five years? Only 1,000 more wells to go.
The curmudgeon rests - for now.
"Why is it like this here?" - Fundamental Question of Geography