With a massive drop in city’s groundwater levels, Holder says policies needed for effective management of water use

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Minister of Agriculture Noel Holder has said the recent groundwater test done in Georgetown indicates that the capital city’s groundwater levels have been falling in an unsustainable manner.

During an address on Wednesday afternoon on the grounds of the Hydromet office on Brickdam, Georgetown, Holder said testing done by the US army’s topography centre in 1993 put groundwater levels in and around the capital city at around 4.5m to 14m above ground.

But now, he said, those levels have dropped to more than 35m below ground level.

“The current situation is clearly unsustainable and there has to be a national discussion that leads to policies that allow us to effectively manage our groundwater resources and water resources in general.

“If we fail to take immediate and concrete actions to address this situation, we will be condemned by future generations,” Holder stated.

According to Holder, Guyana has three main aquifers, which cover an area of approximately 18,000 square kilometres, receiving an annual rainfall recharge of 2,500 mm.

Agriculture Minister Noel Holder

The Upper Sands aquifer was first drilled in 1781 but was abandoned in 1913 due to high salinity levels possibly as a result of over-abstraction and its connection to the Atlantic Ocean.

In 1913, the ‘A Sands’ was drilled and by 1956 there were more than 200 active wells with a yield of approximately 2,600 m3 per day.

Today, this aquifer continues to be the main source of groundwater along the coast and in 2013 the yield per day was estimated at almost 350,000 m3.

“Because of the coastal clays, our aquifers are recharged primarily by rainfall in the recharge area and not through our rivers (the coastal clays restrict the movement of water from the rivers into the aquifers).

“This, along with the high abstraction rates, has resulted in falling water levels in our coastal aquifers,” Holder stated.

Holder noted the importance of sustainable groundwater supply by stating that a large percentage of Guyanese benefit from sustainable water supply every day for various purposes.

“In Guyana, the majority of our people, that is 98.3%, are benefiting from improved drinking water quality however only 4.2% is to meet domestic needs and 1.4 is for industrial purposes.

“The largest use of freshwater in Guyana is for agricultural production which accounts 94.1% of Guyana total water withdrawal,” Holder stated.

The Minister noted that The Hydrometeorology office through the use of its new $83M water treatment facility will be mandated to manage and operate national systems to monitor the availability and quality and use of surface and groundwater.

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