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Can Underground Water Storage Mitigate Cross-Basin Tensions?

As the earth’s surface grows hotter and precipitation becomes more variable due to the impacts of climate change, the world is in need of solutions to more effectively store water supplies. One potential solution is deceptively simple: store water in aquifers below the ground.

Unlike surface reservoirs, groundwater is shielded from the punishing rays of the sun. This means farmers, cities, and other water users can rely upon stored groundwater when water is in shortest supply at the surface. And since there are fewer and fewer ideal places to create new surface reservoirs around the world, “underground storage has a good future,” says Vladimir Smakhtin, theme leader on water availability and access at the International Water Management Institute (IWMI).

Dry Season Savoir

In addition to storing water more effectively than surface reservoirs, underground storage presents some intriguing possibilities to defuse seasonal water-related tensions between communities or even countries. Typically, monsoon rains and other heavy wet season weather events overwhelm river systems, causing disastrous flooding sometimes exacerbated by engineering projects along waterways and flood plains. Most of these excess waters are later lost as run-off to the ocean.

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