Karen G. Villholth, a researcher at the CGIAR research programme on Water, Land and Ecosystems recently wrote an opinion piece on the role that groundwater can play in relieving drought. The article was first published on Thomas Reuters Foundation News.

As we move deeper into an era of climate unpredictability, pollution and resource scarcity, they increasingly have one thing in common: they are water-related. Access to groundwater is a vital part of feeding the world’s growing population. Around 44% of irrigated food production worldwide uses groundwater as a water source. Groundwater needs to be part of the solution for the growing scourge of drought.

We watch as Cape Town struggles with severe drought due to poorly aligned coping strategies. However, now, groundwater is coming into play to ameliorate the scarcity faced by residents. Politicians, governments, businesses, farmers and the public need to engage in this now. Groundwater cannot be governed solely by a top-down approach. We need our leaders – and society at large – to take seriously the governance of our degrading, but crucial ‘last frontier’ natural water resource.

However, imagine the fallout of a prolonged rainfall shortage in an area without groundwater. This is the recipe for mass migration of people, potential conflicts and far-reaching knock-on effects. We have already seen refugee and political hotspots enflamed by water crises in the Middle East. But we have barely encountered the tip of the iceberg. The rest of the iceberg is not frozen water, but depleted aquifers. This phenomenon is spreading across dry regions of the earth. Click here to read the full article. – Thomas Reuters Foundation News