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"Nile Basin countries are heavily dependent on ground water resources for domestic, industrial and in some areas livestock and even irrigation water supplies", said Mr. Jackson Twinomujuni, Commissioner in the Ministry of Water and Environment in Uganda and member of the Nile Technical Advisory Committee.

He was delivering opening remarks at the regional inception meeting for the preparation of the project on 'Enhancing conjunctive management of surface and groundwater resources in selected transboundary aquifers in the Nile Basin’, taking place in Entebbe from 12 – 13 December, 2018.

The 5.4 million dollar project is executed by the Nile Basin Initiative (NBI), with funding from the Global Environment Facility (GEF) through UNDP.

In a speech read for him at the opening ceremony, Mr. Thomas Ole-Kuyan, UNDP Resident Representative said, “UNDP recognises the role that groundwater plays in surface water systems including rivers, wetlands, lakes, which has not been adequately considered in most transboundary water management initiatives including the Nile Basin.”

While groundwater is an asset that can greatly contribute to climate resilience to droughts as a supplement to surface waters, it remains insufficiently understood.

The aim of the project therefore is to foster the more effective utilisation and protection of selected shared aquifers in the selected sub-basin in the Eastern Nile and the Nile Equatorial Lakes region through further improving the understanding of available groundwater resources and demonstrating ‘conjunctive management that optimises the joint use of surface and groundwater. The project will also aid the national achievements and reporting of water-related Sustainable Development Goals as well as support environmental protection whilst enhancing socio-economic development of the basin’s population.

Seven NBI Member States namely; Burundi, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Sudan, Uganda and Tanzania are participating in the two-day inception meeting to discuss and jointly agree on the final project, which should take into account the specific country challenges and result in benefits.
Anticipated benefits include mapping of aquifers and understanding of quantity and quality of water resources available to utilise, through conjunctive use and management, for sustainable socio-economic development and meeting ecosystem requirements; sub-basin and national climate change scenarios will be better defined through the knowledge on groundwater, to build-in resilience strategies to adapt to potential climate change and ensure sustainable use of groundwater use towards effective risk-reduction adaptation measures.

Other benefits are improved understanding of the interactions between surface and ground waters, including opportunities for artificial recharge by countries when surface water is abundant or to harvest runoff for recharge in arid and semi-arid regions. Participating countries will also be better equipped to achieve and report progress towards the sustainable Development Goals.