Guarani Aquifer? What is it?

We will run out of water. Maybe not us, maybe not the kids, but we, as humans on planet earth, will run out of water. There is only a finite amount of fresh surface water on the planet and as our population continues to boom, bringing with it the need for food produced by intensive agriculture and the desire for goods produced by industry, we are reaching a tipping point. The question about whether water is a commodity or a universal human right will become more pertinent than ever. As for oil, we drill deeper and deeper for new water, and from under the ground fresh water spills out of aquifers. As Wiki says: “An aquifer is a wet underground layer of water-bearing permeable rock or unconsolidated materials (gravelsandsilt, or clay) from which groundwater can be usefully extracted using a water well.” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aquifer).

There is very big aquifer hidden under the ground of SouthAmerica, called the Guarani Aquifer. Named after the indigenous Guarani people, it is a vast underground source of freshwater spanning roughly 119,00,000 km2. It lies underneath Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, Paraguay. 24 million people live directly on top of the Aquifer and this is extended to 70 million if the cities in nearby proximity are included. The Guarani Aquifer contains  37,000km3 cubed of water and it has been claimed that it could supply the entire global population with the drinking water it needs for 200 years. Yet, despite its size and the potential of this water source, it has not received the attention it is due. Have YOU ever heard about it? I certainly hadn’t, up until a couple of months ago when it was brought to my attention and I decided to embark on this project.

The Guarani Aquifer - Map designed by Marko Perendija

In a landscape of increasing global scarcity and political conflict over water, the fact that it is a natural resource ‘owned’ by 4 sovereign nations who are signed up to various trade agreements, begins to indicate how complex the situation is in terms of legal structures and sustainable management systems. Although pollution has not reached critical levels, the four countries above the Aquifer are developing rapidly and will increasingly experience demand from private companies as well as public bodies to extract water from the Aquifer. It is a simple equation that for the aquifer to be maintained extraction can only occur at the same rate as replenishment, therefore it is necessary that an impactful debate about maintaining the sustainability of the Aquifer is entered into now. A management system needs to be implemented and serious questions efficiently addressed.

I will be travelling over the Argentinian part of the Guarani for the next month, starting a photographic documentary project about it. I will collect all my finds on-the-go in this blog. The Colours of Water:Guarani Aquifer is an ongoing open space and open source on the matter, it needs to be fed, read and spread.

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About annalisabrambilla

I am an italian photographer living and working in London. I took a MA in Photojournalism at Westminster University in 2009. My background is in humanities and sociology and this definitely influences my practice. I am interested in patters and typologies of human behaviour and how people inhabit the time and space in the way they do. The camera has both curiosity and memory, exposing the eye to places where it wouldn't usually go. This makes my work socially concerned and in fact I have undertaken a number of documentary-based projects, such as Don't Shoot The Messenger, The Underground, and assignments for the current affair italian magazine Left. View all posts by annalisabrambilla

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