The water of the aquifer is hot! Or at least, it is in the province of Entre Rios and especially around the city of Concordia, which was/is home of the one of the four pilot projects run in the framework of the Guarani Aquifer System. The project was funded by the World Bank and implemented by the OAS ( Organisation of American States) with the contribution of the International Atomic Agency (IAEA) and run through 2003-2009 (find it here). The aim was to provide a concise scientific overview of the advances in understanding of the Guarani Aquifer System. In Concordia (Argentina) and Salto (Uruguay), this was manifested as a study of the hydrogeothermal potential of the aquifer.
Thermal spas around the area have been mushrooming lately, the first well was dug in the nearby city of Federacion in 1994, then Concordia in 1998 and since then other 6 appeared. This is just on the Argentinian side – there are even more in Uruguay (Salto represents the main thermal tourism destination in the whole of South America!). The aim of the pilot project was to provide a foundation for a sustainable and efficient use of the Aquifer and prevent mismanagement in this respect, i.e., to defend the aquifer from exploitation and preserve its water quality. It is interesting, however, to find that actually the Guarani Aquifer can be a threat for other superficial water resources because of its water characteristics. In Concordia and Federacion the water is fresh, but in the other places, especially in Argentina, it contains salinity. There is no efficient system for the discharge of the effluents, and once the water is used it gets sent back to the River Uruguay as it is, without any kind of treatment. Salty water alters the flora and fauna of the river, and this means that the aquifer is actually contaminating the river!
Like many tourists, I was in Concordia over a bank holiday weekend. The spa there can serve a capacity of 1200 people but to do this must suck 350.000 litres of water per hour from under the ground. The water spills naturally – fed by the great resource of tourism. Here the Aquifer comes to the surface in a hot and troubled form. It is a form of luxury and profit, but it is also a source of development for the area. It is a everything that a commodity is and so much more.