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Water and the Development of Africa

Past, Present, and Future

Kwadwo A. Sarfoh

This book examines Africa’s water resources from pre-historic times to the present, illustrating how Africans and their rulers formulated water management systems to support water-sector activities including irrigation, livestock raising, fishing, river transportation, industry, and the generation of hydropower so crucial to the continent’s socio-economic transformation of its communities.
The recent increasing demand for water by Africa’s growing population makes it clear that new water management strategies are necessary for the continent to benefit from sustained development. In the face of ongoing water shortages caused by reduced rainfall, frequent droughts, and global warming, new political and economic arrangements are essential to ensure cooperative use of available water resources. Kwadwo A. Sarfoh argues that such arrangements will inevitably bring peace to countries that share river basins.
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Chapter II Water Resources of Africa


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Chapter II

Water Resources of Africa

One of the most widespread substances in the natural environment, water is at the same time a precious resource with the potential to transform life by virtue of its impact on socio-economic conditions. Indeed, it is the availability of water that makes possible both domestic and productive activities; no human activity is feasible without it. In this sense, it can be said that the availability of water is critical to life itself.

It is important to remember that water exists in the natural environment in three distinct states: liquid, solid and invisible vapor. Liquid water is found on the earth’s surface—in oceans, seas, lakes, ponds, streams and rivers—and in the ground, where it is trapped as groundwater in the top layers of the earth’s crust. In its solid state, water takes the form of glacier ice and snow, both of which are confined to polar regions and areas of high altitude, while in its invisible vapor state, it exists as gaseous, vapor, water droplets and crystals. Although the balance of earth’s water remains constant, it is continuously moving, ever converting from liquid to solid to gaseous vapor in the hydrologic cycle phases depicted in Figure 1. ← 11 | 12 →

Figure 1. The Hydrological Cycle.

Compared to other continents, Africa’s share of the world’s total water resources in their various states is relatively small. According to recent studies, Africa’s...

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