In the framework of UNESCO-led WHYMAP programme, leading hydrogeological institutions are developing regional basic hydrogeological as well as various thematic & advocacy maps for the ECOWAS region in support of regional groundwater policy and management.
A hydrogeological map is the main outcome of hydrogeological characterisation and the basic for any further groundwater-related activity. At local level, the map provides information that can be directly used in groundwater development, for example for abstraction well- or landfill sitting. At regional level, hydrogeological maps make up a part of basis info required for policy development: relevant pieces of information from various sectors are combined to determine and/or adjust policy, usually at the country level. Since groundwater, alike many other natural systems (e.g. wetlands) and processes (e.g. rain), do not stop at administrative borders, common policy - and hence hydrogeological map - is required at the regional level as well. Regional hydrogeological map is prepared by compiling national maps, as already done in Europe, in the Southern Africa (SADC) region and some other parts of the world.
At the WHYMAP meeting in Paris in May 2019, an initiative was taken to compile hydrogeological map for the ECOWAS region in Africa. In meantime, a preparatory work has been done by BGR and BGRM and BGS and further discussed at the meeting held in April 2020 on-line.
Subsequently, the initiative was presented to the representatives of ECOWAS and AMCOW Secretariat in a separate on-line session. The initiative was well received and first cooperation steps agreed. Development of ECOWAS regional hydrogeological map will primarily consist of compilation and harmonisation of national maps, requiring coordination with national geological services.
Beside a regional hydrogeological map, an intention is to develop thematic and advocacy maps. For these maps, an additional info is needed, either derived from the hydrogeological characterisation (e.g. storage properties) or from other aspects of groundwater assessment (social, economic, environmental, policy, etc) to estimate values of e.g. groundwater productivity, dependency on groundwater, groundwater risk and similar. Representatives of ECOWAS and AMCOW expressed interest primarily in a groundwater potential map and the groundwater monitoring/level map. IGRAC will be involved in particular in development of the groundwater potential map; besides, IGRAC will (together with BGR and EAWAG) investigate possibilities of creating other thematic and/or advocacy maps for the ECOWAS Region. While supporting groundwater management and policy at the regional levels, these maps are also a framework for any further groundwater-related activity at the local level, including water supply, environmental protection, socio-economic development etc.