Researchers Promise Desert Watersheds

BENEATH the parched, dry Egyptian desert, massive treasures exist: more groundwater than anyone thought possible. In Egypt's Western Desert alone there may flow enough water to develop 200,000 acres of land for 200 years. In fact, over twice the water thought to exist underground throughout the world.

If true, this breakthrough, presented by Farouk al-Baz during the African water summit in Cairo last week, offers substantial solutions to the shortage of mankind's most essential resource.

``We are at the threshold of a whole new approach to utilizing groundwater in the continent of Africa,'' says Dr. Baz, director of Boston University's Center for Remote Sensing. ``I think in the next 10 years we will see a revolution in water use that will eliminate the problems between countries of shared water basins, improve the economy, and provide a whole new resource for the people of Africa.''

With satellite photography, Baz and his team contend they can identify areas where groundwater is most likely located, reducing costs of the tried and true method of arbitrary testing by one-tenth.

Beyond the earth's surface, Baz says, mega-watersheds exist, created by fractures in underground rocks that allow for the storage and flow of huge amounts of water.

The only drawback: These reserves are finite, an important aspect to remember when using them to develop arable land or to build residential communities.

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