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Sep 6, 2023

A First Step to Groundwater Management in Belize

Today at the Biltmore Plaza in Belize City, stakeholders gathered for a final consultation session, looking at how to design a groundwater monitoring system for the country. It is being done through support from the UN Climate Technology Centre and Network, through which Belize was able to get expert advice on implementation. And as we found out, while there is a budget for the project, it is not nearly enough to cover the entire country. News Five’s Duane Moody reports.


Duane Moody, Reporting

Globally, groundwater is the most treasured resource because of the nuances that go along with replenishment and usage.  It is water that exists underground in saturated zones beneath the land surface. It is used primarily in remote traditional communities that do not have access to surface water. While groundwater is the source for rivers and streams, indigenous peoples, as well as those in the agricultural sector, access this water source through wells. But how much is there? Chief Climate Change Officer Doctor Lennox Gladden says that it is a good first step because Belize does not know the abundance of groundwater it has.


Lennox Gladden

Dr. Lennox Gladden, Chief Climate Change Officer, NCCO

“For some time, or for a very long time, we’ve always made this clime that we have this abundance source of water, especially groundwater. But to a certain extent, we have not truly quantify it and the only way we can quantify it is putting such a system in place because at the end of the day, it is really to benefit the end user – be it the community, be it the various sectors.”


There are over ten thousand wells spread across the country and is a source of groundwater that is being tapped into. But what is the impact that it is having on our waterways and how can we access that data to inform policy? It’s a concern for the Government of Belize that is prioritizing water management.


Tenielle Hendy

Tenielle Hendy, Principal Hydrologist, National Hydrological Service

“Within the government, we have focused mainly on surface water because farmers need water for their farms; that’s how hydrology was compiled or put together. So we have more than thirty years experience in surface water management, but over that term, we notice that there has been a shift from using primarily surface water resources to groundwater resources. So to put it into context, we have over ten thousand drilled wells. In the last three months in 2022, I surveyed the Corozal, Orange Walk and partial Belize Districts and that was just three hundred wells that I found.”


…and so, it is believed that the accessing of groundwater in the north is among the factors affecting the New River. It is something that Principal Hydrologist Tenielle Hendy says they want to further explore.


Tenielle Hendy

“What’s feeding into the state of the New River? And part of that is groundwater management because our groundwater gives the streams life. If you have a reduction in groundwater, you will see your rivers slowly start to dry up. Much of what we are seeing in the United States and other parts of the countries where you see the dramatic lowering of their river levels and the groundwater gives the rivers those base flows. So we are now looking and putting the parts together and saying we need to pay more attention to groundwater. One of the issues that we find is that you can find water, but not into the volumes and the quality that is required for us to use it for domestic purposes. There has to be some treatment. Particularly in the north, that groundwater aquifer is shared with Mexico, so we are competing. Belize is a basin so we get what is left from them. So we have to be proactive in our management.”


Putting in the monitoring network in the New River watershed is a start and compliments the Green Climate Fund readiness project that also looks at installing a monitoring system for the Rio Hondo watershed. Water management is an issue that is exacerbated by climate change. The National Climate Change Office is the national designated entity for the UN Climate Technology Centre and Network.


Dr. Lennox Gladden

“We already see some of the impacts of climate change when it comes to our water resources and so we want to ensure that this is a first step in an adaptive measure to reduce or mitigate some of the impacts that definitely we are going to face in the medium to long term. They want to look at it on a national scale but at this juncture, the funds being provided is only for a subset of the country, per say. There is a finance mechanism and then the technology mechanism. This initiative is being covered under the operational arm of the technological mechanism.”


Currently, there is access to approximately three hundred thousand U.S. dollars for one monitoring system. Through partnership, it is expected that additional budget can be sourced to include the entire country. Duane Moody for News Five.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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