David Wunsch, the state geologist for Delaware and director of the Delaware Geological Survey, served as a special consultant for the U.S. State Department at the South Asia Groundwater Forum in Jaipur, India, June 1-3.
The meeting, hosted by the government of India, in partnership with the World Bank and the International Water Association, brought together regional government and non-government stakeholders and experts from water, agriculture, energy and environmental sectors.
Wunsch gave an invited presentation on how Delaware regulates groundwater withdrawals within the state, and how scientific data and maps from the Delaware Geologic Survey, a state agency based at UD and housed in the College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment (CEOE), helps advise the regulatory authorities on Delaware-specific groundwater issues.
The opportunity is part of a broader effort by the U.S. State Department and members of the U.S. Water Partnership to increase technical exchanges between scientists, academics and policymakers in order to address sustainable management of groundwater sources.
South Asia contains a vast treasure trove of groundwater, which historically has contributed to the region’s domestic water security, food security and industrial water supply, as well as to the rural livelihood of over a billion people.
But over the past 60 years, largely unplanned and unregulated groundwater development has resulted in declining water tables, contamination, land subsidence and saltwater intrusion in several parts of the region, which is comprised of Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.
During breakout sessions, Wunsch and other Western specialists provided individual assistance to specific countries. Wunsch advised water ministers from Sri Lanka on issues surrounding high fluoride [concentrations] in groundwater, an area of expertise during his career.
“It was an amazing opportunity to share the knowledge I have gained throughout my career,” said Wunsch, who is a founding member of the Federal Advisory Committee on Water Information’s Subcommittee on Ground Water, which is charged with developing a framework for monitoring the nation’s ground-water resources.