Belize is experiencing rising sea levels and increasing frequency and intensity of tropical storms due to climate change. This affects both groundwater quantity and quality, as it causes flooding in coastal agricultural areas and groundwater salinization. Fifty-six percent of the population lives in rural areas and relies on groundwater for agriculture and drinking water. However, the existing aquifers and their annual recharge rate have not been quantified. Given that the management of groundwater resources requires specialized knowledge, and in order to combat climate change and increase the resilience of these communities, quality assessment of water resources and capacity building are needed.
Since the 1980s, the National Hydrological Service (NHS) has been responsible for hydrological and water resources information. The NHS conducted an assessment on prior work of water wells in the northern part of the country and reported low availability of information on water quality, aquifer properties, rainfall and evapotranspiration. The agency also expressed an interest in helping draft a Climate Change Adaptation Technology Factsheet on groundwater resource monitoring for the northern districts to use as a basis for a Drought Early Warning System, and are leading the process for building an inventory of existing data on groundwater with the objective of identifying and streamlining information that is available but scattered among different agencies and institutions.
The CTCN will support the design of a groundwater quality monitoring system and identify risks to the supply of water for diverse groundwater users in Belize. In order to identify activities to address the situation, an analysis of groundwater offer and demand in a prioritized region will be conducted, followed by the design of the water availability assessment including water quality monitoring, and finally an analysis of political and technical instruments used at national and regional levels for planning, management, and quality monitoring of water resources.
The technical assistance will provide a preliminary assessment of the groundwater situation and the vulnerability of the groundwater sources, guides and training materials, and a concept note for monitoring programme implementation. Capacity building will enhance the skills of people living in rural areas on water management governance, and improve clean water access. Improved control of water contamination will also positively impact biodiversity, human health, and the water quality of beaches and coastal ecosystems, including mangroves, seagrass beds, and coral reefs.
The assistance will contribute to the achievement of Belize’s updated 2021 Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) target to “enhance the protection of water catchment (including groundwater resources) areas and make improvements to the management and maintenance of existing water supply systems through implementation of the National Water Sector Adaptation Strategy and Action Plan.”