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Scientists share data about northern aquifer

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by Heather Hauswirth

Guam - It's perhaps the world's most precious resource - scientists all over the world speculate that the wars of the future will no doubt have to do with water conflicts. With the impending military buildup upon us, the capacity of the northern aquifer on Guam is a burning question and the short answer is yes - we do have enough water to sustain the suspected population growth.

However, what's pressing is the issue of funding. The Water Environmental Research Institute's latest project is designed to illustrate the state of Guam's aquifer and what needs to be done before it's too late.

"The burning question on everyone's mind is do we have enough water to sustain economic growth on Guam? The short answer is yes we do."  But we have to act now - according to director of WERI Dr. Gary Denton, who says that the Institute has a ballpark figures of how much water is in the aquifer to date from its latest research throughout the island, and findings indicate that the island's infrastructure is strong enough to withstand the population increase, but serious upgrades are needed."

"Well, water can be shunted around and it is at the moment - that's conceivable, but not under our current infrastructure. We need serious upgrades," he said.

Last week stakeholders like USEPA, GWA, GPA, the CCU, lawmakers and USGS met with WERI to discuss the sustainability of the aquifer, defined as a body of rock or sediment capable of capturing, storing, transporting, and supplying quantities of water.  While Guam has ample supply of water on island, management is key.

And how much water can be retrieved from it without compromising it is the task at hand, as the aquifer is where 80% of the island's drinking water comes from. Dr. John Jemnson, professor of environmental geology says the computerized model his team has created about the internal structure of the aquifer provides the science WERI needs to make its case to stakeholders for funding.

Jenson's project provides the conceptual model or the roadmap for the aquifer. The database is meant for an interagency of GovGuam and DoD folks that will be working to make sure that the infrastructure is ready in time for the buildup and resulting increased demand that comes along with the influx of people coming to the island in the next few years.

Yet Dr. Denton admits that the way things stand now, the island is not ready as a whole and that aside from relatively untapped wells in the north where the military are at the moment - the Finegayan and Andersen sub-basins, which have only been used about a fifth of their capacity, the rest of the island is plagued with problems. Denton points out we are losing 50% of the water we pipe around the island from leaky pipes, waste water treatment plants tend to overflow and when there are typhoons that come through the island the power goes down, there's overflows from the aquifer.

Thus, with increased volumes for increased populations particularly, we need improvements and upgrades but at the end of the day, it's all about the money.

Said Denton, "We don't have time to go chasing grant money and building infrastructure in time to meet the increased population - we got to have help now. It's vital that the federal government comes to the party on this."

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