TEWAII LAMAN

Curacao

Laman means ocean in Papiamento, the national language of Curacao. 

Fresh water is one of the world’s most valuable resources, yet it is becoming increasingly scarce, especially in decentralized regions such as islands. An increasing amount of island states have been experiencing the depletion and pollution of their water resources, to which the Caribbean island of Curacao is no exception.


Curacao is a semi-arid Lesser Antilles island country located in the Southern Caribbean sea. Over the years, climate change, over-extraction and pollution have been putting pressure on the islands’ water system, of which groundwater is an essential component. Due to the relatively high costs of tap water, groundwater is actively used for domestic and agricultural purposes through a network of industrial and unregistered household wells that tap into the subsurface waters. Together with climate change, over-extraction is causing Curacao’s subsurface aquatic system to become increasingly saline due to seawater intrusion. Salinization should be avoided at all cost, as it has many undesirable and irreversible consequences, among which the degradation of the quality of the water supply and soil. Coastal salinization in Curacao was already observed in a hydrogeochemical groundwater research conducted in the 1992 by Louws et al. (1997), yet no other similar research has been conducted since, leaving the continuation of this process to the imagination. Besides seawater intrusion, island aquifers are also under threat from pollution originating from agricultural, chemical and human waste. 

 
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Although groundwater can be naturally recharged and diluted by rainwater, the natural recharge system of the Caribbean islands’ is put under scrutiny by a changing climate. Not only is there more extensive drought, there is also a rise in variable weather. The variety, both more intense rainfall and increased drought, can be an even greater management challenge than scarcity by itself, as both excess and shortage need to managed, instead of one or the other, and they must be managed under greater uncertainty. Both extremes play a role in aquifer depletion: drought directly inhibits groundwater’s natural recharge mechanism, whereas more intense rainfall and changes in land use patterns increase localized run-off, leading to both reduced recharge and flooding.


The effects of groundwater pollution extend beyond terrestrial challenges and water supply. On semi-arid Caribbean islands pollutants can enter the marine environment through subsurface groundwater flow, potentially harming the island’s marine life. Another threat to the marine environment is the abovementioned intense rainfall, experienced in wet season, as the caused run-off can transport pollution overland towards the ocean. Furthermore, Curacao will continue to experience a population growth that the competition for land and water will stress both the quantity and quality of available water resources.


In order to be well-adapt against the challenges of decreased fresh water availability and aquifer depletion, high-quality data is necessary, yet Curacao lacks a baseline dataset. The last thorough geohydrochemical assessment of Curacao’s groundwater system was conducted in 1992, where 96 deep-wells were visited and assessed for their quality. The broad objective of the Tewaii Laman research is to revisit and re-assess these wells, so that a comparative assessment can be made that covers several decades. Understanding the dynamics of water quality variability and pollution trends in Curacao will be a much-needed initial step towards the avoidance of the manifold consequences that can arise from poor or inadequate water management. Enabling better water resources management will strengthen the island’s resilience to natural and anthropogenic hazards and climate challenges, whilst building up the capacity to better adapt.