The Guarani Aquifer – Where these countries meet

There are several benefits of planting trees in the Republic of Paraguay, as we have established before. Some of the biggest advantages include low taxes, safety from earthquakes, and the immense freshwater resources available. The latter may just be the most important advantage. Paraguay’s underneath Guarani Aquifer is a god-sent gift to both the flora and the fauna of Paraguay.

The Guarani Aquifer

The higher the demand for wood, the more trees are felled. That’s why planting eucalyptus trees as an alternative to the wood from the rainforest is the perfect match. Eucalyptus trees are fast-growing plants. In fact, they grow up to 5 to 7 meters a year. The need for wood would be met by the rapid availability of eucalyptus wood, and the rainforest would remain undisturbed and continue to produce oxygen for the mass of people.

However, eucalyptus trees are attracted to the water. They need a lot of fluid to quench their thirst. But no worries; Paraguay is the right setting for these trees. Underneath Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, and Paraguay is the Guarani Aquifer, the second largest known aquifer system in the world. The largest known aquifer system in the world is the Ogallala, also known as the High Plains Aquifer, which underlies eight states of the Americas.

The Guarani Aquifer - Where these countries meet

The Guarani Aquifer – Source: Nathan Sodré Salvatierra

The Guarani Aquifer is named after the Guarani people, a group of indigenous peoples of South America. The name was chosen by the four countries to honor the natives. The aquifer covers 1,200,000 square kilometers and has a maximum depth of about 1,800 meters. With these measurements, the transboundary aquifer could supply fresh drinking water to the world for 200 years.

Of the total water supply, 80% is used for the public, 15% for industrial processes and 5% by geothermal spas. (Foster et al., 2009) These numbers are only a small fraction of the aquifer’s full capacity.

At closer inspection, if the world population were to stay at an equilibrium of about 6.96 billion, the aquifer could supply water to the world for 1600 years. One person would be able to receive a whopping 9 liters per day! But because environmentalists say fresh water is expected to receive a shortage in the next 20 years, this important natural resource needs to be controlled. The Guarani Aquifer, shared by the aforementioned Latin American countries, is managed by a South American trade bloc called Mercosur.

Mercosur – The Common Market of the South

Mercosur, officially the Common Market of the South, is South American’s leading trading bloc. It aims to achieve free movement of goods, capital, services, and people among its member states.

The regional integration was instituted initially by Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, and Uruguay in 1991. In later phases, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Suriname, Bolivia, Peru, and Chile joined as associate countries. Bolivia has been in process of incorporation as a full member since July 2015.

Mercosur+Candidate Countries (Orthographic Projection)

The original founders of Mercosur – Source: Wikimedia Commons / Heraldry

Mexico and New Zealand belong to the observer countries, meaning that these non-members are still able to participate in the organization’s activities – though the participation is limited.

Venezuela was once a full member but has been suspended since December 2016, due to non-compliance with the Mercosur’s regulations. The decision came from the presidents of Paraguay, Brazil, and Argentina, who have cited human rights violations to be one of the issues that led to Venezuela’s suspension. The country was reportedly not complying with the union’s requirements for full membership.

Some of the main objectives of Mercosur include commercial matters, tax and monetary policies relating to trade, land and sea transport, industrial and technology policies, agricultural policy, and energy policy.

The Iguazú Falls, the Paraná River, and other common grounds

Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, and Uruguay have more in common than Mercosur. On the borders of Argentina and Brazil lies a new member of the Seven Wonders of the World; the Iguazú Falls. Consisting of approximately 257 individual falls, it is 1,500 meters wide and falls from a lava cliff that has been formed 120 million years ago. No wonder it’s a wonder. Its river, the Iguazú River, flows into the Paraná River, another common ground these 4 countries share.

The Guarani Aquifer - Where these countries meet

The Iguazú Falls – Source: Pixabay / nanaoshin0

Running through Brazil, Paraguay, and Argentina, the Paraná River is located in South Central South America. With 4,880 kilometers it is second in length only to the Amazon River among South American rivers. The Paraná River splits into several arms, before emptying into the Atlantic Ocean.

The Iguazú and Paraná rivers, made possible by the Guarani Aquifer, converge at the tri-border area along the junction of Paraguay, Argentina, and Brazil. It is called the Triple Frontier and is near the Iguazú Falls and the Itaipú hydroelectric plant. The area has received negative remarks due to its lawless border. It has long served as a hub of organized crime and narcotics, weapons, and other contraband smuggling.

The Iguazú River

The Iguazú River (right) intersecting with the Paraná River (left) – Source: Phillip Capper

Whilst receiving negative reviews, the Paraná River has also been praised. Being the second in length among other South American rivers, it allows the construction of enormous hydroelectric dams. These have blocked its use as a shipping corridor to other cities. However, dams such as the Yacyretá Dam and the Itaipu Dam on the Paraguay border have made the small, largely undeveloped nation of Paraguay the world’s largest exporter of hydroelectric power. The river also forms a massive drainage basin encompassing much of the southcentral part of South America. Parts included are all of Paraguay, much of southern Brazil, northern Argentina, and the southeastern part of Bolivia.

The presidents of the three countries at the intersection signed the agreement enabling the construction of hydroelectric dams. They also discussed how to govern their shared waters. Their main objective was to develop instruments to manage and protect the Guarani Aquifer System. Indeed, these countries work exquisitely peaceful, showing the rest of the world how to cooperate without conflict.