A review of urban groundwater use and water quality challenges in Sub-Saharan Africa

Lapworth, D.J. ORCID:; Stuart, M.E.; Pedley, S.; Nkhuwa, D.C.W.; Tijani, M.N.. 2017 A review of urban groundwater use and water quality challenges in Sub-Saharan Africa. Nottingham, UK, British Geological Survey, 133pp. (OR/17/056) (Unpublished)

Before downloading, please read NORA policies.

Download (4MB) | Preview


Large parts of Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) are experiencing rapid urban population growth. Current projections estimate that by 2030 half the population of SSA will be living in urban areas, and if current trends persist half of these people will reside in slums. According to UN-Habitat, access to safe drinking water for slum dwellers is a major priority (UN-Habitat, 2003). Because of the lack of services, self-provision of water, using groundwater sources, is widespread in slums and is likely to increase as the urban centres expand, putting pressure on the quality and quantity of the groundwater resource. Over the last three decades there has been a concerted effort to increase access to improved water supply and sanitation across Africa. Within urban, and peri-urban, settings this has led to widespread development of groundwater resources for domestic water supply, mainly through growth in the private groundwater supply sector, and the proliferation of on-site sanitation, largely through the use of pit latrines. Due to the high population densities, latrines are often constructed in very close proximity to wells and springs used for drinking water, and can be a significant source of contamination. The lack of adequate management of household and industrial waste in many urban centres is also a growing concern. This has led to the groundwater resources being put under considerable stress in terms of water quality and in some cases water availability. The parallel deterioration of the water quality and availability in urban areas in SSA and increases in demand challenge the sustainability of the current situation. This has occurred over the last three decades for most urban centres in SSA (Foster et al., 1996). While there is not the very long historical legacy of urban pollution in many urban centres in SSA, in contrast with Europe and Asia for example, the problem of long term pollutant loading to groundwater is now becoming a reality. There is currently a limited evidence base of groundwater quality studies in urban centres across SSA with which to inform long term policy on the development of urban and peri-urban groundwater resources. This document provides an overview of urban and peri-urban drinking water and sanitation in SSA as well as urban groundwater development and degradation. The review draws on published and grey literature from across SSA and is both a useful entry point for researchers in this area and is a baseline reference work on the topic of urban groundwater quality in SSA. Detailed case studies from West Africa (Ibadan, Nigeria) and Southern Africa (Lusaka, Zambia) are included in this document. It provides: i) a detailed review of empirical studies assessing groundwater degradation (chemical and microbiological) in urban groundwater across SSA, ii) assesses urban groundwater quality issues in relation to groundwater vulnerability and hydrogeological controls, iii) identifies gaps in the current evidence base regarding groundwater quality and risks to groundwater pollution and human health in urban SSA.

Item Type: Publication - Report
Funders/Sponsors: British Geological Survey, NERC, Department for International Development (DfID), ESRC, University of Surrey, University of Ibadan, University of Zambia
Additional Information. Not used in RCUK Gateway to Research.: This item has been internally reviewed, but not externally peer-reviewed.
Additional Keywords: GroundwaterBGS, Groundwater, International development
Date made live: 16 Aug 2018 07:49 +0 (UTC)

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item

Document Downloads

Downloads for past 30 days

Downloads per month over past year

More statistics for this item...