Assessing groundwater salinity across Africa

Gurmessa, Seifu Kebede; MacAllister, Donald John ORCID:; White, Debbie; Ourdraog, Issoufou; Lapworth, Dan ORCID:; MacDonald, Alan ORCID: 2022 Assessing groundwater salinity across Africa. Science of The Total Environment, 828, 154283.

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In Africa groundwater is the principal source of drinking water ( and has significant potential to improve food production as a source of irrigation water. Although volumes of stored groundwater are high when compared to surface water, not all the available groundwater is suitable for irrigation. One of the principal factors that limit the development of groundwater is salinity, but quantitative evidence regarding the scale of salinization in Africa has been lacking. This paper presents an initial analysis of the extent of groundwater salinization in Africa, bringing together groundwater salinity data (n�=�12,255) from across the continent. In our dataset c.80 of the samples have electrical conductivity values less than 2000�μS/cm. Samples with high conductivity values of more than 2000�μS/cm are restricted to limited geological and climatic environments. The data reveals salinity does not affect the water security status of most countries in Africa. However, salinity compounds water insecurity issues in arid low groundwater recharge environments. The paper discusses the role of anthropogenic processes such as river valley water resources development, extensive groundwater pumping, inter-basin groundwater transfer, and irrigation in altering the salinity of groundwater bodies. The paper further elucidates the origin of groundwater salinity by critically reviewing the natural and human-induced factors that control the salinization of the various groundwater bodies across Africa. Existing case studies reveal several causes of salinization, including i) human-induced salinization, ii) climate and hydrological change-induced paleo groundwater salinity, iii) rock dissolution, and iv), saltwater encroachment.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
Additional Keywords: GroundwaterBGS, Groundwater
Date made live: 16 Mar 2022 10:59 +0 (UTC)

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