Understanding process controls on groundwater recharge variability across Africa through recharge landscapes

West, Charles; Rosolem, Rafael; MacDonald, Alan M. ORCID:; Cuthbert, Mark O.; Wagener, Thorsten. 2022 Understanding process controls on groundwater recharge variability across Africa through recharge landscapes. Journal of Hydrology, 612, 127967.

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Groundwater is critical in supporting current and future reliable water supply throughout Africa. Although continental maps of groundwater storage and recharge have been developed, we currently lack a clear understanding on how the controls on groundwater recharge vary across the entire continent. Reviewing the existing literature, we synthesize information on reported groundwater recharge controls in Africa. We find that 15 out of 22 of these controls can be characterised using global datasets. We develop 11 descriptors of climatic, topographic, vegetation, soil and geologic properties using global datasets, to characterise groundwater recharge controls in Africa. These descriptors cluster Africa into 15 Recharge Landscape Units for which we expect recharge controls to be similar. Over 80% of the continents land area is organized by just nine of these units. We also find that aggregating the Units by similarity into four broader Recharge Landscapes (Desert, Dryland, Wet tropical and Wet tropical forest) provides a suitable level of landscape organisation to explain differences in ground-based long-term mean annual recharge and recharge ratio (annual recharge / annual precipitation) estimates. Furthermore, wetter Recharge Landscapes are more efficient in converting rainfall to recharge than drier Recharge Landscapes as well as having higher annual recharge rates. In Dryland Recharge Landscapes, we found that annual recharge rates largely varied according to mean annual precipitation, whereas recharge ratio estimates increase with increasing monthly variability in P-PET. However, we were unable to explain why ground-based estimates of recharge signatures vary across other Recharge Landscapes, in which there are fewer ground-based recharge estimates, using global datasets alone. Even in dryland regions, there is still considerable unexplained variability in the estimates of annual recharge and recharge ratio, stressing the limitations of global datasets for investigating ground-based information.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
ISSN: 00221694
Additional Keywords: GroundwaterBGS, Groundwater
Date made live: 20 Jun 2022 14:38 +0 (UTC)

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