UPGro: Towards groundwater security in coastal East Africa

Groundwater Security in East Africa

This project, funded under the Unlocking the Potential of Groundwater research programme (UPGro)(NERC, DFID, ESRC), is a collaboration between Kenyatta University and Queen's University Belfast, along with project partners in the Comoros Islands, Tanzania, Kenya, France and the UK to evaluate the current status of coastal aquifers at target sites in East Africa.


Groundwater resources in the coastal zone of East Africa are at risk. Increased demand, linked to rapid population growth in the coastal margins, has led to unsustainable and ill-planned well drilling and abstraction. Sea water intrusion into formerly freshwater aquifers frequently occurs as recharge from rainfall is insufficient to support the rate at which water is extracted. Wells supplying domestic, industrial and agricultural needs have, in many areas, become too saline for use.

Climate change is expected to exacerbate this problem. Rising sea levels in the Indian Ocean region are projected to cause inundation of saltwater along the coastal zone, which is dominated by highly-permeable rock, while altered precipitation patterns and temperature change will affect the amount of water replenishing the aquifer through infiltration and recharge. Local communities across the region are already reporting changing tidal and rainfall patterns. The multiplicity of hydrological and demographic driving factors makes this a very challenging issue for management. 

At present the state of coastal aquifers in the EA region is not well constrained and past practices which may have exacerbated the problem have not been clearly identified. This project will bring together teams from Kenya, Tanzania and the Comoros Islands to address this knowledge gap; collaborating and working towards achieving water security in their respective areas.

An integrative approach, combining the expertise of hydrogeologists, hydrologists and social scientists, will target selected sites along the coastal zone in each country. Hydrogeologic observatories will be developed where focussed research will identify the current condition of the coastal aquifers and identify future threats based on projected demographic and climate change scenarios. Water supply and monitoring needs will be identified through consultations with end-users and local authorities and optimum strategies for addressing these sought.

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For further information please contact Dr Jean-Christophe Comte or Dr Rachel Cassidy, at Queen's University, Belfast or Prof. Joy Obando, at Kenyatta University

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