Adaptations to the dynamics of rural water supply from natural sources: A village example in semi-arid Nigeria

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Abstract

Domestic and agro-economic activities in the semi-arid region of Nigeria rely exclusively on rainfall, streamflow and groundwater in deep and alluvial (fadama) aquifers. Such water supply systems are subject to considerable seasonal and inter-annual variability. However, a combination of the various sources may mitigate the effects of water scarcity. This study describes the dynamics of the water sources for a village in northeastern Nigeria as an example that demonstrates the linkages between rainfall, streamflow and groundwater. Such linkages are important for developing strategies to mitigate the effects of climatic variation. Long-term records of rainfall were not available at the site so that the short-term data was interpreted in the context of the long-term climatic experience of the region. The stratigraphic profile of the aquifer was developed from resistivity methods, to supplement information obtained from well level hydrographs. Field observations and analysis of the data reveal that the beginning of the rainy season is a precarious period because none of the water sources are reliable. Rainfall infiltration recharges the shallow aquifers while lateral water flux from the floodwater-saturated fadama also contributes to water level rises in the deep wells. A study of the water level changes in response to deepening of the wells suggests that the wells are fed by an assortment of water-bearing lenses, separated by layers of low transmissivity. One major finding of this study is that there exists a close association between the wells in this riparian community and the recharge processes within the fadama. Upstream diversion, abstraction or impoundment could therefore undermine the viability of aquifer exploitation by the communities in the riparian zone. Analysis of the interactions among the various sources of water leads to the identification of several potential adaptation strategies for confronting the problem of water scarcity.