Hydrogeology Journal

, Volume 14, Issue 8, pp 1483–1492 | Cite as

The changing role of hydrogeology in semi-arid southern and eastern Africa

  • N. S. Robins
  • J. Davies
  • J. L. Farr
  • R. C. Calow


Much of southern and eastern Africa is semi-arid and heavily groundwater dependent. Borehole drilling commenced over a hundred years ago with magnetic and electrical resistivity surveys for borehole siting being introduced from 1936. Formalised training of hydrogeologists led in the 1970s to an almost standard approach to hydrogeological investigation and a period of stability followed, during which some major investigations were carried out. A period of decentralisation and fragmentation has since taken place in many parts of southern and eastern Africa, and groundwater monitoring and management are inadequate in many countries. All but six of the 14 SADC (Southern African Development Community) member states reportedly have an adequate monitoring network in place. However, groundwater demand is increasing and hydrogeologists need to promote the use of appropriate methodologies as an essential part of tackling the severe issues now facing the water sector in the region.


Africa Groundwater development Drought Water supply General hydrogeology 


Le sud et l’est de l’Afrique sont essentiellement semi-arides, et grandement dépendant des eaux souterraines. Les opérations de forage ont débuté il y a plus d’un siècle, les premières campagnes magnétiques et de résistivité électrique pour l’implantation des forages datant de 1936. L'entraînement officialisé d'hydrogéologues a mené au cours des années 1970 à une approche presque standard à l'enquête hydrogéologique et à une période de stabilité suivie, pendant lequel quelques enquêtes importantes ont été réalisées. Une période de décentralisation et fragmentation s’est depuis installée dans plusieurs zones de l’Afrique orientale et australe, et la gestion et le suivi des eaux souterraines sont insuffisants dans de nombreux pays. Sur les quatorze pays membres de la Communauté de Développement de l’Afrique Australe (SADC), huit possèdent officiellement un réseau de suivi opérationnel suffisant. Cependant les besoins en eau souterraine sont en pleine augmentation, et les hydrogéologues se doivent de promouvoir l’utilisation de méthodologies appropriées comme un moyen de lutte essentiel contre les problèmes graves menaçant actuellement le secteur de l’eau dans la région.


Gran parte del sur y oriente de África es semi-árido y depende fuertemente del agua subterránea. La perforación de pozos empezó hace unos cien años con levantamientos de resistividad eléctrica y magnéticos para delimitación de pozos que se iniciaron en 1936. La formación formalizada de hidrogeólogos condujo en los años 1970 a un acercamiento casi estándar a la investigación hidrogeológica y un período de estabilidad seguida, durante que algunas investigaciones principales fueron realizadas. Desde entonces se ha registrado un periodo de descentralización y fragmentación en el sur y oriente de África, con una gestión y monitoreo inadecuado de aguas subterráneas en varios países. Seis de los catorce estados miembros de la SADC (Comunidad para el Desarrollo del Sur de África) han reportado contar con una red de monitoreo adecuada instalada. Sin embargo, se ha registrado un incremento en la demanda de agua subterránea y los hidrogeólogos necesitan promocionar el uso de metodologías apropiadas como parte esencial de atacar los problemas severos que enfrenta el sector hídrico de la región.



This report is published by permission of the Director, of the British Geological Survey. The authors are grateful to the reviewers for greatly improving the manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • N. S. Robins
    • 1
  • J. Davies
    • 1
  • J. L. Farr
    • 2
  • R. C. Calow
    • 1
  1. 1.British Geological SurveyWallingfordUK
  2. 2.Wellfield Consulting Services (Pty) LtdGaboroneBotswana

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