Groundwater Research in Africa

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Africa Groundwater Atlas >> Groundwater Research in Africa

 This page is still being developed. 

Please cite page as: Africa Groundwater Atlas. 2019. Groundwater research in Africa. British Geological Survey. Accessed [date you accessed the information]. Weblink.

A series of pages providing more information on key current and past groundwater research themes and projects in Africa.


The UK government supported UPGro research programme (2013-2019) funded the development of this Atlas, as well as a series of research projects aimed at Unlocking the Potential of Groundwater for the Poor. UPGro took a social and natural science approach to enabling sustainable use of groundwater for the benefit of the poor.

UPGro Phase 1 - Catalyst Projects[edit]

The first phase of the UPGro programme, from 2013 - 2015, was a series of short 'catalyst' projects investigating different aspects of how the use and understanding of groundwater in Africa interacts with with socio-economic conditions. You can read a summary of the results of these projects here: summary of UPGro catalyst projects in English / résumés des projets catalyseurs UPGro en Français).

UPGro Phase 2 - Consortium Projects[edit]

The second phase of the UPGro programme ran from 2015 - 2019 with five consortium projects taking forward detailed research on specific issues of groundwater relating to socio-economic conditions in Africa. These five projects were:

Gro for GooD[edit]

Gro for GooD: Groundwater risk management for growth and development. The project aimed to develop and test a Groundwater Risk Management Tool to help government and groundwater users balance the demands of human development and better health, economic growth and groundwater sustainability so that the poorest benefit. Research focussed on the questions:

  • How can risks to groundwater quality and quantity for drinking water security be identified and reduced?
  • How can groundwater governance be designed to balance growth and development?
  • What are the most significant and uncertain future scenarios affecting sustainable groundwater use for the poor?

The project focussed on the Kwale County area of southeast Kenya, where the poverty rate is high and there is intensive use of groundwater for urban water supply, sugar cane irrigation and mining. The research brought together rigorous analysis and modelling of environmental, social, economic and governance systems and processes. While sensitive to context of Kwale, the Groundwater Risk Management Tool was designed to be flexible so that it can be scaled-up across Kenya and can be adapted to other countries and contexts.


GroFutures: Groundwater Futures in Sub-Saharan Africa. The project aimed to develop a scientific basis and identify inclusive, participatory management processes by which groundwater resources can be used sustainably for poverty alleviation in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). The research focussed on:

  • Reducing uncertainty in the renewability and quantity of accessible groundwater to meet future demands for food, water and environmental services.
  • Promoting inclusion of poor people’s voices in decision-making processes on groundwater development pathways.
  • Intensified groundwater dependency as demand for food and water rises and variability in rainfall and river flow increases due to climate change.

The project established a Network of African Groundwater Observatories (NAGO) to promote collection, assimilation and use of long term groundwater data. The NAGO comprises three Basin Observatories in Ethiopia (Upper Awash), Niger and Nigeria (Iullemmeden), and Tanzania (Great Ruaha) and four smaller Site Observatories in Benin, Burkina Faso, South Africa and Uganda. The Observatories include dedicated, detailed groundwater, soil and hydrometeorological monitoring stations, and provide high quality, detailed groundwater data as well as allowing detailed site experiments to explore hydrogeological processes and groundwater resilience.


BRAVE (Building understanding of climate variability into planning of groundwater supplies from low storage aquifers in Africa), in Burkina Faso and Ghana.


T-GroUP: experimenting with practical transition groundwater management strategies for the urban poor in Sub Saharan Africa, in Ghana, Tanzania and Uganda.

Hidden Crisis[edit]

Hidden Crisis: unravelling current failures for future success in rural groundwater supply, in Ethiopia, Malawi and Uganda.

UPGro Outputs[edit]

Outputs from the UPGro research projects are summarised on the UPGro webpages. They include:

Explore all the published UPGro work using this interactive systems map.


Groundwater research projects by country[edit]

A series of pages describing specific, usually relatively large, groundwater projects in particular countries.

Note: these are not comprehensive lists of groundwater projects: there are many more. If you have information on other significant groundwater projects in these or other countries in Africa, please let us know and we will add them to these lists. Contact us on

Groundwater research projects on transboundary aquifers[edit]

Conjunctive Water Management for Food Security and Resilience[edit]

A knowledge sharing platform by IWMI, which seeks to capture and disseminate highlights of the increasing knowledge base emerging from work on transboundary river-aquifer systems in the SADC region. Most focus is on three systems:

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