Transboundary aquifers

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

Transboundary aquifers (TBAs) are aquifers that underlie more than one country or political region. Management of TBA resources is therefore dependent on cooperation between countries and it is important that they are well understood to ensure they are exploited in a sustainable way.


As a United Nations Centre, the International Groundwater Resources Assessment Centre (IGRAC) is taking a global lead on assessing and providing information on transboundary aquifers, as part of the UNESCO International Hydrological Programme (UNESCO-IHP). There are many initiatives looking at various aspects of transboundary groundwater, including global baseline assessments and more detailed regional or aquifer assessments. Further information can be found on the Transboundary Groundwaters section of IGRAC's website.

As part of their work on transboundary aquifers, IGRAC have led the production and publication of a map of Transboundary Aquifers of the World (latest edition 2015), which can be seen in the IGRAC Transboundary aquifers online viewer. Based on this global map, they also produced a map of transboundary aquifers of Africa in 2015, which shows the location and extent of all known transboundary aquifers in Africa; and lists the aquifer names, the countries in which they are found, and the area they cover. The map of Africa is designed to encourage further research and assessment of these important water resources. It can be seen online in the IGRAC Transboundary aquifers online viewer and a pdf version of the Africa map can be downloaded.


The International Water Management Institute (IWMI), a part of CGIAR, developed a map and accompanying inventory of the presently known transboundary aquifers in Africa, in 2013. The map is based on several sources of available data and maps, including global maps by IGRAC and WHYMAP. It shows 80 aquifers or aquifer systems, superimposed on 63 international river or lake basins. The inventory accompanying the map very briefly describes the type of each transboundary aquifer, using inconsistent descriptions that include chronostratigraphic, lithological, rock type (sedimentary, igneous etc), consolidation status, and geological formation names (eg Nubian, Karoo). For each aquifer the inventory also lists the countries that share it, its area, the population living on it, the rainfall it receives annually, and the estimated annual recharge according to the WHYMAP Groundwater Resources Map of Africa. The map is available to download as a pdf file, and is described in detail in the report Transboundary Aquifer Mapping and Management in Africa (IWMI, 2014).

Selected projects on specific transboundary aquifers in Africa[edit]

Conjunctive Water Management for Food Security and Resilience[edit]

This overall project is 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 aquifer systems:

  • The ShireConWat project (Conjunctive Water Resources Management in the Shire River - Aquifer System). The Shire Aquifer and River Basin System is shared between Malawi and Mozambique. This was run by SADC-GMI as the client and IWMI as the consultant. Read a summary of the project - at this link you can also access draft versions of these project outputs: a transboundary diagnostic (TDA) to address the issue of system and resource assessment, and a strategic action plan (SAP) to develop the project's vision and prioritise actions to achieve it.

Niger Basin: Support in Groundwater Management to the Niger Basin Authority[edit]

This project, which finishes in 2022, is operated by BGR as part of the Integrated Water Resources Management ABN program of the German Development Cooperation, in partnership with the Niger Basin Authority. The project aims to implement measures for groundwater protection and sustainable use of groundwater in the Niger Basin Authority's IWRM (integrated water resources management) programme. Project activities include: The project activities include:

  • Collection and assessment of groundwater data and maps in the Niger basin to develop a groundwater database and form the basis for a hydrogeological map of the basin
  • Identification of transboundary regions with conflict-ridden groundwater problems
  • Support for measures to improve groundwater management in selected areas
  • Capacity building at all levels (education, training programs, know-how-transfer)

More information, and the download of project reports, maps and other outputs, is on the project website.

Lake Chad Basin: Groundwater Management[edit]

This project, which finishes in 2022, is a joint project between BGR and the Lake Chad Basin Commission, and is the second phase of an initial project Sustainable Water Management of Lake Chad Basin, which finished in 2011. This second phase has concentrated on the interaction between surface water and groundwater in the inundation plain of the Logone River, which extends from the Lake Chad in the north to the Mandara Mountains in the south of Cameroon.

More information, and the download of project reports, maps and other outputs, is on the project website.

Selected other publications[edit]

Scheumann W and Herrfahrdt-Pähle E (Eds.) 2008. Conceptualizing cooperation on Africa’s transboundary groundwater resources. German Development Institute (DIE), Bonn.

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