Developing Groundwater Resources

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Africa Groundwater Atlas >> Resource pages >> Developing Groundwater Resources

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Developing Groundwater Resources

More information on techniques for the successful and sustainable development of groundwater resources, with particular focus on Africa.

What does groundwater development involve?

Developing groundwater for water supply can involve various different activities, depending on the hydrogeological environment, how much groundwater is needed and what it will be used for. It is usually also important to develop groundwater sources sustainably, so that the groundwater resource is protected and maintained for future supplies.

At its simplest, groundwater flowing naturally from a spring can be directly tapped with very little effort, although protecting that spring, so that the water doesn't become polluted, can be more difficult. In another simple example, where groundwater levels are shallow and the aquifer is easy to dig through (e.g. sand or gravel), hand dug wells can be quite easily constructed to allow groundwater to be abstracted - but again, protecting the groundwater in the well from pollution can be more difficult.

Where the aquifer and/or groundwater levels are deeper, or the aquifer can't be easily dug through by hand, developing groundwater resources is more complicated. It is likely to need some kind of mechanical drilling - either manual drilling, or using a drilling rig.

In areas where the aquifers are all permeable and productive, water boreholes can often be drilled just about anywhere. But in areas with low permeability and/or complex aquifers, or where there are groundwater quality issues, new boreholes and wells must be sited and designed carefully if they are to be successful. To do this, it's important to understand how groundwater exists and behaves in the area.


Resource pages on groundwater development techniques

- Groundwater source types
- Stages in a groundwater exploration programme
- Siting Boreholes
- Borehole Drilling
- Manual drilling

Borehole Testing:

- Assessing source yield
- Assessing water quality

Links to more information

Danert, K. 2015. Manual Drilling Compendium 2015. RWSN Publication 2015-2, Skat, St Gallen, Switzerland.

Danert, K. 2015. Chad’s Growing Manual Drilling Industry. , Skat Foundation, St Gallen, Switzerland.

MacDonald, A M, Davies, J, and Ó Dochartaigh, B É. 2001. Simple methods for assessing groundwater resources in low permeability areas of Africa. British Geological Survey Commissioned Report, CR/01/168N.

MacDonald, A M, Davies, J, Calow, R, and Chilton, J. 2005. Developing groundwater: a guide for rural water supply. ITDG Publishing, NERC 2005. This book is a comprehensive manual for how to develop groundwater for rural water supply, based on extensive experience in Africa. Each chapter of the book can be freely downloaded from the Practical Action Publishing website.

MacDonald, A M, and Calow, R C. 2009. Developing groundwater for secure rural water supplies in Africa. Desalination, 248 (1-3), 546-556. doi: 10.1016/j.desal.2008.05.100

World Health Organisation. 2011. Guidelines for drinking-water quality, 4th edition. ISBN: 978 92 4 154815 1


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