Hydrogeology of Swaziland

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Africa Groundwater Atlas >> Hydrogeology by country >> Hydrogeology of Swaziland

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The earliest known inhabitants of present-day Swaziland were Khoisan hunter gatherers, before Bantu people migrated into the area, possibly from the 4th century AD. Swazi people migrated in the 18th century, forming the present day kingdom in the mid-19th century. The ruling monarch granted land concessions to many Europeans in the late 19th century. From the late 19th century South Africa and later Britain held power, and Swaziland was influenced by tensions between British and Boers over the area of present-day South Africa. Under King Sobhuza, who was crowned in 1921, British colonial rule and the influence of South Africa gradually weakened, and Swaziland became fully independent in 1968. Following independence, the King continued to rule as an absolute monarch, with no democratic political parties. The country was relatively stable and saw gradual economic development. Civil protests in the 1990s were followed by reforms and the first elections under a new constitution in 2008. There has been further civil pressure for more reform since.

The economy is fairly diverse, with agriculture, forestry, mining, services and manufacturing – particularly textiles – all contributing. The economy is closely linked to that of South Africa. The livelihoods of most of the population depend on subsistence smallholder arable and livestock farming, while large-scale commercial farming of crops such as sugar and citrus fruit generate export income. Remittances from South Africa, especially from the mining sector, are also important to the livelihoods of much of the population. Since the 1980s there has been little economic growth, related to various factors including government spending, reduction in tax receipts, reductions in textile exports to international markets, and the effect of HIV-AIDS – Swaziland has the highest HIV-AIDS infection rate in the world.

Swaziland has relatively abundant water resources, with relatively high rainfall in upland areas, and a number of permanent rivers, with many major dams used for irrigation, hydroelectricity and tourism. There are no major aquifers, but groundwater is widely used for domestic water supplies, especially in drier areas.


Dr Kirsty Upton and Brighid Ó Dochartaigh, British Geological Survey, UK

Dr Imogen Bellwood-Howard, Institute of Development Studies, UK

Please cite this page as: Upton, Ó Dochartaigh and Bellwood-Howard, 2018.

Bibliographic reference: Upton K, Ó Dochartaigh BÉ and Bellwood-Howard, I. 2018. Africa Groundwater Atlas: Hydrogeology of Swaziland. British Geological Survey. Accessed [date you accessed the information]. http://earthwise.bgs.ac.uk/index.php/Hydrogeology_of_Swaziland

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Geographical Setting

Swaziland. Map developed from USGS GTOPOPO30; GADM global administrative areas; and UN Revision of World Urbanization Prospects. For more information on the map development and datasets see the geography resource page.


Capital city Lomamba (royal / legislative); Mbabane (administrative)
Region Southern Africa
Border countries Mozambique, South Africa
Total surface area* 17,360 km2 (1,736,000 ha)
Total population (2015)* 1,286,900
Rural population (2015)* 1,013,000 (79%)
Urban population (2015)* 273,900 (21%)
UN Human Development Index (HDI) [highest = 1] (2014)* 0.5306

* Source: FAO Aquastat


Koppen Geiger Climate ZonesAverage Annual PrecipitationAverage Temperature

Average monthly precipitation for Swaziland showing minimum and maximum (light blue), 25th and 75th percentile (blue), and median (dark blue) rainfall Average monthly temperature for Swaziland showing minimum and maximum (orange), 25th and 75th percentile (red), and median (black) temperature Quarterly precipitation over the period 1950-2012 Monthly precipitation (blue) over the period 2000-2012 compared with the long term monthly average (red)

More information on average rainfall and temperature for each of the climate zones in Swaziland can be seen at the Swaziland climate page.

These maps and graphs were developed from the CRU TS 3.21 dataset produced by the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia, UK. For more information see the climate resource page.

Surface water

major surface water features of Swaziland. Map developed from World Wildlife Fund HydroSHEDS; Digital Chart of the World drainage; and FAO Inland Water Bodies. For more information on the map development and datasets see the surface water resource page.


Soil Map of Swaziland, from the European Commission Joint Research Centre: European Soil Portal. For more information on the map see the soil resource page.

Land cover

Land Cover Map of Swaziland, from the European Space Agency GlobCover 2.3, 2009. For more information on the map see the land cover resource page.


The geology map shows a simplified overview of the geology at a national scale (see the Geology resource page for more details). More information is available in the report UN (1989) (see References section, below).

Geology of Swaziland at 1:5 million scale. Developed from USGS map (Persits et al. 2002). For more information on the map development and datasets see the geology resource page.


The hydrogeology map below shows a simplified overview of the type and productivity of the main aquifers at a national scale (see the Hydrogeology map resource page for more details).

More information on the hydrogeology of Swaziland is available in the report United Nations (1989) (see References section, below).

Swaziland is also covered by the SADC hydrogeological map and atlas (2010), available through the SADC Groundwater Information Portal.

Swaziland Hydrogeology.png Hydrogeology Key.png

Transboundary aquifers

For further information about transboundary aquifers, please see the Transboundary aquifers resources page.


Online resources

SADC Groundwater Information Portal

General information on surface water and groundwater resources in SADC

References with more information on the geology and hydrogeology of Swaziland can be accessed through the Africa Groundwater Literature Archive.

United Nations. 1989. Groundwater in Eastern, Central and Southern Africa: Swaziland. United Nations Department of Technical Cooperation for Development.

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