El Niño Monitoring in Tanzania

By David Seddon

UCL Geography in Pan-African consortium to achieve sustainable groundwater resources

UCL Geography and London NERC DTP PhD student, David Seddon, is in Tanzania working with colleagues from the Tanzanian Ministry of Water and Sokoine University of Agriculture. They are establishing automated, high-frequency monitoring facilities to examine how the heavy rains associated with the El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) replenish vital groundwater resources.

The team will work in a small semi-arid basin (Makutapora) in central Tanzania which features a wellfield supplying the capital city, Dodoma, with safe water. Groundwater withdrawals have risen sharply in recent years and there is considerable uncertainty over the sustainability of this supply.


Photograph: Stephen Katanga of the Tanzanian Ministry of Water checking groundwater levels in the Makutapora Wellfield of central Tanzania.

Previous research led by David’s supervisor, Professor Richard Taylor, showed that replenishment occurs episodically, on average just one year in five, usually in association with an El Niño event.

In anticipation of the “Godzilla” El Niño event this year, David, Richard and their Tanzanian colleagues are setting up instruments to monitor how the expected heavy rains replenish groundwater at the Makutapora wellfield. This will inform not only sustainable management of the wellfield itself but also strategies for amplifying replenishment here and in other similar tropical semi-arid locations.

This research is part of a wider, pan-African consortium project, GroFutures, led by Richard and funded by NERC, ESRC and DFID. This seeks to develop the scientific basis and participatory management processes by which groundwater resources can be used sustainably for poverty alleviation in Sub-Saharan Africa.


2013 Nature paper
The “Godzilla” El Niño event
Pan-Africa Consortium
Sokoine University of Agriculture
Tanzanian Ministry of Water

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