An integrated assessment of groundwater resources in Benin, West Africa was performed within the framework of the EC-funded research project RIVERTWIN (www.rivertwin.org). The assessment included a spatial analysis of groundwater relevant parameters taken from more than 4000 wells stored in a countrywide water database (BDI - Banque des Données Intégrée) and an estimation of the spatial and temporal distribution of groundwater recharge using a modified version of the hydrological model HBV. Additionally, a socio-economic assessment of the impacts of groundwater availability and accessibility on national health issues as well as an assessment of groundwater development costs was carried out. The analysis revealed particularly unfavourable conditions for groundwater use in the northern part of the country where groundwater recharge during the wet season does not lead to the formation of persistent groundwater storage in its shallow, unconfined aquifers. Poor storage capacity and hydraulic properties of the deeper fractured aquifers additionally limit the capacity of individual wells to capture groundwater recharge. Including climate change scenarios forecasting less precipitation (generated from global climate models (GCM) based on IPCC scenarios) indicates that the situation in water scarce regions will worsen, as recharge volumes lessen and occur over a shorter time period. Drilling more wells may be a limited option to capture larger portions of the recharge, since the capture zone and therefore the regional influence of existing wells is rather small. In the south, deeper confined aquifers guarantee better and more reliable yields, yet the lack of long-term monitoring and groundwater age data does not allow an appraisal of the limits of the sustainable use of these aquifers. Finally, it has been shown that access to suitable aquifers and diarrhea prevalence are spatially correlated. Access to groundwater is thereby not only a function of aquifer suitability and groundwater availability but a function of well development (mainly drilling) costs as well. The present study can be seen as a first attempt of an integrated evaluation of the groundwater resources and the development options based on the BDI data set. However, it can clearly be seen that the amount, nature and reliability of the data currently available is not sufficient to come to a clear, spatially explicit description of groundwater resources in the country. Improved monitoring and the use of advanced data collection methods (isotopic analysis, remote sensing, fully coupled models of the hydrological cycle) are required to improve the understanding Benin's groundwater resources.
- Diarrhea prevalence
- Hydrological modelling
- Integrated water resources management