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Research led by geographers at University College London shows groundwater to be naturally resilient to climate change as the intensification of rainfall brought about by global warming often serves to enhance groundwater replenishment. The research provides an evidence-led platform to develop climate-resilient strategies across tropical Africa in pursuit of UN Sustainable Development Goals.



Sustainable access to adequate quantities of freshwater is one of the most critical challenges humans face in the 21st century. Rapid population growth and rising living standards are leading to increased freshwater withdrawals in low- and middle-income countries across the tropics. Meanwhile, climate change is amplifying the variability and uncertainty of freshwater availability from rivers and lakes.



Since 2000, research combining in-depth field observations with evidence from remote sensing and models, has made fundamental contributions to the understanding of groundwater systems in tropical Africa.

Research mapped groundwater across Africa with the British Geological Survey which revealed, for the first time, the volume of African groundwater resources.

Analysis of the relationship between groundwater and climate in Africa involved amassing 14 multi-decadal records of groundwater levels and rainfall from nine countries along an aridity gradient.



The research has informed adaptation to climate change in sub-Saharan Africa and global tropics. For example, the 5th Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) cites the research in its discussion of the projected rise in groundwater withdrawals for irrigation due to climate change, as well as the resilience of groundwater in the face of climate change-induced biases in replenishment, such as those caused by intensified heavy rainfall events.

In Uganda, the modelling of groundwater resource in weathered crystalline rock environments has informed the Ugandan Ministry of Water and Environment’s national-scale understanding of its groundwater resources. This has pioneered policies that employ district-level water resources maps to guide the most cost-effective and sustainable groundwater development.

The research has helped build climate resilience of the water supply to Tanzania’s capital city. In 2015, the government of Tanzania mandated the relocation of all government ministries from Dar es Salaam to the nation’s capital Dodoma, putting exceptional pressure on the sustainability of groundwater extraction to supply safe water. Research has informed debate on the long-term future water supply, and the Ministry is evaluating the feasibility of amplifying Managed Aquifer Recharge.


More information

Institution: University College London

Researchers: Professor Richard Taylor, Dr Mohammad Shamsudduha, Dr Mark Cuthbert

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Royal Geographical Society (with IBG) (2023) Improving water and food security in tropical Africa. Available at  Last accessed on: <date>