A national scale assessment of temporal variations in groundwater discharge to rivers: Malawi

Laura Kelly, Douglas Bertram, Robert Kalin, Cosmo Ngongondo, Hyde Sibande

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Abstract

This study presents the first national-scale assessment of temporal variations in the Base Flow Index (BFI) for watercourses in Malawi. A proxy indicator of groundwater discharge to rivers, the BFI is a measure of the ratio of long term baseflow to total river flow and is a key parameter for sustainable water resources management. The smoothed minima technique was applied to river flow data from 68 river gauges across Malawi (data records ranging from 11-64 years). The long-term average annual BFI for each gauged site was determined, as well as seasonal values of BFI. The Mann Kendal (MK) statistical test was used to identify trends in the BFI. Average annual BFI was 0.57, average wet season BFI was 0.52 and average dry season BFI was 0.97. This indicates that 57%, 52% and 97% of the total river flow is derived from groundwater and other stored sources in the annual, wet and dry season periods respectively. These results show that baseflow in Malawi follows a seasonal pattern with minimal differences between the average annual and average wet season BFI; however, significant increases are generally seen in the dry season BFI. The results also found long-term behavioural changes in BFI across all periods. Annually, 74% showed no trend, 10% showed an increasing trend and 16% showed a decreasing trend. The wet season trends showed similar values with 66% showing no trend, 16% showing an increasing trend and 18% showing a decreasing trend. In contrast, for the dry season, 93% showed no trend, 1% showed an increasing trend and 6% showed a decreasing trend. The dataset determined in this study can support sustainable water resources management in Malawi and contribute to measuring its progress towards Sustainable Development Goal 6.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)39-49
Number of pages11
JournalAmerican Journal of Water Science and Engineering
Volume6
Issue number1
Early online date28 Feb 2020
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 31 Mar 2020

Keywords

  • baseflow
  • SDG6
  • Malawi
  • groundwater discharge
  • BFI

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