Africa Groundwater Literature Archive

Search results from the Africa Groundwater Literature Archive

The successful and sustainable development of groundwater resources in Africa is critical to future economic growth and food security in the continent, as well as providing for many of the hundreds of millions of people who don’t yet have safe, reliable water supplies. However, much of the data and information that already exists about groundwater in Africa is not available to the people who could make use of it. This project aims to address that problem.

The Africa Groundwater Literature Archive is a searchable online database that so far catalogues nearly 7000 references for literature about groundwater in Africa. These references deal with hydrogeology, geology, hydrology and other related disciplines, and include published scientific articles; conference papers; manuals; maps; and hundreds of previously hard-to-access reports from groundwater exploration and development projects carried out by BGS and other organisations since the 1970s or even earlier. As many as possible of the documents are freely available to download.

Making information more accessible

This is the most comprehensive catalogue yet available of groundwater literature for Africa. Thousands of the documents are freely available to download, so long as a digital copy exists and copyright restrictions allow. For others – such as for journal articles which aren’t open access – a link is provided to the online abstract. In total, more than 3000 of the indexed documents are linked to either the full text document or an abstract available online.

The Archive can also be searched by themed keywords; by free text searches of title and author; and geographically. More than 1200 of the documents have so far been georeferenced and can be searched using an interactive map. They can also be searched by country – e.g. to quickly find all documents that are about Ghana, or Kenya, or Zimbabwe. The keywords allow the groundwater documents to be searched by topics such as aquifer type; water quality; borehole drilling; irrigation; groundwater modelling.

More than a century of groundwater information

The oldest document in the Archive was published over 100 years ago in 1897: the First Annual report of the Geological Commission 1896 by the Department of Agriculture in the Cape of Good Hope, South Africa, of which the pages relevant to water are available to download. The newest documents were published in 2015. The documents cover all imaginable aspects of groundwater: from geological maps to papers on numerical hydrogeological modelling; from national Water Master Plans to reports of drilling water boreholes in a single village in Tanzania; from how-to manuals for geophysical siting of boreholes to detailed investigations of industrial pollution and seawater intrusion in coastal cities in West Africa.

Front page of an 1897 report from the archive
A high yielding borehole in Botswana

Future improvements

We know that there are many, many more reports, scientific papers and other documents out there; and more and more information is being produced every month by governments, NGOs, private sector and research organisations. We hope to continue updating the Archive in future in order to make even more of this information accessible to the people in Africa and the rest of the world who are working to develop and manage groundwater resources.

If you have, or know of, useful groundwater reports or other documents that could be included in the Archive, please get in touch! Whether they are digital – already available online or only on your computer – or are paper copy only; if they have information about groundwater in Africa then they are useful to somebody, somewhere! The first step is indexing them and entering a bibliographic reference into the Archive so that everyone knows they exist. We can then look at whether it’s possible to make them available digitally through the Archive.

Where have all these documents been hiding up to now?

Published journal articles are increasingly available online through publishers’ websites, although often it is necessary to pay for access to them (except for abstracts, which are usually available to view freely). But it can be hard to find articles about a specific place or topic. Cataloguing the articles in the Africa Groundwater Literature Archive means they can be searched by themed keyword and by location, making it easier to find relevant information.

Much unpublished literature, such as reports written by geological surveys and water ministries in African countries, is only available in hard copy form, and often hidden away on dusty shelves and in old filing cabinets – this is sometimes called ‘grey literature’. Many such reports have been collected over the years by BGS hydrogeologists, often during many years work with government departments in countries such as Malawi and Botswana. Through services such as the Africa Groundwater Literature Archive and the SADC Groundwater Grey Literature Archive, many of these documents have now been digitised and are available to search and download. This makes years of painstaking work by geologists and hydrogeologists in the past available to those working today, saving effort and resources, and helping to maximise groundwater development work.

Why is this project important?

The availability and accessibility of robust groundwater data and information is a major constraint to developing groundwater resources across Africa, and is an additional barrier to undertaking research. The primary aim of this project is to provide detailed and appropriate information on African groundwater resources to a range of stakeholders. The project builds on work undertaken to develop the SADC Groundwater Grey Literature Archive, making previously very hard to access grey literature available for the SADC region.

A high yielding borehole in Botswana
Child collecting water from a borehole with hand pump

The Africa Groundwater Literature Archive will be of use to different stakeholders:

  1. Hydrogeologists and other practitioners developing groundwater supplies, and looking for information and data on groundwater conditions in specific regions or countries
  2. Researchers looking for information and data on African groundwater to support their investigations
  3. policy makers and decision makers who need an overview of groundwater conditions and issues in a country.

The development and publication of the atlas will also involve many African groundwater scientists and be a platform to both publicise their knowledge and to deposit and secure their research and data.

Funded by DFID, NERC and ESRC

Unlocking the Potential for Groundwater for the Poor logo

The Africa Groundwater Atlas project is jointly funded by DFID, NERC UpGro and ESRC, and is being carried out by BGS in partnership with African hydrogeologists. It is a part of the Unlocking the Potential for Groundwater for the Poor (UPGro) Research Programme, which focusses on improving the evidence base around groundwater availability and management in sub-Saharan Africa, to enable the sustainable use of groundwater that benefits the poor.


Contact Brighid Ó Dochartaigh for further information.