Africa Groundwater Exploration and Assessment Program

Science Center Objects

The purpose of the Program is to develop a sound understanding of the potential for development of potable groundwater supply in selected African countries and build local capacity to plan and conduct the hydrologic investigations and monitoring necessary to help ensure that groundwater resources are developed and managed efficiently and sustainably. 


Color map showing the Study Area for the Ethiopia Groundwater Study

Illustrative map showing the Areas covered by the Ethiopia and Kenya Groundwater Study (Public domain.)

The Program specifically aims to increase household access and utilization of water resources. The U.S. Geological Survey is assisting the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) in implementing the Program by:

  • Working with local professionals to utilize remote sensing data and technology and other hydrologic information to map potential groundwater resources and conduct hydrogeologic assessments in selected areas in Africa, including areas that total 165,000 km²; 57,000 km² in the Somali region of Ethiopia, and 41,000 km² in Turkana, and 67,000 km² in Marsabit Counties in Kenya; and
  • Training staff from the associated governments, including Government of Ethiopia (GOE) and Government of Kenya (GOK), regional and county governments, as well as nongovernmental organizations, on how to collect and interpret high quality groundwater information.

The results from the USGS study in Ethiopia and Kenya directly support the USAID Lowland Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene Activity (Lowland WASH) by helping to increase the efficiency of drilling potential high-yield water wells and laying the foundation for future investment in productive, multi-use water systems. Following analysis of the data compiled and fieldwork, the USGS will work with Program partners to map and describe the geology, geomorphology, and hydrologic aspects of the project areas.  This information will help the governments of Kenya and Ethiopia to sustainably manage and develop groundwater resources and combat and mitigate the devastating effects of drought.  The Program’s capacity building component, will increase the number of African experts who can independently assess, develop, and manage their country’s water resources.

meeting room full of planners discussing the Africa Groundwater study

Meeting with the Ethiopia Technical Work Group in Addis Ababa, on October 13, 2016 (Public domain.)






Phase 1: Planning, coordination, and extant data source compilation.

Gathering of the people of Turkana County, Kenya

Gathering of the people of Turkana County, Kenya for the Project launch meeting for the Africa Groundwater Assessment Study (Credit: Richard Kropp, USGS NJ WSC. Public domain.)

  • Establishment of working partnerships with local interests.
  • Development of detailed activity plans.
  • Initial communications and coordination with activity partners. 






Phase 2: Data acquisition, preliminary analysis, integration, and interpretation. 

  • Acquisition, compilation, processing, and initial-interpretation of remotely-sensed data and ground-based data for use in interpretive analysis.
  • Preliminary concepts of hydrogeologic systems and groundwater flow will be used to develop a conceptual model and water budget which will illustrate recharge areas, flow directions, geologic boundaries, permeability distribution, and water-quality characteristics.
  • Relations between remotely-sensed data and ground-based information will be explored in coordination with technical working groups.
  • Key relations and concepts will be used to develop methods for spatial interpretation and mapping of groundwater potential.
  • Methods will be developed and applied in an open, transparent, and reproducible manner to produce preliminary mapping of groundwater potential and other intermediate map products.  < Read more at USAID >
  • Workshops with the technical working groups will be conducted by the USGS to provide opportunities for technology transfer. 
Radar image of Southern Turkana and Marsabit Counties, Kenya

Processed SRTM radar image of Sothern Turkana and Marsabit Counties in Kenya. (Public domain.)



Phase 3: Targeted field data acquisition and database development.

  • Develop plans for field hydrogeologic investigations based on results of Phase 2 data acquisition and analysis and identified data gaps.
  • Evaluate groundwater resources of selected areas with respect to potential yield, sustainability, suitability for potable supply or other uses, and possible measures for supply enhancement. 
  • Training of field investigators by USGS, in cooperation with members of technical working groups and other available resources 






Phase 4: Refined data analysis and final interpretation, including hydrologic modeling. 

  • Collaborative analysis of Phase 3 field data with technical working groups to re-evaluate conceptual models and remotely-sensed data interpretations.
  • Develop aquifer potentiometric surface maps to characterize flow directions and refine recharge area and water-budget concepts.
  • Conceptual models will be revised to reflect new knowledge of recharge areas, flow directions, geologic boundaries, permeability distribution, and water-quality characteristics.
  • Develop groundwater-flow model of the project area will be developed to represent the best understanding of flow-system concepts and characteristics.
  • The model will be used to estimate sustainable levels of water-supply development.
  • Workshops with members of the technical working group will be conducted to facilitate information sharing.


Phase 5: Documentation, database archival, information delivery, and training.

Flowchart depicting the approach to mapping groundwater potential

Flowchart depicting the approach for mapping groundwater potential. (Public domain.)

  • All data, including georeferenced datasets and metadata, collected and generated through the activity, will be documented and stored in appropriate databases readily accessible and/or transferable by country professionals to established databases.
  • Methods of data acquisition and analyses, resulting interpretations and conclusions will be documented in reports and presentations.
  • Interpretive reports will provide sufficient detail to ensure that all data used in the interpretations are clearly presented and that the results are reproducible.