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Sustainable Groundwater in West Africa

The goal of this project is to develop a suite of geospatial information tools that will be applied to sustainable groundwater management practices in West Africa.. The project is funded by a NASA SERVIR grant. The tool suite will include a variety of tools that will allow access to and interpretation of groundwater data. The project will benefit those throughout the West Africa region, particularly those in Niger. It plans to address several of the constraints on groundwater development in this region. The tool suite itself will be developed as a Tethys app after the development of the hydrogeological model that will be required for the project’s implementation.

In this part of the world, rain-fed agriculture is unsustainable. Groundwater development will provide a more stable water source and enhance food security. Groundwater development requires collecting and analyzing data produced at global and national levels and disseminating that data and knowledge to end users such as States, NGOs, municipalities, businesses, and agropastoralists in a format that is useful for planning and decision-making. Our tools will aid stakeholders at all levels in interpreting groundwater data. Users will access these tools via a simple browser interface that requiring minimal infrastructure or computer expertise. We will also assist hub partners in developing and using groundwater models.

The project is unique because it uses GRACE data, In-Situ data, and other Earth observational data to provide accurate assessments of and predictions about groundwater status. It will allow for increased capacity to use this data to make decisions and come up with accurate conclusions. The project is related to other projects that have been carried out at BYU and at the University of Colorado Boulder which focused on utilizing Earth observation Data to impute Groundwater Level Measurements, quantifying increased groundwater demand, and collecting In-Situ data.

The Groundwater Level Mapping Tool (GW-Level) is the foundation of the system. GWLevel ingests in situ water level measurements and performs temporal and spatial interpolation to build interactive animated maps or times series plots. GW-Level uses machine learning to find correlations among Earth observation data, such as precipitation or soil moisture, with water level data and perform more accurate interpolation. This approach is particularly applicable to West Africa because it ensures that scarce in situ data are used as effectively and accurately as possible. These products help water managers gain a better understanding of groundwater resources and determine how aquifers are responding to groundwater development, droughts, and climate change.

The Groundwater Volume Analysis Tool (GW-Volume) provides lower resolution data that gives a current picture of groundwater conditions in terms of overall water storage volumes. GW-Volume can identify and characterize conditions in data-poor areas or identify trends in other regions often obscured by noise from well data. GW-Volume uses GRACE mission data to compute and display changes in water storage in a web-based mapping system and will integrate GRACE-FO data. GW-Volume uses NASA GLDAS surface water data to derive changes in groundwater. It displays the results as time series plots at selected points or map animations. This tool will complement the GW-Level tool, providing a secondary measure of how groundwater changes in space and time.

We will work with SERVIR-West Africa to update and improve existing groundwater models and develop new regional models. We will implement workflows using data derived from Earth Observations as forcings to these models. Groundwater modeling typically requires advanced computer and software capabilities with trained and experienced modelers. We will develop the Groundwater Model Scripting Tool (GWModel) to support groundwater model simulations for selected scenarios that managers face on a routine basis. GW-Model uses a web-based interface to add or eliminate wells, change pumping rates, or evaluate changes such as drought (e.g., changing recharge rates) or temperature (e.g., changing irrigation needs). This tool will allow stakeholders to access and use models without having to rely on modeling experts. We have helped develop similar modeling tools for the Virginia Department of Environment Quality and the Utah Division of Water Resources.

We will work with stakeholders, including AGRHYMET, The Ministry of Hydraulics and Sanitation (DGRE), the Association for the Redynamisation of Pastoralism in Niger (AREN), and the National Network of Chambers of Agriculture of Niger (RECA), to develop and provide training for these tools. We will leverage training to refine the capabilities, tool interfaces, visualizations, and data reports.

We are uniquely qualified for this project due to our extensive experience in web-based tool development, groundwater data management, groundwater modeling, and education and training.