Prospecting for safe (low fluoride) groundwater in the eastern African Rift: a multidisciplinary approach in the Arumeru District (northern Tanzania)
1Department of Territorial Engineering, Desertification Research Group (NRD), University of Sassari, Sassari, Italy
2Department of Territorial Engineering, University of Cagliari, Cagliari, Italy
3Department of Botanical, Ecological and Geological Sciences, Desertification Research Group (NRD), University of Sassari, Sassari, Italy
Abstract. This research was aimed at finding fresh and safe groundwater easily deliverable to an area, located in northern Tanzania, within the western branch of the Rift Valley. The study area suffers from water shortage, moreover, due to widespread alkaline volcanism, high fluoride contents (F− up to 70 mg/l) affects the groundwater.
The achievement of this goal has been pursued through a multidisciplinary research consisting of geological, hydrogeological, hydro-chemical, geophysical and hydrological investigations.
The study area stretches over 440 km2 and lies in the northern part of the Arumeru District, approximately 50 km from Arusha, the capital of the region. The Mount Meru (4565 m a.s.l.) and the Arusha National Park mark the boundary of the area, which includes 9 villages belonging to the Oldonyo Sambu and Ngarenanyuki Wards. The climate is semi-arid, with dry and relatively rainy seasonal alternance.
Four principal hydrogeological complexes have been identified within different lithologies. They occur within volcanic formations, singularly or superimposed on each other. Subordinate perched aquifers are present in sedimentary formations with local occurrence. The groundwater flow system has been interpreted on the basis of springs spatial distribution combined with lithological and the geometrical reconstruction of the aquifers. The dominant pattern, consisting of multidirectional flow from the higher elevation area in the south towards the lower area in the north, is complicated by the occurrence of structures such as grabens, faults, lava domes and tholoids. After the identification of the main fluoride source, an interference pattern among groundwater and high F surface water was drawn. Finally, some VES (Vertical Electrical Sounding) were performed that allowed an aquifer to be individuated within a structural high where the fluoride input is prevented. The drilling of a well, able to supply at least 3.8 l/s of low fluoride, drinkable water, successfully concluded the methodological approach for prospecting safe water in a semi-arid, naturally fluoride polluted region.