Sustainability of water abstraction by hand drilling in the floodplain of River Benue of Yola, NE Nigeria
Apagu, Buba Ankidawa
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The aim of the research is to assess the sustainability of groundwater supply and the suitability of hand-drilling techniques for accessing groundwater for irrigation practices along the shallow alluvial floodplains of River Benue, NE Nigeria. Hand-drilling techniques are affordable means for the farmers to abstract water from these shallow aquifers. Determining the most sustainable hand-drilling techniques (taking into account the hydrology and sedimentology of the floodplain) will improve farming activities and food security in this region and the country at large. Hydrological data (obtained from fieldwork and modelling) demonstrate that the River Benue is the main source for recharge of the shallow alluvial aquifers of the floodplain during the dry season period. Water table heights were estimated by resistivity survey using ABEM Terrameter equipment and measured by automatic piezometer instruments. Floodplain sedimentology and hydrogeology were assessed at seventeen natural riverbank outcrops and twelve hand-drilled boreholes. At each location, sediment samples were collected from every exposed sedimentological unit. Locations and elevations were measured using a ProMark3 dual frequency GPS instrument, to create a detailed topographic map with updated contours. Twenty-four electrical resistivity sounding profiles and twelve-groundwater measurement were also obtained to explore the groundwater level of the floodplain. The resistivity results confirm the availability of water in the alluvial aquifers of the floodplain. In order to determine the most appropriate hand drilling techniques, a Field Shear Vane Tester was used to measure sediment shear strength at twelve different borehole locations. Shear strength forces were higher on clayey silt and sandy silt, and lower on sand formations. It appeared that in some areas of the floodplain, the farmers are already above the shear strengths that can be provided by human power. Hence, any increase of the hardness of the surface of the sediment would make low-cost hand drilling impractical. Particle size analysis for the sediment samples showed that the samples were largely sandy in nature, which enables easy movement of water through the layers for aquifer recharge. Magnetic susceptibility (used to classify the source of sediment and the process of their formation) revealed that the main source of the sedimentary materials was upstream of the study site and varies little over time. The groundwater level of the study area decreased away from River Benue valley during the dry season period. One perched aquifer formations and possibly two others were observed in three different locations, which reflects a low-permeability stratigraphic unit (such as lens of clayey silt) within alluvial sands. These should be avoided by farmers, as they are likely to provide water only in the short-term. Finally, groundwater modelling was undertaken (with various scenarios) for the River Benue floodplain using acquired sedimentology and hydrology data integrated into MODFLOW software. The results revealed that low-cost hand-drilling techniques such as augering and jetting remain possible for abstracting the shallow alluvial aquifers on the floodplain for irrigation farming in the study area, unless the most likely low river water stages in River Benue, over-exploitation of the shallow alluvial floodplain groundwater and drought scenarios occur.