Relationship between rainfall and microbiological contamination of shallow groundwater in Northern Mozambique

  • S Godfrey Water and Environmental Sanitation Project Officer, UNICEF Bhopal, India (formerly WEDC, UK)
  • F Timo
  • M Smith


Outbreaks of contamination events in many developing countries occur during periods of peak rainfall. This study presents evidence of direct pulse response of shallow groundwater contamination events to rainfall in Northern Mozambique. The objective of the paper is to establish both a statistical relationship between rainfall and contamination and to analyse the pathways through which runoff resulted in contamination. To achieve this, data from 25 wells were monitored over a 12-month period in Lichinga, Northern Mozambique, and then compared to historical rainfall from the previous 8 years. Categorical (soil survey) and parametric (water quality, rainfall, depth-to-water-table) data were further collected before, during and after the 4-month monomodal rains. Using logistic regression statistics, three distinct conclusions were drawn from the study. Firstly, the study demonstrated a direct pulse response between increased numbers of presumptive thermotolerant coliforms and enterococci bacteria. Secondly, the study observed high risk of contamination through localised, as opposed to aquifer pathways, and thirdly, the study noted a higher survival function and stability of presumptive enterococci bacteria as compared to presumptive thermotolerant coliforms in the environment and at depth.

Keywords: rainfall/runoff, contamination, groundwater monitoring, microbiological processes

Water SA Vol. 31(4) 2005: 609-614