Cumulative rainfall collectors – A tool for assessing groundwater recharge

  • JMC Weaver
  • AS Talma


The great majority of Southern African aquifers depend on rainfall for their recharge. The accurate estimation of recharge remains one of the biggest challenges for groundwater investigators. Accurate recharge estimations are needed for proper groundwater management as this governs the estimation of sustainable exploitation. Current estimates of recharge to aquifers range between 0.2 and 3% of annual rainfall for the drier Karoo and Kalahari areas and up to 20% for the winter rainfall region of the Western Cape. Important input for determining recharge is knowledge of the chemical and isotopic composition of rainfall. This paper describes a simple, low-cost and low-maintenance tool, the cumulative rainfall collector (CRC), which provides a cumulative sample of rainfall which is unaffected by evaporation. The instrument is capable of collecting rainfall over periods of up to one year. The crucial aspect is to store sufficient rainfall, to eliminate evaporation by covering the water sample with silicon oil and to reduce interference by birds. CRCs were installed at Struisbaai, the West Coast and the South Coast of the Western Cape Province. CRC data for Struisbaai indicate that recharge to the Table Mountain Group (TMG) Aquifer is 17.4% of mean annual rainfall. The West Coast transect includes two production wellfields. CRC data indicate that recharge is 9.7% to 13.5% for the Bredasdorp Formation of the Langebaan Road Wellfield. At Agter Witzenberg recharge estimations range from 24% to 46% to the Nardouw Formation of the TMG. The South Coast transect encompasses the Klein Karoo Rural Water Supply Scheme and CRC data indicate that recharge to the Peninsula Formation of the TMG is 5%.

Water SA Vol.31 (3) 2005: pp.283-290

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eISSN: 0378-4738