Analyzing the effects of episodic groundwater recharge caused by extreme events in a semi-arid region: a case study in Beaufort West, South Africa.

On a global scale, groundwater is seen as an essential resource for freshwater used in both socioeconomic and environmental systems; therefore forming a critical buffer when droughts occur. Due to its location in a dry and semi-arid part of South Africa, Beaufort West relies on groundwater as a crucial source of fresh water. Thus, proper management of their groundwater resources is vital to ensure its protection and preservation for future generations. Although fluctuations have occurred over the years, groundwater levels in the area have progressively dropped due to abstraction in well fields. However, in 2011, an episodic flooding event resulted in extreme groundwater recharge with groundwater levels North-East of Beaufort West recovering tremendously. This led to the overall groundwater levels of Beaufort West becoming relatively higher. The general flow of groundwater in the town, which is from the Nuweveld Mountains in the North to the town dyke in the South, is dictated by dykes occurring in the area.

This study aims to expand on the understanding of episodic groundwater recharge around extreme climatic conditions of high precipitation events in a semi-arid region. This was done by analyzing historical data for the Gamka Dam spanning over 30 years; estimating recharge in the Beaufort West well fields caused by the flooding event; as well as studying the hydrogeological setting and lineaments in the area. It was found that sufficiently elevated recharge around the observed flooding event only occurred in areas where the correct climatic (precipitation, evaporation), geological and geographical conditions were met. Ultimately, gaining a better understanding of these recharge events should aid in the assessment of the groundwater development potential of Beaufort West.

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Beaufort West
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