German Project Monitors African Water

Three major German organisations are using Campbell Scientific weather monitoring equipment to search for a solution to the severe water resource problems in Western Africa.

The Impetus Project is a combined activity undertaken by the University of Cologne,

the University of Bonn and the German Aerospace Centre. Their detailed and complex

study hopes to provide not only explanations for the water shortages in West Africa,

but also to help Governments to develop a strategy to sustain water supplies and

improve water quality.

There are now twenty-two countries that can be considered to be below the threshold

of 1000 m³ of renewable fresh water resources per capita per year and it is

forecast that in the first quarter of this century, 25% of the world’s population

will suffer from severe water scarcity.

Impetus will operate on two projects, the first in the Republic of Benin and

the second in the Kingdom of Morocco. It is a fact that river discharges in

West Africa have decreased by between 40% and 60% since the 1970’s, whereas

the 1950’s could be described as rain rich! The Benin study seeks to understand

the cause of these vastly differing periods, by concentrating on the hydrological

cycle of the river Ouémé and its surrounding area.

The researchers set out to diagnose and model the spatial rainfall variability

across seasons and decades. Study areas include soil water dynamics, surface

water runoff, ground water recharge, soil degradation and relationships between

various types of vegetation and the water cycle. They will also look at the

relationship between humans and the water cycle and offer suggestions for water

saving measures, water management systems and how water scarcity might initiate


All the weather stations being used on the project are Campbell Scientific

stations and set to measure temperature, humidity, windspeed and direction,

global radiation, reflected radiation and radiation balance. The stations, which

are all autonomous, (running on their own power supply topped up by a solar

panel) are equipped with CR10X dataloggers and in several cases AM416 multiplexers.

Other measurements are soil temperature flux, soil temperature, soil moisture

and water content using a TDR system.

The Moroccan study focuses on the Drâa Valley to the south-east of the

High Atlas mountains. The bulk of Morocco’s rainfall occurs during the winter

months, but since the late 1970’s Morocco has experienced a number of extremely

dry winters. As much of the water available to the region comes from snow storage

high in the mountains, researchers have been called upon to make the first study

of the amount of potential water stored in the high mountains. To carry out

this work, the stations for this study are quipped with SR50 snow depth sensors

The ultimate goal of the project’s first phase is to construct a real-time

rainfall monitoring system for tropical West Africa.

Peter Hass of Campbell Scientific says: “Campbell Scientific are pleased

to be able to support the Impetus project. It’s a good example of an interdisciplinary

and application-oriented activity, and of how three major organisations can

work together. It’s typical of the type of work being done by many of our colleagues

in Germany.”

For further information please contact Campbell Scientific at:

Campbell Scientific Ltd.

Campbell Park

80 Hathern Road


Loughborough, LE12 9GX

United Kingdom

Phone: +44 (0) 1509 601141

Fax: +44 (0) 1509 601091

Email: [email protected]

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