Date of Award


Document Type

Master's Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science in Geology (MS)

College, School or Department Name

Department of Geological and Mining Engineering and Sciences


John S Gierke


This project addresses the potential impacts of changing climate on dry-season water storage and discharge from a small, mountain catchment in Tanzania. Villagers and water managers around the catchment have experienced worsening water scarcity and attribute it to increasing population and demand, but very little has been done to understand the physical characteristics and hydrological behavior of the spring catchment. The physical nature of the aquifer was characterized and water balance models were calibrated to discharge observations so as to be able to explore relative changes in aquifer storage resulting from climate changes.

To characterize the shallow aquifer supplying water to the Jandu spring, water quality and geochemistry data were analyzed, discharge recession analysis was performed, and two water balance models were developed and tested. Jandu geochemistry suggests a shallow, meteorically-recharged aquifer system with short circulation times. Baseflow recession analysis showed that the catchment behavior could be represented by a linear storage model with an average recession constant of 0.151/month from 2004-2010. Two modified Thornthwaite-Mather Water Balance (TMWB) models were calibrated using historic rainfall and discharge data and shown to reproduce dry-season flows with Nash-Sutcliffe efficiencies between 0.86 and 0.91.

The modified TMWB models were then used to examine the impacts of nineteen, perturbed climate scenarios to test the potential impacts of regional climate change on catchment storage during the dry season. Forcing the models with realistic scenarios for average monthly temperature, annual precipitation, and seasonal rainfall distribution demonstrated that even small climate changes might adversely impact aquifer storage conditions at the onset of the dry season. The scale of the change was dependent on the direction (increasing vs. decreasing) and magnitude of climate change (temperature and precipitation).

This study demonstrates that small, mountain aquifer characterization is possible using simple water quality parameters, recession analysis can be integrated into modeling aquifer storage parameters, and water balance models can accurately reproduce dry-season discharges and might be useful tools to assess climate change impacts. However, uncertainty in current climate projections and lack of data for testing the predictive capabilities of the model beyond the present data set, make the forecasts of changes in discharge also uncertain. The hydrologic tools used herein offer promise for future research in understanding small, shallow, mountainous aquifers and could potentially be developed and used by water resource professionals to assess climatic influences on local hydrologic systems. (270 kB)
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