Water Quality, Exposure and Health

, Volume 4, Issue 1, pp 39–53 | Cite as

Quality of Groundwater Resources in Chikhwawa, Lower Shire Valley, Malawi

  • Maurice MonjereziEmail author
  • Cosmo Ngongondo


Groundwater resources in some parts of the lower section of the Shire River valley, Malawi, are not potable for rural domestic water supply due to high salinity. Knowledge of spatial variation of water quality is essential in locating and sustaining usable water supplies. In this study, a comprehensive assessment of the quality of groundwater from the area has been conducted to establish a spatial variation of major ions and general groundwater quality. World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines for sodium (200 mg/l), chloride (250 mg/l), sulphate (250 mg/l), magnesium (30 mg/l) and calcium (75 mg/l) in drinking water were exceeded by 42%, 29%, 15%, 70% and 53% for all groundwater samples, respectively. The concentrations of analysed solutes are very wide in range, suggesting that the hydrochemistry is controlled by several intermixed processes such as saline water mixing and water–rock interaction. Based on the interpretation of the cumulative probability curve for TDS content, groundwater samples are grouped into three groups, as follows: (1) Group 1 waters (51%) that are relatively poor in Cl, representing fresh groundwater affected mainly by weathering reactions; (2) Group 2 waters (45%) relatively enriched in Cl, indicating considerable effects of rock-water interaction and mixing with saline water; (3) Group 3 waters (4%) enriched in Cl, representing the saline groundwater resources. High total hardness (TH) and total dissolved solids (TDS) (in several places) render the groundwater, in large sections of the study area, unsuitable for domestic and irrigation purposes. Results reported in this study provide baseline data towards the utility of groundwater resources in the area.


Groundwater quality Salinity Lower Shire Malawi 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Al-Bassam AM, Al-Rumikhani YA (2003) Integrated hydrochemical method of water quality assessment for irrigation in arid areas: application to the Jilh aquifer, Saudi Arabia. J Afr Earth Sci 36:345–356 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Allison JD, Brown DS, Novo-Gradac KJ (1991) MINTEQA2, a geochemical assessment model for environmental systems. Report EPA/600/3-91/0-21, USEPA, Athens, Georgia Google Scholar
  3. Alobaidy AHMJ, Abid HS, Maulood BK (2010) Application of water quality index for assessment of Dokan Lake ecosystem, Kurdistan Region. Iraq J Water Resour Prot 2:792–798 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. American Public Health Association (APHA) (2005) Standard methods of the examination of water and wastewater, 21st edn. APHA/AWWA/WPCF, Washington Google Scholar
  5. Appelo CAJ, Postma D (2005) Geochemistry, groundwater and pollution. Balkema, Rotterdam CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Avvannavar SM, Shrihari S (2008) Evaluation of water quality index for drinking purposes for river Netravathi, Mangalore, South India. Environ Monit Assess 143:279–290 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Bath AH (1980) Hydrochemistry in groundwater development: report on an advisory visit to Malawi. British Geological Survey report, WD/OS/80/20 Google Scholar
  8. Bloomfield K (1966) 1:1,000,000 geological map of Malawi. Geol Surv Malawi Google Scholar
  9. Bradford RB (1973) Groundwater reconnaissance study: lower Shire valley. Report RB/5 File T601 Geol Surv Malawi Google Scholar
  10. Bovolo CI, Parkin G, Sophocleous M (2009) Groundwater resources, climate and vulnerability. Environ Res Lett 4(3):1–4 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Carter GS, Bennet JD (1973) The geology and mineral resources of Malawi. Bull 6 Geol Surv Malawi Google Scholar
  12. Castaing C (1991) Post-Pan-African tectonic evolution of South Malawi in relation to the Karroo and recent East African rift systems. Tectonophysics 191:55–73 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Chae G-T, Yuna S-T, Kangjoo K, Mayer B (2006) Hydrogeochemistry of sodium-bicarbonate type bedrock groundwater in the Pocheon spa area, South Korea: water–rock interaction and hydrologic mixing. J Hydrol 321:326–343 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Chapola LS, Kaphwiyo CE (1992) The Malawi rift: geology, tectonics and seismicity. Tectonophysics 209:159–164 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Chappelle FH (1983) Groundwater geochemistry and calcite cementation of the Aquia Aquifer in southern Maryland. Water Resour Res 19(2):545–558 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Davis RW (1969) Groundwater, gravity and rift valleys in Malawi. Groundwater 7(2):34–36 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Drever JI (1997) The geochemistry of natural waters, 3rd edn. Prentice-Hall, Englewood Cliffs Google Scholar
  18. Drever JI, Smith CL (1978) Cyclic wetting and drying of the soil zone as an influence on the chemistry of groundwater in arid terrains. Am J Sci 278:1448–1454 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Dongarrà G, Mann E, Sebation G, Varrica D (2009) Geochemical characteristics of waters in mineralised area of Peloritani Mountains (Sicily, Italy). Appl Geochem 24:900–914 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Eaton FM (1950) Significance of carbonates in irrigation waters. Soil Sci 69:123–133. doi: 10.1097/00010694-195002000-00004 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Epule ET, Peng C, Miriele MW, Mafany NM (2011) Well water quality and public health implications: the case of four neighbourhoods of the City of Douala Cameroon. Glob J Health Sci 3(2):75–83 Google Scholar
  22. Eugster HP, Jones BF (1979) Behaviour of major solutes during closed-basin brine evolution. Am J Sci 279:609–631 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Freeze RA, Cherry JA (1979) Groundwater. Prentice-Hall, Englewood Cliffs Google Scholar
  24. Foster MD (1950) The origin of high sodium bicarbonate waters in the Atlantic and Gulf Coastal Plains. Geochim Cosmochim Acta 1:33–48 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Gascoyne M, Kamineni DC (1994) The hydrogeochemistry of fractured plutonic rocks in the Canadian Shield. Appl Hydrogeol 2:43–49 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Gibrilla A, Bam EKP, Adomako D, Ganyaglo S, Osae S, Akiti TT, Kebede S, Achoribo E, Ahialey E, Ayanu G, Agyeman EK (2011) Application of water quality index (WQI) and multivariate analysis for groundwater quality assessment of the Birimian and Cape coast granitoid complex: Densu River basin of Ghana. Water Qual Expo Health 3(2):63–78 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Habgood F (1963) The geology of the country west of the Shire River between Chikhwawa and Chiromo. Bull 14 Geol Surv Malawi Google Scholar
  28. Hanor JS, McManus KM (1988) Sediment alteration and clay mineral diagenesis in a regional ground water flow system, Mississippi Gulf Coastal Plain. Trans Gulf Coast Assoc Geol Soc 38:495–501 Google Scholar
  29. Harkins RD (1974) An objective water quality index. J Water Pollut Control Fed 46(1):588–591 Google Scholar
  30. Hem JD (1991) Study and interpretation of the chemical characteristics of natural waters, 3rd edn. Scientific, Jodhpur. Book 2254 Google Scholar
  31. Hiscock KM (2009) Hydrogeology: principles and practice. Blackwell Sci, Oxford Google Scholar
  32. Horton RK (1965) An index-number system for Rating Water Quality. J Water Pollut Control Fed 37(3):300–306 Google Scholar
  33. Hutcheson AM (1971) Atlas for Malawi. Longman, Harlow Google Scholar
  34. International Standards Organisation (ISO) (1985) Water quality—determination of electrical conductivity. ISO 7888 Google Scholar
  35. International Standards Organisation (ISO) (1993) Water quality—sampling—Part 11: guidance on sampling of ground waters. ISO 5667-11 Google Scholar
  36. International Standards Organisation (ISO) (1994). Water quality—determination of pH. ISO 10523-1 Google Scholar
  37. Janardhana Raju N (2007) Hydrogeochemical parameters for assessment of groundwater quality in the upper Gunjanaeru River basin, Cuddapah District, Andhra Pradesh, South India. Environ Geol 52:1067–1074 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Kelly WP (1951) Alkali soils—their formation, properties and reclamation. Reinhold, New York Google Scholar
  39. Koh D-C, Chae G-T, Yoon Y-Y, Kang B-R, Koh G-W, Park K-H (2009) Baseline geochemical characteristics of groundwater in the mountainous area of Jeju Island, Sout Korea: implications for degree of mineralization and nitrate contamination. J Hydrol 376:81–93 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Krothe NC, Parizek RR (1979) An anomalous occurrence of sodium bicarbonate water in a flood plain in a carbonate terrain. Groundwater 17(6):595–603 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Lee RW (1985) Geochemistry of groundwater in Cretaceous sediments of the Southeastern coastal plain of Eastern Mississippi and Western Alabama. Water Resour Res 21(10):1545–1556 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Lepeltier C (1969) A simplified statistical treatment of geochemical data by graphical representation. Econ Geol 64:538–550 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Lockwood Survey Cooperation (1970) Lower shire valley—landforms, soils and land classification. Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) Google Scholar
  44. Lowole MW (1985) Properties, management and classification of vertisols in Malawi. World soil reports, Fifth meeting of the Eastern African subcommittee for soil correction and land evaluation, Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) Google Scholar
  45. Milovanovic M (2007) Water quality assessment and determination of pollution sources along the Axios/Vardar River, Southeastern Europe. Desalination 213:159–173 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Mishra PC, Patel RK (2001) Study of the pollution load in the drinking water of Rairangpur a small tribal dominated town of North Orissa Indian. J Environ Ecoplanet 5(2):293–298 Google Scholar
  47. Mondal NC, Sigh VP (2011) Hydrochemical analysis of salinisation for a tannery belt in Southern India. J Hydrol 405:235–247 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Monjerezi M, Vogt RD, Aagaard P, Saka JDK (2011a) Hydro-geochemical processes in an area with saline groundwater in lower Shire River valley, Malawi: an integrated application of hierarchical cluster and principal component analyses. Appl Geochem 26:1399–1413 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Monjerezi M, Vogt RD, Aagaard P, Gebru AG, Saka JDK (2011b) Using 87Sr/86Sr, δ 18O and δ 2H isotope data along with major chemical composition to assess groundwater salinization in lower Shire River valley, Malawi. Appl Geochem 26:2201–2214 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Morel SW (1989) Chemical mineralogy and geothermometry of the middle Shire granulites, Malawi. J Afr Earth Sci 9:169–178 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Morris BL, Lawrence ARL, Chilton PJC, Adams B, Calow RC, Klinck BA (2003) Groundwater and its susceptibility to degradation: a global assessment of the problem and options for management. Early warning and assessment report series, RS. 03-3, United Nations Environment Programme, Nairobi, Kenya Google Scholar
  52. Muss DL (1962) Relationship between water quality and deaths from cardiovascular disease. J Am Water Works Assoc 54:1371–1378 Google Scholar
  53. Naik S, Purohit KM (2001) Studies on water quality of river Brahmani in Sundargarh district, Orissa. Indian J Environ Ecoplan 5(2):397–402 Google Scholar
  54. Olajire AA, Imeokparia FE (2001) Water quality assessment of Osun River: studies on inorganic nutrients. Environ Monit Assess 69(1):17–28 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Panno SV, Kelly WR, Martinsek AT, Hackley KC (2006) Estimating background and threshold nitrate concentrations using probability graphs. Groundwater 44:697–709 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Park S, Yun S, Chae G, Yoo I, Shin K, Heo C, Lee S (2005) Regional hydrochemical study on salinization of coastal aquifers, Western Coastal area of South Korea. J Hydrol 313:182–194 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Parkhurst DL, Appelo CAJ (1999) User’s guide to PHREEQC (version 2)—a computer program for speciation, batch-reaction, one-dimensional transport and inverse geochemical calculations. Water Resources Investigation report, 99-4259, US department of the Interior, US Geological Survey Google Scholar
  58. Prasad A, Kumar D, Singh DV (2001) Effect of residual sodium carbonate in irrigation water in the soil solidification and yield of palmarosa (Cymbopogon martini) and lemongrass (Cymbopogon flexiousus). Agric Water Manag 50:161–172 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Reimann C, Filzmoser P, Garrett RG (2005) Background and threshold: critical comparison of methods of determination. Sci Total Environ 346:1–16 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Richards LA (1954) Diagnosis and improvement of saline and alkali soils. US Department of Agriculture Handbook, vol 60 Google Scholar
  61. Sahu P, Sikdar PK (2008) Hydrochemical framework of the aquifer in and around East Kolkata wetlands, West Bengal. India Environ Geol 55:823–835 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Sawyer GN, McMcartly DL, Parkin GF (2003) Chemistry for environmental engineering and science, 5th edn. McGraw Hill, New York, p 752 Google Scholar
  63. Şen Z (2011) Groundwater quality variation assessment indices. Water Qual Expo Health. doi: 10.1007/s12403-011-0050-y Google Scholar
  64. Schroeder HA (1960) Relations between hardness of water and death rates from certain chronic and degenerative diseases in the United States. J Chron Dis 12:586–591 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Sinclair AJ (1974) Selection of thresholds in geochemical data using probability graphs. J Geochem Explor 3:129–149 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Sinclair AJ (1991) A fundamental approach to threshold estimation in exploration geochemistry: probability plots revisited. J Geochem Explor 4:1–22 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Sinha DK, Srivastava AK (1994) Water quality index for River Sai at RaeBareli for the pre monsoon period and after the onset of monsoon. Indian J Environ Prot 14(5):340–345 Google Scholar
  68. Stigter TY, Ribeiro L, Dill AMMC (2006) Application of a groundwater quality index as an assessment and communication tool in agro-environmental policies—two Portuguese case studies. J Hydrol 327:578–591 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Srinivasamoorthy K, Chidambaram M, Prasanna MV, Vasanthavigar M, John Peter A, Anandhan P (2008) Identification of major sources controlling groundwater chemistry from a hard rock terrain—a case study from Mettur taluk, Salem district, Tamilnadu, India. J Earth Syst Sci 117(1):49–58 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  70. Tiwari TN, Mishra M (1985) A preliminary assignment of water quality index of major Indian rivers. Indian J Environ Prot 5(4):276–279 Google Scholar
  71. Toran LE, Saunders JE (1999) Modeling alternative paths of chemical evolution of Na–\({\mbox{HCO}_{3}}^{-}\) type groundwater near Oak Ridge, Tennessee, USA. Hydrogeology 7:355–364 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  72. Vasanthavigar M, Srinivasamoorthy K, Vijayaragavan K, Ganthi RR, Chidambaram S, Anandhan P, Manivannan R, Vasudevan S (2010) Application of water quality index for groundwater quality assessment: Thirumanimuttar sub-basin, Tamilnadu, India. Environ Monit Assess 171:595–609 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  73. World Health Organisation/WHO (2004) Guidelines for drinking water quality, vol 1: recommendations. World Health Organisation, Geneva Google Scholar
  74. Yidana MS (2010) Groundwater classification using multivariate statistical methods: Southern Ghana. J Afr Earth Sci 57:455–469 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  75. Yidana SM, Yidana A (2010) Assessing water quality using water quality index and multivariate analysis. Environ Earth Sci 59:1461–1473 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  76. Yidana SM, Ophori D, Banoeng-Yakubo B (2008) Hydrogeological and hydrochemical characterization of the Voltaian Basin: the Afram Plains area. Environ Geol 53:1213–1223 CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Chemistry, Chancellor CollegeUniversity of MalawiZombaMalawi
  2. 2.Department of ChemistryUniversity of OsloOsloNorway
  3. 3.Department of Geography and Earth Sciences, Chancellor CollegeUniversity of MalawiZombaMalawi
  4. 4.Department of GeosciencesUniversity of OsloOsloNorway

Personalised recommendations