A multi-disciplinary study is being carried out on recharge to the Karoo sandstone aquifer in the western part of Zimbabwe, where recharge is controlled by the presence of a thick, confining basalt layer. The aquifer is geographically extensive, and has been identified throughout the southern part of the mid-Zambezi basin (Fig. 1). The potential for groundwater abstraction seems to be huge. The key issues in this part of the study are the extent of the recharge area and the recharge rates. The direct recharge area has previously been considered to be the area of outcrop of Karoo Forest sandstone, before it dips below an impervious basalt cover. However, resistivity profiling shows that the basalt at the basin margin is weathered and fractured, and probably permeable, while the basalt deeper into the basin is fresh, solid and impermeable. Field and laboratory analysis of 22 groundwater samples support this extension of the recharge area to include a large area below the fractured basalt. CO2 gas pressures, calculated with the code PHREEQC using field measurements of pH and alkalinity, show that below the fractured basalt the groundwater is an open system in contact with atmospheric CO2. The 14C and nitrate concentrations in this groundwater also indicate that recent infiltration takes place. The chloride contents of the rainfall and the groundwater in the recharge area have been measured to calculate direct recharge from rainfall. These data indicate that the direct recharge is in the range of 10–130 mm/yr, with an average value of 25 mm/yr. Preliminary results of recharge estimate using 36Cl data suggests lower direct infiltration rates, but further studies are needed. The combination of hydro-chemical, isotopic and geophysical investigations show that the recharge area extends well beyond the sandstone outcrop area, northwards beneath the basalt some 20 km beyond the basalt margin. 2002 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.
- Karoo aquifers