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Impact of sand dams on local aquifers in Kenya


Project Description

CENTA2 is a consortium of research intensive Universities and research institutes that are working together to provide excellence in doctoral research training. Cranfield University is proud to be working alongside these partners to create the next generation of scientific leaders in environmental science.

This study will evaluate the impact that the sand dam has on the surrounding area and in doing so address important questions about the wider impacts of managed aquifer recharge structures which could be applied in any semi-arid region where shallow groundwater is being augmented The focus will be in Makueni County in Kenya as this has one of the highest concentrations of sand dams globally. The student will be based at the Cranfield campus at Cranfield in Bedfordshire. https://www.cranfield.ac.uk/About/How-to-find-Cranfield

Project Highlights:

1. Student has opportunity to undertake multidisciplinary field data collection in a remote rural area and hence gain a wide range of transferrable skills.
2. Project has high impact potential due to engagement of partner NGOs, working in areas where there is an acute need for improved water sources.
3. Potential for high impact journal papers in the water resources field.

Overview:

Semi-arid lands are home to 14% of the world’s population (UN Decade 2018), with this figure set to rise under a changing climate. In these areas, rain falls in one or two intense periods in the year, so harvesting rainwater and storing it for the dry season is an essential water management strategy. Water can be stored in tanks or used to artificially recharge the groundwater. Sand dams are an example of a managed aquifer recharge structure, similar to check dams except that they trap both water and sediment (“sand”) behind them. Previous studies have focussed on the sand dam as an isolated water storage structure and recent studies by Cranfield University (Quinn et al 2018a) have only just revealed the extent to which water typically flows between the trapped sand and the surrounding aquifer. This study will evaluate the impact that the sand dam has on the surrounding area and in doing so address important questions about the wider impacts of managed aquifer recharge structures which could be applied in any semi-arid region where shallow groundwater is being augmented The focus will be in Makueni County in Kenya as this has one of the highest concentrations of sand dams globally. The impacts to be evaluated will include:

1. Water levels – wells are often dug into the area adjacent to a sand dam.
2. Water salinity – the area is underlain by Mozambique Gneiss which is locally highly variable in petrology and weathering. This gives a complex local pattern of groundwater salinity (Quinn et al 2018b). Water collected from the trapped sand is typically less saline than water in the surrounding aquifer, although the water infiltrating from the trapped sand may have a dilution effect, which will be a focus of this study.
3. Vegetation - as the shallow groundwater is recharged, vegetation will increase, soil erosion will decrease and biodiversity will increase.
4. Local microclimate – the increase in vegetation may also change the local microclimate and mitigate natural climatic fluctuations.

Sand dams are part of a broader socio-environmental system with local communities using water for their domestic, agricultural and livelihood needs. This research will also seek to understand how their practices interact with broader hydrological process and try to systematically bring these factors together. As climate change will increase temperatures in this region of Kenya, sand dams also have the potential to help communities adapt, by increasing water availability into the dry season.

For full project description please visit: http://www.centa.org.uk/themes/climate-environmental-sustainability/c8/

Key dates
• Application deadline – 21st January 2019
• Interviews (to be conducted via Skype) – w/c 11th February 2019
• Selection panel – 21st February 2019
• Universal acceptance date – 20th March 2019

How to apply -
To apply for one of the Cranfield University projects you will need to complete our online application form.

1. Please state the name of the project you will to apply for
2. When asked how you intend to fund your postgraduate studies please state that you wish to apply for a NERC CENTA2 studentship.
3. You will also be required to complete and submit the CENTA2 studentship application form and attach it to the application form.

Funding Notes

CENTA2 studentships are for 3.5 years and are funded by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC). In addition to the full payment of their tuition fees, successful candidates will receive the following financial support.
Annual stipend, set at £14,777 for 2018/19
Research training support grant (RTSG) of £8,000
Further guidance about eligibility is available at RCUK Terms & Conditions

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