october, 2018

08oct11:00 amISGS Seminar: Capacity-building in hydrogeophysics at the University of Malawi: Addressing water needs in rural Africa

Event Details

Dr. Tim Larson (Illinois State Geological Survey, Prairie Research Institute)

Dr. Zuze Dulanya (Dept. of Geography and Earth Science, Chancellor College, University of Malawi)

Dr. Evance Mwathunga (Dept. of Geography and Earth Science, Chancellor College, University of Malawi)


Geoscientists Without Borders (GWB), a subsidiary of the Society of Exploration Geophysicists, supports the humanitarian application of geoscience around the world through competitive geoscience projects.

Our two-year GWB project developed and demonstrated a robust, multi-disciplinary approach to long-term, sustainable rural water resource management in Malawi. Our approach accounts for technical, fiscal, and social constraints to reach a solution that not only provides water, but has a high-probability for long-term benefit to the community. We have addressed curricular and infrastructure needs at the university level, trained several graduate students in this approach, and demonstrated its application at four water-challenged villages.

Kimu, Kuchilimba, Jimu, and Likapa are four, fairly typical villages in rural Zomba District, Malawi:

  • Kimu, nestled at the base of the igneous Mypupyu Hill, has one borehole that supplies a good quantity of high-quality water. However, an adjacent trading center is experiencing rapid population growth and the queues for water at the Kimu borehole have grown accordingly. A new water source is desperately needed in the eastern part of the village, near the trading center.
  • Kuchilimba and Jimu are situated at the north and south ends of the metamorphic Chanda Hill. Kuchilimba’s borehole is close to the hill. It can only sustain filling about 3 buckets of water at a time before it must be allowed to recover.
  • Jimu, like Kimu, has a good borehole, but population increases have resulted in crowded conditions at the borehole.
  • Likapa is a fishing village along the shore of the shallow, brackish-water Lake Chilwa. Most of the boreholes in the village have salty water, some too salty to drink.

This partly technical, partly travelogue presentation will illustrate how we arrived at, and executed solutions to the water challenges at each of these villages.

About the speaker

Dr. Larson is a senior geophysicist at the Illinois State Geological Survey, a division of the University of Illinois’ Prairie Research Institute. He earned a bachelor’s degree from Wheaton College, a master’s degree from Northern Illinois University, and a doctorate from the University of Illinois.  He has over 35 years of experience in applied geophysics, specializing in near-surface mapping techniques. Although primarily focused on Central United States, a recent application of these techniques in east-central Africa has resulted in the successful completion of several boreholes, providing water to underserved villages.


(Monday) 11:00 am


Leighton Conference Room (room 101), Natural Resources Building

607 E Peabody Dr, Champaign, IL 61820


Illinois State Geological Survey