Articles | Volume 7, issue 3
30 Jun 2003
30 Jun 2003

The role of a dambo in the hydrology of a catchment and the river network downstream

C. J. von der Heyden and M. G. New

Abstract. Dambos are shallow, seasonally inundated wetlands and are a widespread landform in Central and Southern Africa. Owing to their importance in local agriculture and as a water resource, the hydrology of dambos is of considerable interest: varied, and sometimes contradictory, hydrological characteristics have been described in the literature. The issues in contention focus on the role of the dambo in (i) the catchment evapotranspiration (ET) budget, (ii) flood flow retardation and attenuation, and (iii) sustaining dry season flow to the river down-stream. In addition, both rainfall and groundwater have been identified as the dominant source of water to the dambo and various hydrogeological models have been proposed to describe the hydrological functions of the landform. In this paper, hydrological and geochemical data collected over a full hydrological year are used to investigate and describe the hydrological functions of a dambo in north-western Zambia. The Penman estimate of wetland ET was less than the ET from the miombo-wooded interfluve and the wetland has been shown to have little effect on flood flow retardation or attenuation. Discharge of water stored within the wetland contributed little to the dry season flow from the dambo, which was sustained primarily by groundwater discharge. Flow in a perched aquifer within the catchment soils contributed a large portion of baseflow during the rains and early dry season. This source ceased by the mid dry season, implying that the sustained middle to late dry season streamflow from the wetland is through discharge of a deeper aquifer within the underlying regolith or bedrock. This hypothesis is tested through an analysis of groundwater and wetland geochemistry. Various physical parameters, PHREEQC model results and end member mixing analysis (EMMA) suggest strongly that the deep Upper Roan dolomite aquifer is the source of sustained discharge from the wetland.

Keywords: dambo, hydrology, hydrogeology, stormflow, evapotranspiration, baseflow, sponge effect, Zambia