Influence of land use and land cover changes on groundwater recharge and pollution in stony Athi Subcatchment, Kajiado County, Kenya
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The global economic growth and population increase has translated into increased anthropogenic land use and land cover changes. Changes in land use and land cover have the potential of altering the hydrological cycle. In the Stony Athi sub-catchment of Kajiado County, Kenya, demographic pressure and urbanization have transformed natural rangelands into agricultural, industrial and real estate developments. The objective of this study was to investigate the influence of land use and land cover changes on groundwater recharge and pollution vulnerability between 1984 and 2017. Specifically, the study was undertaken to; (a) quantify the spatial-temporal extent and magnitude of land use and land cover changes that have occurred in Stony Athi subcatchment between 1984 and 2017; (b) to estimate the spatial-temporal variations of groundwater recharge due to land use and land cover changes; and (c) to evaluate the influence of land use and land cover changes on groundwater vulnerability to pollution. Quantification of spatial-temporal extent and magnitude of land use and land cover changes was achieved by classifying four satellite images through the supervised classification algorithm and finally applying post-classification change detection technique. Results showed significant (p < 0.05) land use and land cover changes between 1984 and 2017 with an increase in built-up areas (0.04% - 3.4%), agricultural land (0.06% - 0.7%) and grasslands (58.2% - 71.6%), but a decrease in shrub land (37.1% - 21.1%) and forested areas (2.5% - 1.4%). Estimation of the spatial-temporal variation of groundwater recharge due to land use and land cover changes was done using WetSpass-M, a Geographical Information System-based Hydrologic Model. Results indicated a decrease in groundwater recharge from 13.8% in 1984 to 13.2% in 2017. However, the observed temporal variations were not significant at p < 0.05. Spatial variations of groundwater recharge indicated that the highest recharge occur in forested areas at 251.1 mm per year while the lowest recharge occur in bare land at 0.4 mm per year. A modified DRASTIC model was used to evaluate the influence of land use and land cover changes on groundwater vulnerability to pollution. Potential of groundwater pollution vulnerability was categorized using a vulnerability index based on the United States Environment Protection Agency classification. Results indicated that 87% of the study area remained under low vulnerability between 1984 and 2017. Areas under moderate vulnerability decreased from 12% to 9% while areas under high vulnerability increased from 1% to 4% over the same period. The observed temporal variations in groundwater pollution vulnerability were not significant at p < 0.05. It was concluded that the land use and land cover changes in the study area have an influence on groundwater recharge and its vulnerability to pollution, though not statistically significant at p < 0.05. This study recommends continuous monitoring of groundwater quantity and quality, not only in the study area, but also in areas undergoing rapid changes in land use and land cover. Such monitoring will contribute to sustainable groundwater resource management. Future research could focus on other factors, which might affect groundwater dynamics in the study area such as climate change.
A thesis submitted in fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of doctor of philosophy (environmental science) in the school of agriculture and environmental sciences of Kenyatta University, February 2023