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Darcy lecture: Coastal aquifer in Benin, West Africa

February 1, 2011

The 2011 Darcy Distinguished Lecturer, a professor of civil engineering at Notre Dame, will discuss important collaborations between researchers of various disciplines in addressing technical, social, and cultural issues associated with improving, protecting, and managing an important coastal water aquifer system in Benin, West Africa.

Stephen Silliman, Ph.D., will discuss groundwater wells in Benin, West Africa, that show signs of increasing salinity due to recharged waters fed from Lake Nokoue. Image by Emmanuel Brunner.Darcy Lecture
Wednesday, Feb. 2
Noon-1 p.m.
Lory Student Center
Room 224-226

Stephen E. Silliman, Ph.D., a professor and associate chair for the Department of Civil Engineering and Geological Sciences at the University of Notre Dame, has been named the 2011 Darcy Distinguished Lecturer. The title of his lecture is, "Characterization of a complex, sole-source aquifer system in Benin, West Africa."

The Henry Darcy Distinguished Lecture Series in Ground Water Science honors Henry Darcy of France, whose scientific discoveries served as the physical basis upon which groundwater hydrogeology has been studied. 

The lecture series was established in 1986 to foster interest and excellence in groundwater science and technology.  Annually, a panel of scientists and engineers invites an outstanding groundwater professional to share his or her work with their peers and students.

Benin, West Africa project

Silliman will speak at Colorado State on Wednesday, Feb. 2 about his work on a multifaceted, collaborative project focused on improving, protecting, and managing critical groundwater resources in Benin, West Africa.  

Silliman collaborates in this project with the Universite d'Abomey-Calavi in Benin, primarily with the Departments of Earth Sciences and Engineering. 

Silliman and his team have been active in the country of Benin since 1997.  Their work includes working with local villages to assist them in monitoring their water quality, sampling of groundwater quality with the Universite d'Abomey-Calavi, modeling salt-water intrusion along coast Benin, and drilling of wells.

Stephen Silliman with colleagues and Benin residents.

The coastal aquifer system serving Benin, West Africa

In his lecture, Silliman will discuss the Godomey well field, the sole source of freshwater for Cotonou, Benin. The Cotonou/Calavi area is the largest population center in Benin, with an estimated population of between 1.5 and 2 million people. Located directly on the Atlantic coast, this population center is also bordered by the southern and western shores of a large, shallow lake.

Groundwater wells serving this population are located about 6 km north of the Atlantic coast and as close as 1 km to the western shore of the lake. With most production wells located within partially confined portions of this complex aquifer system, this water resource is threatened by contamination from saltwater intrusion (both from the lake and the ocean) and anthropogenic activities.

U.S. and Benin scientists/students collaborate

"Collaboration among scientists and students from the United States and Benin has allowed development of increasing insight into the hydrogeology of this important coastal aquifer system," says Silliman. "Research efforts discussed in this presentation include numerical modeling, hydraulic testing, water quality characterization, and electrical resistivity surveys.

"We will discuss a number of technical and social/cultural issues encountered during this research effort which illustrate the value of close cooperation with in-country collaborators, including those from both the technical and social science disciplines."

The 2011 Darcy Lecture is being sponsored by the CSU Water Center and the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering.

Contact: Domenico Bau
Phone: (970) 491-6060