Water Resources Development and Hydrologic Processes Research
a focus on adverse impacts on watersheds in Haiti as a result of anthropogenic intervention (deforestation) and projected climate change scenarios.
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Despite Haiti not being a water poor country, reliable access to potable water remains a challenge especially in rural areas and in the poor urban sections. Most of the population relies on wells reaching the shallow unconfined layers, however hand dug wells rarely go deeper than 15 meters. With deep well drilling being expensive, access to the shallow water layers is thus limited to a band along the cost where the shallow layer is less than 15 meters away. In the mountains this is even more difficult where families often have to rely on springs that outcrop at lower levels on the hill slopes. Also, much of the agriculture relies on rain-based irrigation and with increasingly longer dry periods irrigation water shortages are becoming more frequent as irrigation infrastructure is underdeveloped.
A significant contributor to the "water poverty" is of anthropogenic nature, i.e. deforestation as a result of char coal production to satisfy the energy needs of the population. The mountainous regions could hold back much more water if canopy would intersect, the plant root systems would uptake, the groundwater recharge areas would have more time to absorb and infiltrate the surface water, and the soil would retain more of the water at higher elevations. This would prevent it from rapidly running downhill and in the course of rushing over the barren hill sides erode the fertile soils carrying it into the shallower coastal plains. There the soil often clogs up the water conveyance systems leading to flooding even during moderate rainfall events.
Hence, our research efforts seek to better understand how the water cycles through the altered landscape and how re-forestation improves the hydrologic response to the climate forcing, which itself is undergoing change. We also seek to actively work with local institutions, such as CODEP, DATIP and also DINEPA, to aid them in developing water resources planning tools. In order to support this ongoing research effort, we have deployed hydro meteorological monitoring stations in addition to monitoring a number of shallow groundwater wells in the coastal plain of Leogane and its main tributaries, i.e. the Rouyonne, Beloc, and Cormier rivers. We also track the water levels of Lake Azuei and seek to map out the lake's watershed to shed light on the lake's shrink- and growth patterns.