Low-cost Geophysical Instrumentation for Groundwater Investigation: A GWB Experience

Since 2018, geophysics faculty from the Colorado School of Mines (CSM) in partnership with hydrogeophysics faculty at the Université d’Abomey-Calavi (UAC) in Cotonou, Benin have been working with Geoscientists without Borders (GWB) on a humanitarian geophysics project to develop “Low-cost Geophysical Instrumentation for Groundwater Management in West Africa.” Over the past four years, CSM graduate and undergraduate students have led the development and testing of low-cost DC resistivity, EM induction, and seismic nodal systems. These instruments were designed to be straightforward to build and use in hydrogeophysical projects in Benin and throughout West Africa.

CSM Prof. Andrei Swidinsky discussing some of the finer points of DC resistivity inversion with UAC students.

The team of CSM students and faculty traveled to Benin to collaborate with UAC faculty students in running a hydrogeophysics and instrumentation workshop focusing on the teaching of theory, and in the construction and usage of low-cost instrumentation for DC resistivity and seismic surveys. Teams of UAC and CSM students built instruments and conducted geophysical surveys with both the low-cost and comparable commercial equipment in a field-camp investigation of the Ouédo Pumping Area site, which supplies water to Cotonou and several nearby cities.

The data from all the instruments were analyzed to help constrain the field site geology and hydrology based on the geophysical data and drilling logs. All low-cost instruments and teaching materials including open-access geophysical software will remain in Benin for use in future projects.

Finally, while the CSM-UAC GWB Benin project is officially ending, project work on low-cost instrumentation and applications to groundwater investigations will continue – pushed forward by the next generation of resourceful student geoscientists and engineers.

“Geophysics humanitarian work provides a unique opportunity to enable others to help their communities and allow for multinational connections to form. It is important to continue this work and build these connections to share our knowledge and contribute to educational growth around the world.”

Cullen Young – PhD Student, Mines Geophysics

Learn more about this project.

UAC students deploying the DC resistivity instruments they constructed during the instrumentation workshop.
UAC students constructing the DC resistivity instruments