West African regions along the Niger River experience climate and land cover changes that affect hydrological processes and therewith the distribution of fresh water resources (WR). This study provides an investigation of long-term changes in terrestrial water storages (TWS) of the Niger River basin and its subregions by analyzing a decade of satellite gravity data from the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) mission. The location of large trends in TWS maps of differently processed GRACE solutions points to rising groundwater stocks. Soil moisture data from a global land surface model allow separating the effect of significantly increasing amount of WR from that of TWS variations. Surface water variations from a global water storage model validated with observations from altimetry data were applied to estimate the groundwater component in WR. For the whole Niger, a rise in groundwater stocks is estimated to be 93 ± 61 km3 between January 2003 and December 2013. A careful analysis of uncertainties in all data sets supports the significance of the groundwater rise. Our results confirm previous observations of rising water tables, indicating that effects of land cover changes on groundwater storage are relevant on basin scales. Areas with rising water storage are stocking a comfortable backup to mitigate possible future droughts and to deliver water to remote areas. This has implications for Niger water management strategies. Increasing groundwater recharges may be accompanied by reduction in water quality. This study helps to inform authority's decision to mitigate its negative impacts on local communities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)10,459-10,477
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2017


  • Niger
  • gravity variations
  • groundwater
  • water balance

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geochemistry and Petrology
  • Geophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)


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