Groundwater represents an essential resource in sub-Saharan Africa, where several hundred million people rely on aquifers for domestic supply. This paper presents a method to map groundwater potential in the Republic of Mali based on a spatially-distributed database of 26,040 boreholes. The database includes exhaustive information on key parameters such as borehole location, success rate of borehole production, depth, yield, static groundwater level or water quality. Representative variables were classified and interpreted jointly to develop a groundwater potential index for each of the 703 communes in Mali. This provides a methodological novelty because groundwater potential studies typically rely on indirect indicators such as lineaments, slope, soil moisture and landforms. Also, such large borehole databases have seldom been used to estimate groundwater potential. The highest indexes were obtained for the areas in and around the River Niger’s Inner Delta, including southern Tombouctou and the central parts of the Ségou and Mopti Regions. The lower Precambrian formations, which include the country’s thoroughly populated southern plateau, had moderate scores. The lowest groundwater potential was found in the northern part of the Kayes and Koulikoro Regions, as well as in the entire region of Kidal. By providing results at the commune scale, these outcomes show that groundwater potential across the country’s geological and hydrogeological units can be highly variable, and that local and regional-scale information may be useful for groundwater management purposes. These results are policy-relevant in a context of rapid change and population growth, where groundwater resources can be expected to be increasingly relied upon in the coming years.
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