Predicting geogenic groundwater fluoride: Malawi as a case study

Rights statement
Awarding institution
  • University of Strathclyde
Date of award
  • 2021
Thesis identifier
  • T16176
Person Identifier (Local)
  • 201777396
Qualification Level
Qualification Name
Department, School or Faculty
  • Geogenic fluoride contamination of groundwater causes the health condition fluorosis and is a global water degredation issue affecting an estimated 200 million people. It has been identified as a priority chemical contaminant of concern by the United Nations and will be a focus in many fluoride-vulnerable developing countries towards Sustainable Development Goal 6 (SDG 6) related to water quality. Predicting groundwater vulnerability to geogenic fluoride will be key to sustainably managing groundwater assets for SDG 6, however some developing nations may not have the resources or data available to develop a solution. Malawi has only sparse knowledge of issues with fluoride and fluorosis and it does not have access to comprehensive national groundwater fluoride data which is a hinderance to the development of a complex risk model. This thesis sought to fill the knowledge gap with a national data collation and a synthesis of geological, hydrogeological and hydro-geochemical analyses of fluoride occurrence, to develop an innovative prediction method to screen for groundwater fluoride contamination which can be applied nationally. National groundwater fluoride occurrence was documented for the first time in Malawi providing a master data set of groundwater fluoride spanning 50 years. Fluoride was found to occur from two distinct source types (lithological, hydrothermal), each of which was designated a fluoride risk factor using fluoride-lithology statistics from existing data and extrapolating where data were absent. The method was developed to be dynamic with prediction accuracy increasing as new data is acquired, and can be easily applied at any scale in any country for little expense. The prediction method developed will allow the Government of Malawi to manage its groundwater infrastructure assets for fluoride contamination in a targeted manner, boost their attainment potential for SDG 6, redefine their groundwater policy to include geogenic fluoride contamination and bring their groundwater fluoride standard in line with observed health risks.
Advisor / supervisor
  • Rivett, M. O. (Mike O.)
  • Renshaw, Joanne
  • Kalin, Robert M.
Resource Type