Baseflow prediction in a data-scarce catchment with Inselberg topography, Central Mozambique

H. Weemstra*, A.L. Oord, F.S. de Boer, P.W. Beekman

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


This study aimed to improve the understanding of hydrological processes in a humid (sub)tropical area in Africa with Inselberg topography. Additionally, the study intended to develop an approach for selective discharge data acquisition to determine water availability for smallholder irrigation in similar data-scarce catchments. During the December 2012-August 2013 field campaign meteorological and river stage data were collected at the Messica catchment in Central Mozambique. The 220km2 catchment has an estimated 1000ha of irrigated land, developed by smallholder farmers. Baseflow in the perennial tributary streams on the slopes of a meta-sedimentary Inselberg is the source of irrigation water. The baseflow recession curve of one of these tributaries is analysed and the water balance of an average year was determined. Precipitation, potential evapotranspiration, actual evapotranspiration and discharge were estimated to be 1224, 1462, 949 and 266mm/year respectively. Differential gauging showed that the perennial tributaries gain water; the groundwater contribution increased with approximately 50% over two and a half month relative to the downstream discharge from March to May. In the downstream parts the groundwater contribution per metre stream length is between 30% and 100% higher compared to the upstream parts for two of the tributaries. Nevertheless, due to natural streambed infiltration and irrigation canals, discharge varies over the length of these tributaries. A rainfall-runoff model (HBV) was calibrated using the field data to examine the relation between precipitation characteristics and discharge at the start of the dry season. For precipitation scenarios with low and high intensity precipitation, discharges from June onwards were approximately similar in size according to the calibrated model. This suggest that discharge at the start of the dry season is mainly determined by total precipitation and the timing of precipitation (i.e. early or late in the wet season), not by individual rainfall events or rainfall intensity. It is concluded that the use of selective discharge measurements and low frequency precipitation measurements can effectively be used for water availability assessments in Inselberg catchments. Further research should be conducted to verify the validity of the used techniques in other humid sub-tropical Inselberg areas.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)16-27
Number of pages12
JournalPhysics and Chemistry of the Earth
Publication statusPublished - 2014


  • Baseflow
  • Differential gauging
  • Rainfall-runoff model
  • Smallholder irrigation
  • Ungauged drainage basin
  • Water balance


Dive into the research topics of 'Baseflow prediction in a data-scarce catchment with Inselberg topography, Central Mozambique'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this