Management for sustainable use of the Urucuia Aquifer on the agricultural frontier of Western Bahia

For underground water resources to be used properly, it is essential to understand how aquifer systems are distributed, their hydrogeological and hydrogeochemical characteristics, as well as to understand how these resources are currently being used.

The Urucuia Aquifer System, is one of the largest and most relevant in the country in terms of available stored volume and extension, being present mainly in the western part of the State of Bahia, with smaller portions in the States of Piauí, Maranhão and Tocantins. Studies focusing on its water potential, on its recharge mechanisms, flows, etc. are still needed. The aquifer is essential for maintaining the base flow of the São Francisco River basin, and is also subject to climatic variations that impose periods of drought, which is predicted to intensify in the near future.

The development of irrigated agriculture in the region of western Bahia is booming. Currently, this region is the producer of the highest quality cotton in Brazil, being the second largest national producer. They are also grown in the region: soy, corn, coffee, rice, beans and fruit. The development of these crops and the productive region, is intrinsically associated with the efforts of the Association of Irrigating Farmers of Bahia (AIBA), whose more than 1,300 members are responsible for more than 95% of the local production. AIBA has endeavored to obtain better knowledge of surface and underground water resources in the region, as well as the continuous monitoring and sustainable management of these resources.

In an interview with the newspaper Correio da Bahia on November 20, 2019, researcher Everaldo Mantovani, from the Federal University of Viçosa, highlights some of these efforts and explains the importance of hydrogeological studies for this management and for the preservation of rivers in Western Bahia. The full story can be read here.

One of the most powerful management tools is the numerical underground flow hydrogeological models as they allow the understanding of the characteristics of the aquifer system and the simulation of different scenarios of exploitation of the aquifer under different climatic conditions.

Water Services and Technologies, in partnership with the Federal University of Viçosa and the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, will develop a management system for AIBA that will allow the user to check online the results of different aquifer exploration scenarios, through the insertion or removal of wells, simulate the response of the aquifer and resulting water levels and drawdowns. This system will be developed using Visual MODFLOW groundwater flow simulation software. At the end of the project, training for AIBA technicians as well as for the Environment and Water Resources Institute – INEMA is foreseen to use the system as a tool in its grant and monitoring analyzes.

Marques e Silva Junior (2018). Projeto de estudo do potencial hídrico da região Oeste da Bahia: Quantificação e Monitoramento da Disponibilidade dos Recursos do Aquífero Urucuia no Estado da Bahia. Apresentação disponível em: