Water Access in Chaguite: Change of Plans

My original research plan for the summer was to collect GIS data in order to determine water sources within the community of Chaguite, Nicaragua so that my larger research group could use my research to plan where to build a well that is accessible to all members of the community. Unfortunately, after I had to cancel my trip to Chaguite after the protests in Nicaragua in May, I’ve had to adjust my research plan. Because I can’t be in country to continue collecting data, I’ve adjusted how I will go about locating and assessing sources of water. By using remote sensing combined with the baseline data I have on well water availability in Chaguite, I can create a model that will predict where groundwater will be available within the region without having immediate access to Chaguite.

I’ve looked at prior research that was used to predict groundwater availability for both agriculture and drinking and assessing the quality of the groundwater. These studies have been successful in helping to pinpoint where to drill boreholes or where to place irrigation systems. I already have baseline GIS data that describes elevation and current well conditions and locations within the community. I’ve identified eight factors I will need to build a final raster that will provide possible well locations. These include: lithology, land-use classification, lineament density, drainage density, slope, soil, rainfall and current well and cistern locations. Fortunately, most of this data is available through different publicly accessible satellite datasets. Remote sensing could be an inexpensive and hands-off way for me to determine where groundwater might be available within Chaguite. One of the problems it may pose is the large study area. I’m concerned that my final raster will provide locations for a broad area because of the standard 30×30 pixel size of satellite imagery instead of just covering the small community of Chaguite. Because the pixels are relatively large, I won’t be able to zoom in on a standard size image (which covers a large portion of Nicaragua) without compromising the clarity of the image.

I’ve already read a number of similar past studies on this topic, my next step will be to research which factors ultimately affect groundwater availability in a climate similar to that of Nicaragua (most of the past studies have been done in Africa and Asia) and to begin locating sources of data for the remote sensing branch of the project. I will need to adjust the data I mentioned earlier based on what I find is most important to groundwater in a Central American climate and I also need to determine the weights of each factor for a final raster calculation.



  1. jnelkayam says:

    Even though you’ll no longer be on-site in Nicaragua, your GIS research is still really interesting to me, as I’m looking to learn more about GIS myself. I was very impressed by the amount of different types of data you intend to use. Are geomorphic and fluvial processes under consideration, or do they not affect water source locations enough to be relevant? Will it be particularly crucial to obtain more detailed data on the Chaguite community? I’m interested to see how your research develops!

  2. chelschive says:

    Wow Heather! I love how you were able to adjust based on the political climate in Nicaragua. It takes a lot of critical thinking to come up with another way to collect data that you originally thought you needed to get in person. This is such an important part of research and in my opinion, makes research such a great skill to have. Wish you the best on your research!

  3. cemaciashentze says:

    Great to hear that you were able to still continue to look at water access in Chaguite even if we were not able to visit the community. I’m excited to see the model and the information you are able to gather concerning the ground water!

  4. micrittenden says:

    Hey Heather,

    This is Matt from SOMOS. I’m really sorry to hear about your research plan and MANOS’s summer trip being thrown off tracks – it is really impressive that you’ve been able to reorganize your resources and develop a new plan!

    Since you weren’t able to go on the summer trip, will you be going on the winter trip if the conditions in Nicaragua improve, or will you remotely support the continuation of your research by the other members of MANOS? Your work this summer seems to be heavily quantitative (because that’s probably what is most feasible remotely) – will MANOS eventually incorporate a qualitative dimension, like the interviewing process or maybe work that has already been done by the SNA focus group? Or could you still ask which households use which wells during MANOS’s regular community calls? Also, what is the resolution of the elevation data that you have (is it also 30 x 30?) and how did you acquire it? Was it collected by MANOS in the past or is it open access data? Potentially knowing where to look would really help with my research into the flood hazard mapping projects that SOMOS might pursue in the future. Hopefully, though, we can both find some higher resolution data!

    Best of luck with completing your research!