Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Professor Ming-Ko Woo


Knowledge concerning various aspects of drought and water scarcity is required to predict, and to articulate strategies to minimize the effects of future events. This thesis investigated different aspects of droughts and rainfall variability at several time scales and described the dynamics of water supply and use in a rural village in northeastern Nigeria. The parallel existence of measured climatic records and information on famine/folklore events is utilized to calibrate the historical information against the measured data. It is shown that famines or historical droughts occurred when the cumulative deficit of rainfall fell below 1.3 times the standard deviation of the long-term mean rainfall. The study demonstrated that famine chronologies are adequate proxy for drought events, providing a means for the reconstruction of the drought/climatic history of the region. Analysis of recent changes in annual rainfall characteristics show that the series of annual rainfall and number of rain days experienced a discontinuity during the 1960's, caused largely by the decrease in the frequency of moderate to high intensity rain events. The periods prior to and after the change point are homogenous and provide an objective basis for the estimation of changes in rainfall characteristics, drought parameters and for damarcating the region into sub-zones. Rainfall variability was unaffected by the abrupt change. Furthermore, the variability is independently distributed and adequately described by the normal distribution. This allows estimates of the probability of various magnitudes of thresholds of variability. The effects of droughts and rainfall variability are most strongly felt in rural areas. Analysis of the patterns of water supply and use in a typical rural village revealed that the hydrologic system is driven by the local rainfall. Perturbations in the rains propagate through the system with short lag time between the various components. Where fadama aquifers occur, they offer a major supplement of water for six to seven months during the dry season. Under traditional systems, the pattern of water withdrawal from the fadama aquifers is designed to accommodate the diverse interests of different groups and to minimize the potential for conflict. The results contribute to our understanding of drought and water scarcity and are useful in various practical applications.

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