Hydrology of the Upper Capibaribe Basin, Pernambuco, Brazil - A reconnaissance in an Area of Crystalline Rocks

Water Supply Paper 1663-E

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The upper Capibaribe basin is the western three-fourths, approximately, of the valley of the river that empties into the Atlantic Ocean at Recife, the capital of the State of Pernambuco, Brazil. It is the part of the drainage basin that is within the Drought Polygon of northeast Brazil, and it totals about 5,400 square kilometers. It receives relatively abundant precipitation in terms of the annual average, yet is regarded as hot subhumid to semiarid because the precipitation is uneven from year to year and place to place. The dependable water supply, therefore, is small. The basin has water, which could be put to better use than at present, but the opportunities for augmenting the usable supply are not great. The streams are intermittent and therefore cannot be expected to fill surface reservoirs and to keep them filled. The ground-water reservoirs have small capacity--quickly filled and quickly drained. A rough estimate based on the records for 1964 suggests that, of 4,700 million cubic meters of precipitation in the upper Capibaribe basin, 2,700 million cubic meters (57 percent) left the basin as runoff and 2,000 million cubic meters {43 percent) went into underground storage or was evaporated or transpired. The bedrock of the upper Capibaribe basin is composed of granite, gneiss, schist, and other varieties of crystalline rocks, which have only insignificant primary permeability. They are permeable mainly where fractured. The principal fracture zones, fortunately, are in the valleys, where water accumulates and can feed into them, but the volume of fractured rock is small in relation to the basin as a whole. A well in a large water-filled fracture zone may yield up to 20,000 liters per hour, but the average well yields less than one-fourth this amount, and some wells yield none. The saprolite, or weathered rock, is many meters thick at some places especially in the eastern half of the upper Capibaribe basin. It contains water locally, but ordinarily will yield only small quantities to wells. The alluvium probably is the most productive aquifer in the basin, but is limited to narrow bands along the rivers that generally are no more than a few hundred meters wide and 5 meters thick. The alluvium contains variable amounts of silty sand capable of yielding small to moderate quantities of water to wells. Wells driven or dug into the alluvium could solve many small water problems. The chemical quality of the water in the upper Capibaribe basin ranges from good to bad and generally presents a major problem that cannot be solved solely by applying geological criteria. Mineralized water is widespread in the area, both in streams and underground, and .the choice of aquifers is small. All known aquifers contain, at one place or another, water that is mineralized, leaving no alternative for a natural supply of good-quality water. Although much of the available water is unsatisfactory for human consumption, it is generally acceptable for animals and therefore meets one of the principal water needs. Some of the ground water could be made potable by diluting it with rainwater, which could be collected during rainy seasons and temporarily stored in cisterns or reservoirs.

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Hydrology of the Upper Capibaribe Basin, Pernambuco, Brazil - A reconnaissance in an Area of Crystalline Rocks
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Water Supply Paper
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U.S. G.P.O.,
iv, 44 p. :ill., maps ;24 cm.