This paper discusses the interpretation of surface features that can assist in the evaluation of groundwater resources in semi-arid and arid developing regions. The lack of infrastructure in these areas places serious constraints on borehole drilling, which in turn limits the data which can be obtained directly from the subsurface. Under these conditions, surface indicators may be used to infer useful information about the subsurface, which includes shallow aquifers. This article summarizes those surface indicators which provide useful data in arid and semi-arid regions and provides a review of the literature to assist in their interpretation. Patterns of surface indicators covering a large area may be more effective and less costly for interpreting basic regional hydrogeological conditions than detailed data obtained from a limited number of boreholes. The hydrogeological information which can be obtained by using the methods discussed in this article include the regional flow patterns, an estimate of the depth to groundwater, aquifer geology and estimates of the regional recharge and discharge zones. This data may in turn provide support for subsequent well drilling campaigns, limited environmental assessments, and potable water assessments for humanitarian base camps in developing regions.
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