Climatic Change

, Volume 25, Issue 2, pp 127–151 | Cite as

Recent fluctuations in precipitation and runoff over the Nile sub-basins and their impact on main Nile discharge

  • D. Conway
  • M. Hulme


Substantial fluctuations in precipitation and runoff have occurred over the Nile Basin in recent decades. Ten-year mean flows of the Blue Nile (Khartoum gauge) during the 20th century have ranged from 42.2 to 56.7 km3 and for the White Nile (Malakal gauge) from 25.5 to 36.9 km3. These fluctuations have been responsible for changes in decade-mean Main Nile discharge of up to ± 20% which have had important consequences for water resource management in both Egypt and Sudan.

This paper provides a review of the Nile Basin hydrology incorporating, for the first time, analyses of the relationships between precipitation and runoff fluctuations in the instrumental period for each of the eight major sub-basins within the Nile Basin. These sub-basins possess very different physical, climatic and hydrological characteristics. Over 90% of the Main Nile discharge originates from only four of the sub-basins; Lake Victoria, Blue Nile, Atbara, and the Sobat. Interbasin correlations of 40 y (1945-84) precipitation and runoff annual time series identify two broadly homogeneous regions; the Ethiopian highlands (Blue Nile and Atbara) and the Lake Victoria and Equatorial Lakes (White Nile). These regions posses contrasting precipitation regimes whose interannual variations are uncorrelated in time and which are therefore associated with different atmospheric circulation anomalies. The observed relationships between catchment precipitation and runoff, however, are not straightforward and the sensitivity of runoff to precipitation fluctuations varies from basin to basin. Some of the water resource management implications of these fluctuations for Egypt are discussed. With water demand in Egypt alone set to increase 17% by the year 2000, it is critical that the role of future climate change in Nile water management is thoroughly assessed based on a correct modelling of the diverse hydrological characteristics of the various Nile sub-basins.


Egypt Water Resource Management Sudan Hydrological Characteristic Annual Time Series 
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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1993

Authors and Affiliations

  • D. Conway
    • 1
  • M. Hulme
    • 1
  1. 1.Climatic Research Unit, School of Environmental SciencesUniversity of East AngliaNorwichU.K.

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