Regional Environmental Change

, Volume 14, Issue 1, pp 321–331 | Cite as

The long-term hydrology of East Africa’s water tower: statistical change detection in the watersheds of the Abbay Basin

  • Solomon Gebreyohannis GebrehiwotEmail author
  • Annemieke I. Gärdenäs
  • Woldeamlak Bewket
  • Jan Seibert
  • Ulrik Ilstedt
  • Kevin Bishop
Original Article


Forty-five years (1960–2004) of hydrological data from 12 watersheds in the Abbay Basin, Ethiopia, were tested for possible trends over the entire time series and differences in medians (step-wise changes) between three sub-periods. The classification of the sub-periods was based on the major political changes in 1975 and 1991. Variables investigated were rainfall (P), total flow (Q t), high flow (Q h), low flow (Q l), low flow index (LFI) and run-off coefficient (C). Data were checked for outliers, errors and homogeneity. Trend was tested after serial and cross-correlation tests. The data for each variable were serially uncorrelated from 1 to 10 lag years. There were five globally significant trends out of 50 test cases and 36 significant step-wise changes out of 180 tests. The majority of the significant changes were watershed specific. Run-off coefficient was the single variable showing a consistently increasing trend and stood for ca. 25 % of the total significant trends and step-wise changes. Half of these changes occurred after 1991. We concluded that despite the land use policy changes in 1975 and 1991, as well as the long-term soil degradation, the hydrological regime was quite stable over the 45-year period, with the exception of an increase in the run-off coefficient in the latter part of the run-off record in some watersheds.


Blue Nile Ethiopia Run-off coefficient Step-wise change Trend Watershed 



This research was supported by funds from SIDA (Swedish International Development Agency) and The Swedish Foreign Affairs Office project “Soil and water management in agricultural production”.


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  1. Bearing Climate, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration; 23/04/2009
  2. Ministry of Water and Energy, Ethiopia, 05/02/2013

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Solomon Gebreyohannis Gebrehiwot
    • 1
    • 2
    • 7
    Email author
  • Annemieke I. Gärdenäs
    • 3
  • Woldeamlak Bewket
    • 2
  • Jan Seibert
    • 4
    • 5
  • Ulrik Ilstedt
    • 6
  • Kevin Bishop
    • 1
    • 5
  1. 1.Department of Aquatic Sciences and AssessmentSwedish University of Agricultural SciencesUppsalaSweden
  2. 2.Department of Geography and Environmental StudiesAddis Ababa UniversityAddis AbabaEthiopia
  3. 3.Department of Soil and EnvironmentSwedish University of Agricultural SciencesUppsalaSweden
  4. 4.Department of GeographyUniversity of ZurichZurichSwitzerland
  5. 5.Department of Earth SciencesUppsala UniversityUppsalaSweden
  6. 6.Department of Forest Ecology and ManagementSwedish University of Agricultural SciencesUmeåSweden
  7. 7.Ethiopian Institute of Water ResourcesAddis Ababa UniversityAddis AbabaEthiopia

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