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Analyzing the hydrologic effects of region-wide land and water development interventions: a case study of the Upper Blue Nile basin

Abstract

In the drylands of the Upper Blue Nile basin, high climate variability and land degradation are rampant. To enhance adaptive capacity in the region, various soil and water conservation interventions have been implemented. Moreover, water resources development schemes such as the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam should be implemented by 2025. We modeled the effects of these interventions on surface runoff in the basin for both current and future (2025) basin conditions, using the runoff coefficient method in a spatially explicit approach. Under current conditions, we observed high spatial variability of mean annual runoff. The northeastern Blue Nile-1 sub-basin produces the highest mean annual runoff (391 mm or 10 × 109 m3), whereas the northwestern Blue Nile-2 sub-basin produces the lowest mean annual runoff (178 mm or 0.2 × 109 m3). The basin generates a total annual runoff volume of 47.7 × 109 m3, of which about 54 % comes from cultivated land. The strong association between land use and topography masked the direct effect of rainfall on runoff. By 2025, total annual runoff yield could decrease by up to 38 % if appropriate basin-wide soil and water conservation interventions and the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam are implemented. However, the full effects of most physical structures will only last for 1 or 2 years without regular maintenance. The improved understanding of the dynamics of the Upper Blue Nile basin’s hydrology provided by the present study will help planners to design appropriate management scenarios. Developing the basin’s database remains important for a holistic understanding of the impacts of future development interventions.

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Acknowledgments

The research was funded by Grants-in-Aid for Scientific Research (KAKENHI) sponsored by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports Science and Technology (MEXT), and by the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS). The lead author was funded through the JSPS Postdoctoral Fellowship for Overseas Researchers. Finally, we would like to thank subject editor Dr Erika Coppola and the two anonymous reviewers for providing very valuable comments on the earlier version of this paper.

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Correspondence to Nigussie Haregeweyn.

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Editor: Erika Coppola.

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Haregeweyn, N., Tsunekawa, A., Tsubo, M. et al. Analyzing the hydrologic effects of region-wide land and water development interventions: a case study of the Upper Blue Nile basin. Reg Environ Change 16, 951–966 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10113-015-0813-2

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Keywords

  • Drylands
  • Soil and water conservation
  • Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam
  • Runoff coefficient
  • Spatial variability of runoff