Impacts of climate change on water resources availability in Zambia: implications for irrigation development

Abstract

The Zambian economy is predominantly based on exploitation of its natural resources. The water resources in particular are important for the socioeconomic development of the country. Managing water resources sustainably requires a good understanding of the current and future availability of these resources at local level: how much water is available, where is it available and when? This study assesses the spatial and temporal distribution of water resources and the impacts of projected climate change on water resource availability in Zambia. The study employs statistical downscaling of future climate scenarios and a water balance model in a hydrological modeling framework to assess the impacts of climate change on water availability. Unlike past studies done at national, regional or global levels, analysis in this study was done at the local river basin level. The main results indicate that temperature is projected to increase by 1.9 °C and 2.3 °C by 2050 and 2100, respectively, in Zambia. Rainfall is projected to decrease by about 3% by mid-century and only marginally by about 0.6% toward the end of the century across the country. These changes in rainfall and temperature will decrease water availability by 13% by the end of the century in 2100 at national level. At the river basin level, the northern basins are projected to stay the same or experience slight gains in water resources compared to those in the southern and western parts of Zambia where reductions up to 9% are projected. In particular, Zambezi, Kafue and Luangwa River basins are projected to have less water resources available due to reduced rainfall and higher temperatures. Two main implications for irrigation development follow in Zambia. More water-efficient irrigation technologies are needed and water resources will need to be better managed and regulated to cope with the projected water stresses due to climate change.

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Figure modified from McCabe and Mark (2010)

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Notes

  1. 1.

    http://www.csag.uct.ac.za/climate-services/cip/.

  2. 2.

    Downscaling refers to a process of taking global information on climate response to changing atmospheric composition, and translating it to a local finer spatial scale, e.g., at river basin level.

  3. 3.

    see Table A2 with list of GCMs.

  4. 4.

    RCP4.5 and RCP8.5.

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Acknowledgements

We are grateful to the Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA) and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) in Lusaka for financing this study through the Indaba Agricultural Policy Research Institute (IAPRI). The second author acknowledges financial support from the USAID-funded Zambia buy-into the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Food Security Policy (FSP). We are grateful to the Water Resources Management Authority (WARMA) for providing the river flow and discharge data and to Paul Samboko and Mooya Nzila for coordinating this data collection. Usual disclaimers apply: the contents of this publication are the sole responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of USAID, SIDA or IAPRI.

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Appendix A: Additional outputs

Appendix A: Additional outputs

See Tables 7 and 8.

Table 7 Flow characteristics of main rivers at selected gauging stations in Zambia
Table 8 List of global circulation models (GCM) used in the analysis

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Hamududu, B.H., Ngoma, H. Impacts of climate change on water resources availability in Zambia: implications for irrigation development. Environ Dev Sustain 22, 2817–2838 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10668-019-00320-9

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Keywords

  • Smallholder irrigation
  • Water resources
  • Climate change
  • Zambia