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Modeling Water Availability and Use

Ethiopia, Horn of Africa

Featured image for the project, Modeling Water Availability and Use

The Horn of Africa Regional Environmental Centre and Network and Scientist Stéphanie Horion are working together to develop a socially equitable water allocation plan for the Ziway Catchment (located in the Central Rift Valley of Oromia National Regional State). With the use of land cover/ land use data, Horion hopes to develop a hydrological model that will inform local water policy by the end of July 2016.


The Challenge

Human impact together with changing climate is significantly affecting natural resources – especially water – in the Ziway Catchment. Being a closed basin, Ziway is highly sensitive to natural and human impacts. Yet, there is a high level of unregulated water abstraction by smallholder farmers and big investments (such as flower farms) that significantly threaten ecosystems and biodiversity of the area. It is therefore important to understand mechanisms and processes that can mediate between uncontrolled resources use, such as unlimited water abstraction, and activities dealing with investment and poverty reduction at macro as well as micro levels.


Clearly understanding the situation in the area, this project aims to develop and pilot a water allocation plan for the Ziway Catchment. Design and implementation of this water allocation plan will solve the fundamental lack of understanding of water resource allocation between sectors as well as competing uses and users within the basin. An understanding of available water resources that anticipate future increase in demand and limitations impacted by climate change is also vital for sustainable development of the Catchment and for better water resource use that can avoid future conflicts.


The Horn of Africa Regional Environmental Centre and Network (HoA-REC&N) has enlisted the help of scientist Stéphanie Horion to develop land use/land cover maps for the Ziway Catchment of Ethiopia. In collaboration with a HoA-REC&N consultant, Stephanie will use these inputs to create a hydrological model designed to contribute to the sustainable use of water resources in that region. This model may then be used to develop manuals for improving water allocation mechanisms at the local system level. The goal of this project is that access to and management of agricultural water resources will improve the livelihoods of stakeholders (smallholder farmers and investors, women and womens’ groups, and other vulnerable populations).


After completion, the project will develop a socially equitable water allocation plan that will be put forward to relevant government offices and the wider community to consider accepting and implementing which will also address ecosystem water flow requirements.

About the Community

About the Center

The Horn of Africa Regional Environmental Center and Network focuses on environmental concerns and sustainable development options within the Horn of Africa. It facilitates, strengthens and advocates for initiatives related to land use planning, integrated water resources management, ecosystem management, climate change, and energy and value chains for sustainable products and services. The Centre is based in Addis Ababa, and hosts a network of more than 40 endogenous civil society organizations, higher learning institutions and research centers, in Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan and Sudan.


The Centre’s projects provides support to small and large farms including flower and horticulture to be green and efficient in resource use such water and hence compete with the global sustainable trade. The Centre also provides support for transboundary biodiversity management and wildlife conservation between South Sudan and Ethiopia on the Boma-Gambella landscape which is home to wide range of wildlife including nearly a million white-eared kobs migrating seasonally between South Sudan and Ethiopia. So as to protect such pristine natural resource, the Centre implements integrated land use planning using landscape approach to conserve nature while promoting sustainable development. HoAREC&N also is establishing Ethiopia Climate Innovation Centre (ECIC) in partnership with international and local partners funded by UKAID, Norway and Danish government through the Word Bank.


Mapping in the Ziway basin


Fisherman on Ziway Lake, Ethiopia. Image courtesy of maailmajapaikat

Fisherman on Ziway Lake, Ethiopia. Image courtesy of maailmajapaikat

TEX scientist Dr. Stéphanie Horion is working to identify a series of optimal maps and spatial data layers related to land use/land cover change and soil characteristics for HoAREC&N. In collaboration with a HoAREC&N consultant who specializes in modeling and statistical analysis, they intend to use these spatial layers to help inform water challenges in the Ziway basin. There are multiple products that will go into this final output, including a hydrological model. Based on Horion’s suggestions, the CCI land cover products is currently being tested as an input to the hydrological model. The consultant supplemented that with an additional land cover data set, that once being integrated to the CCI dataset will improve retracing the history of land cover changes over the study area.


The goal of this project is to report the project’s findings to the local government at the end of July 2016. Haile Brook has communicated that he anticipates that this model will convince the government to implement a water allocation plan for the Ziway catchment. He noted that, although implementation may meet some resistance, the project will be a success if they are able to share solutions with other developing nations facing similar issues.

All updates for this project

Project Team

The Community Lead


Haileyesus Brook has worked as a project coordinator at the Horn of Africa Regional Environment Centre & Network since 2009. Much of his work focuses on improving environmental governance in Ethiopia through building the capacity of stakeholders. Haileyesus has experience working with government and civil society counterparts, and supports multi-stakeholder platforms to work and plan together to address challenges on the ground and at policy level. Recently he leads a project that aims to develop a water allocation plan for Ziway catchment in the CRV.

The Scientific Liaison


Dr. Stéphanie Horion is a postdoc in Earth Observation and global environmental change at the Department of Geosciences and Natural Resource Management, University of Copenhagen (Denmark). Her research interests focus on remote sensing of vegetation, land-atmosphere interactions, drought monitoring and impact assessment, human and climate induced land degradation.