As water becomes an increasingly scarce resource in the Nile Basin region, Member States need to manage the resource more prudently

 

The close link between water and economic growth as well as demand for food, water and energy cannot be over emphasised, and this is no exception in the Nile Basin countries. As the population and economies of these countries grow, so is the demand for water, food and energy and all the countries consider the Nile waters in particular to play a central role. To address this challenge, each Nile Basin country has its national development plans, which unfortunately could be unrealistic since they don’t have information on how the water resources will be affected by developments upstream. In addition, because the plans are prepared without incorporating basin-wide coordination opportunities, they could be sub-optimal. Recognising this challenge and bearing in mind that in a transboundary river basin, no single country holds the answer to the key question – how much water is available and is it sufficient to address the needs of all riparians, the Nile Council of Ministers (Nile-COM), the highest political decision making body of the Nile Basin Initiative (NBI), tasked the Secretariat in 2015, to undertake a study. The aim of the study is to generate the infrastructure and management options that will help Member States to meet their current and future water, food and energy demands and in a more sustainable manner. As the only basin-wide platform that brings Nile Basin countries together to discuss how to jointly take care of and utilise the shared water resources, NBI has a key role in making sure that the needs of all riparian countries are addressed. Working together with Member States through the Regional Expert Working Group members, the Secretariat embarked on phase 1 of the study in 2015 and completed it in 2016. This phase focused on establishing the baseline on water availability, water demand and actual water use for various sectors in the riparian countries; compiling the countries’ water resources development plans up to the year 2050; and developing projection of water availability and water demands using the Nile Basin Decision Support System - a model jointly developed by NBI and Member States. This is in addition to generating a range of scenarios of hydrology of the Nile Basin under climate change and a range of scenarios of water demand and water supply reliability under climate change; as well as developing preliminary estimates of water balance of the Nile Basin under the range of development and climate change scenarios. All study results show that the Nile Basin is likely to face severe water stress and a risk of substantial deficit in water supply. The process and results of the first phase have also helped in creating a common view among the Regional Expert Working Group regarding the basin’s water security challenges as well as the need and possibility for finding solutions to the challenges. Furthermore, through the analysis, a common basin-wide model and database have been created and shared among the NBI Member States. The model and the database cover existing water infrastructure, data on planned water resources development projects and data on current water demands and water uses for key sectors in the riparian countries, among others.

 

 

The NBI is currently undertaking the second phase, in which it is engaging the Member States to determine the best options for enhancing the water supply, managing the demands and optimising water use across the Nile Basin States.

The recent proclamation of 2019 as the Year of the Nile Basin with the motto: Putting Water at the heart of Regional Transformation, by the chairman of the Nile Council of Ministers, Hon Dr Deo-Guide Rurema is also in view of the fact that the Nile waters are key to achieving the regional development agenda and enabling regional integration. “By declaring 2019 ‘The Year of the Nile Basin’, the Nile Basin community recognises that the River Nile plays an integral part in achieving not only water security but also food and energy security as well as eradicating poverty for the people of the Nile Basin region”, said Dr. Rurema, who is also Burundi’s Minister of Environment, Agriculture and Livestock. Going forward, the results from both phases of the strategic water resources analysis will be used in the design of a water resources management plan and basin-wide investment programme.

 

 

"Nile Basin countries are heavily dependent on ground water resources for domestic, industrial and in some areas livestock and even irrigation water supplies", said Mr. Jackson Twinomujuni, Commissioner in the Ministry of Water and Environment in Uganda and member of the Nile Technical Advisory Committee.

The aim of the project therefore is to foster the more effective utilisation and protection of selected shared aquifers in the selected sub-basin in the Eastern Nile and the Nile Equatorial Lakes region through further improving the understanding of available groundwater resources and demonstrating ‘conjunctive management that optimises the joint use of surface and groundwater. The project will also aid the national achievements and reporting of water-related Sustainable Development Goals as well as support environmental protection whilst enhancing socio-economic development of the basin’s population. Seven NBI Member States namely; Burundi, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Sudan, Uganda and Tanzania are participating in the two-day inception meeting to discuss and jointly agree on the final project, which should take into account the specific country challenges and result in benefits. Anticipated benefits include mapping of aquifers and understanding of quantity and quality of water resources available to utilise, through conjunctive use and management, for sustainable socio-economic development and meeting ecosystem requirements; sub-basin and national climate change scenarios will be better defined through the knowledge on groundwater, to build-in resilience strategies to adapt to potential climate change and ensure sustainable use of groundwater use towards effective risk-reduction adaptation measures. Other benefits are improved understanding of the interactions between surface and ground waters, including opportunities for artificial recharge by countries when surface water is abundant or to harvest runoff for recharge in arid and semi-arid regions. Participating countries will also be better equipped to achieve and report progress towards the sustainable Development Goals.