Advancing African water management
EU-funded researchers are using mathematical models to improve water management in Africa. Their aim is to balance the water, energy and food needs of communities in a sustainable way while allowing for economic development.
© AntPun #68756135, 2019 source: stock.adobe.com
As the economies and populations of many African countries grow, so do their needs for food, energy and water. Shortages or development of harmful management strategies could result in political tensions, reduced development and lasting environmental damage.
To address this issue, the EU-funded DAFNE project is preparing a methodological approach to identify best practice roadmaps for the effective management of water in transboundary river basins of fast-developing countries such as Africas Omo-Turkana and Zambezi river basins.
DAFNE will allow for a better understanding of the relationship between water, energy and food, and will generate a novel methodological approach to explore alternative planning and management solutions based on the cooperation of public and private stakeholders, says project coordinator Paolo Burlando, a professor at Swiss university ETH Zürich. Our vision is to foster the identification of development pathways that promote profitable but equitable use of water resources resolving societal and/or stakeholder conflicts while promoting environmental conservation.
Models to map the future
Using mathematical models, the researchers are gauging how rivers, water bodies and ecosystems will react to potential future disturbances such as climate change and anthropic pressure due to infrastructure developments and intensive irrigated agriculture.
Through workshops with stakeholders from a wide range of backgrounds, the scientists are mapping the best course of action, taking into account the impact on all those involved. This, they say, will lead to informed, evidence-based decision-making.
A more balanced and fair access to water resources and their benefits among the stakeholders in river basins, particularly if transboundary, is a precondition for preserving and enhancing local economies, reducing poverty and favouring equitable development without overexploitation of natural resources, says Burlando.
The hope is that the framework will provide guidance for politicians, policymakers, regional authorities and local governments, enabling them to plan more effectively for different scenarios going forward.
Dams the flip side of progress
Researchers are currently examining the resilience of tropical rivers to impacts following dam construction, development of extensive irrigated agriculture areas and other human activities potentially harmful for natural resources and the environment. The aim is to anticipate the tipping point between safe and healthy development pathways and those at risk of creating irreversible damage.
Dams are currently under planning or construction along the River Omo to address the rising electricity needs of Ethiopia and in the Zambezi river basin to meet the increasing demand from all the riparian states. DAFNE researchers are collaborating with governmental and basin authorities, a broad range of stakeholders from key agricultural and energy sectors that will benefit from dams, local communities, NGOs and others.
The goal is to promote a participatory approach to water management, which can lead to solutions that can ensure growth while favouring long-term sustainability, environmental conservation and social inclusion.
The researchers hope to implement lessons learned from the past and current developments in the two case studies, which led to ecological damage and associated problems, to promote a change of paradigm in addressing the water-energy-food nexus that will be transferrable to river basins at risk of following similar development trajectories.
DAFNE generates and transfers European technological innovation and know-how in the field of water-resources monitoring, modelling and management to increasingly vulnerable African river basins, says Burlando.
An open-data, geo-information portal will be created to make DAFNEs results available to the public. For young researchers interested in river basins and water resource management, the project will run a summer school and an online course that will provide training using the Zambezi and Omo river basins as case studies.