Pursuant to the directive by the Nile Council of Ministers (Nile-COM) in 2015, to carry out assessment of current and future water demands in the Nile Basin and to explore options for sustainably meeting the growing water demands, the Nile Basin Initiative Secretariat (Nile-SEC) has been carrying out strategic water resources assessment that is currently in its second phase.
The first phase of the assessment was concluded in 2017. This phase focused on establishing baseline conditions with respect to water availability and demand as well as carrying out preliminary projections of water demand and availability by 2050. In addition, based on indicative results of the analytic work, potential options were identified that would be explored/studied in Phase II to narrow down the estimated future gap between water availability and water demand. Upon review and endorsement by the NBI governance, the strategic options shall be used to inform the development of the Nile Basin Management Plan as well as the Nile Basin Investment Programme.
Below, the Secretariat’s Dr Abdulkarim Seid (Deputy Executive Director/Head of the Basin wide Programme and Dr Yohannes Gebretsadik ( Regional Water Resources Analyst) share a sneak peek of the results of Phase II, with respect to irrigation demand projections and water saving options.
In partnership with the International Water Management Institute (IWMI), Nile-SEC developed refined estimates of irrigation water demands under current (2018) and projected scenarios of irrigation developed for the years 2030 and 2050.
Assessment of future projection for potential area expansion in irrigation was carried out for two main scenarios. Scenario one - ‘Business as Usual', which assumes current irrigation development trends in the Nile Basin countries to continue and Scenario two, which makes use of future planned irrigation projects based on information obtained from the Nile Basin countries that have been developed either in irrigation master plans or conducted integrated water resources management and development studies.
The result of this study has indicated a total area expansion of 9.6 million ha by 2050 under the full implementation of planned projects (see figure below – Irrigation development projection scenarios in 1000ha). As can be seen from the figure, irrigation is projected to make substantial growth over the coming two to three decades. The projected aggregate increase could reach 45 percent of irrigation development in 2018 by 2050 if all planned irrigation projects in documents submitted by Member States are implemented. If current trends of irrigation expansion in the Nile Basin countries continue the percentage increase could reach 40 percent.
Water demand projections and water saving options
The corresponding water demand for area projection scenarios indicates more than 140 BCM irrigation water needed if the current level of water management technology continues. This would require additional 50 BCM on top of the existing abstraction on the already water stressed Basin. Nile Basin countries will likely face physical and economic water scarcity unless water development is hastened with due consideration to saving from current and future developments, Figure 2.
In order to address the potential gap, the study has identified five major categories of water saving options from irrigation. These are:
i. Intensification of rain fed agriculture in the upper riparian countries.
ii. Improving overall water use efficiencies mainly of large scale irrigation schemes.
iii. Improving cropping pattern and zoning.
iv. Application of water deficit irrigation.
v. Improving water management and basin water supply.
The preliminary estimate of water saving from effective implementation of these measures is shown below.
The assessments conducted by the Nile-SEC so far showed that, while the Nile Basin has substantial potential for expanding power generation and irrigated agriculture, seen from basin-wide perspective, the basin is likely to face acute water shortage unless measures are taken to balance the water demands with available water supply Nile Basin. As part of the strategic water resources assessment, a number of options have been assessed on their scope of their efficacy in alleviating the water shortage. These include: improving water management in agriculture (listed above), basin-wide optimization of water utilization, desalination and reuse of water, and water saving options in municipal and industrial water use. These options are envisaged to feed into a basin-planning process currently being initiated by NBI. The basin plan and a linked basin-wide investment program are scheduled to be completed late in 2021. They shall provide a basin-wide framework for more sustainable utilization of the shared Nile Basin water resources.