The topic working group on ‘spatial analysis and modelling’ (SAM) from the Challenge Program for Water and Food (CPWF) has agreed on a partnership between the International Water Management Institute (IWMI), Cornell University and Texas A&M University on a product dealing with global climate reanalysis data.

This partnership and announced its intentions at the recent Soil and Water Technology (SWAT) 2012 conference. The product (available at this address: will be hosted by Texas A&M University for now.

As an upcoming paper highlights, “Obtaining representative or near real-time meteorological data to force watershed models can be difficult and time consuming. Land based stations are often too far from the point of interest to adequately represent the weather, and many have  gaps in the data series.” The Climate Forecast System Reanalysis (CFSR) global meteorological data set has the advantage of using precipitation and temperature data, which generally provide better predictions of watershed discharge than land based stations at distances greater than 10 km from the watershed center.

This data set is useful for the SAM team for hydrological modeling, in the absence of gauge data. However, the data can also be used for any other application. It requires MET parameters – a lot of other parameters were not included (see full details at: Daniel Fuka, PhD student from Cornell University is leading this work.


In late 2011, all projects in the Nile Basin Development Challenge prepared ‘most significant change’ stories from the first phase of operations. One of the stories looked at project experiences with the installation of hydrological monitoring sites.

NBDC Brief 10 is a summary  of the story.

A key objective of the Nile BDC is to gain insights into hydrological processes (e.g. water budgets and partitioning of rainfall between soil moisture, groundwater and runoff) in order to inform decision-making about different rainwater management options. To do this, we have established hydrological monitoring networks in three research catchments, one in each of the woreda’s where the research is being conducted (i.e., Jeldu, Diga and Fogera).

We also decided to engage with relevant stakeholders and communities to establish the instrumentation networks. We hope this participatory approach will:

  • instill trust and goodwill amongst the community;
  • provide opportunities for local communities to better understand the hydrological regime of their localities;
    help establish a conducive atmosphere for the flow of knowledge between researchers and the communities and vice-versa.

Some lessons

The three research catchments are almost certainly the most sophisticated hydrological experimental monitoring networks ever established in Ethiopia. As such they should be exploited to the full. If they are to be utilized successfully it is clear that participation from local communities and a range of stakeholders is vital.

Download the Brief

We also interviewed Matthew McCartney (IWMI) about his hydrological work in the project:

The River Nile Water is the lifeblood for 180 million people who live in the river basin. Nile water supports hydropower, agriculture, navigation, and a multitude of ecosystem services all essential for economic growth, poverty reduction, and stability in the region.

The region has the potential for rapid growth, and many individuals, communities, companies, and countries have high hopes that the Nile waters can support growth and prosperity. While the future expectation of what the Nile can deliver to its people is extremely high, in fact the resource is limited, and there is a real danger that ill-planned development can lead to degradation and conflict.

This book by Assefa M. Melesse covers a range of biophysical issues important for the Nile basin: water budgets of the major lakes, satellite rainfall data, climate variability, tradeoffs in water use and productivity, and water scarcity.

Two of the chapters are contributed by scientists working in the Nile BDC:

Livestock-water productivity in the Nile Basin: Solutions for emerging challenges by Tilahun Amede and colleagues provides a framework to improve returns from water investments through: (i) provision of sufficient watering points for livestock across the basin; (ii) improving water productivity through promoting water-saving technologies, ensuring system integration and control of transboundary flux of livestock diseases; and (iii) formulating participatory basin scale regulatory frameworks on water use and sharing. It also argues that improving water productivity through integrated technological, policy and institutional interventions offers an opportunity for smallholders in both upstream and downstream countries to adapt to climate and market risks.

Hydrological water availability, trends and Allocation in the Blue Nile Basin by Matthew McCartney and colleagues provides an overview of the basin characteristics, hydrology and hydrological variability of the Blue Nile, as well as a brief evaluation of the current and future status of water resource development and implications for water availability.