Paper Publication: Gap and Opportunity Analysis of Hydrological Monitoring in the Ziway-Shala Sub-basin, Ethiopia

Together with our colleagues at the International Water Management Institute (IWMI), we have published a research paper. It is available here:

The paper provides an overview of the current situation with regards to hydrological monitoring in the Ziway-Shala sub- basin in the Central Rift Valley of Ethiopia, including details of existing river and lake gauging stations in the sub-basin. The study aimed to analyze hydrological data collection by the Rift Valley Lakes Basin Development Office (RVLBDO), and gain a systematic understanding of data quality and availability. Interviews conducted with stakeholders revealed that insufficient budget allocation and attention to hydrological monitoring have led to severe deficiencies in the data collection process. Damaged gauging stations, outdated rating curves for most stations and the lack of capacity to digitize the data at the basin office are the main problems in the existing data collection process.

Overview of the gauging stations visited and their locations provided by RVLBDO. Source: Tabea Donauer, hydrosolutions GmbH.

Assessment of the physical condition of 13 gauging stations highlighted that most stations are not properly maintained, with staff gauges often damaged by floods or vandalism at some sites, e.g., the station Meki at Meki Village. Interviews were conducted with local observers who are responsible for recording water level data at the gauging stations.

Even though their salaries are low, observers are generally motivated and they have all received sufficient training to accomplish their tasks. However, some observers stated that they can report false data without being detected, due to the lack of supervision and cross-checking of data collected.

The hydrological technician at the main basin office in Hawassa has confirmed that the frequency of velocity measurements has decreased, which implies that rating curves to convert water level to discharge data have not been updated for several years. Water level data are currently available only in printed form at the RVLBDO in Hawassa, and there is a complete lack of responsibility and motivation for data digitization. Recommendations have been put forward in this paper to (i) improve the physical condition of gauging sites, (ii) immediately convert water data from printed copy to electronic copy and then to discharge data, and (iii) enhance data quality and sharing.

Opportunities for novel, non-traditional hydrological monitoring are also presented, with their applicability and benefit to complement traditional data collection in the Ziway-Shala sub-basin. Remote sensing technologies can be effectively used to fill existing data gaps (e.g., precipitation data), but require calibration and validation with ground data. Community-based (e.g., using the citizen science approach) monitoring programs have the potential to complement traditional data collection.

Research and development projects can also assist in the generation of additional hydrological data to fill gaps. However, if external organizations are involved in data collection, this needs to be well coordinated with the RVLBDO. Uncoordinated action of different projects, as well as political and institutional instability could threaten the current monitoring system.


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