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 run the risk of remaining unfulfilled.
Recognising this challenge and bearing in mind that in a transboundary river basin, no single country holds the answer to the key question of 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, 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. Deo-Guide 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.
Abdulkarim H. Seid (PhD) is the Deputy Executive Director/Head of Basin-wide Programme Nile-SEC, Entebbe.