Coordinated drought planning is essential for new Ethiopian Dam

Dr Kevin Wheeler, Fellow of the Oxford Martin Programme on Transboundary Resource Management and Researcher at the Environmental Change Institute, University of Oxford said: “We used the 1978 –1987 drought to understand the risks of extremely dry conditions once the GERD is operational. A moderately full GERD and High Aswan Dam at the start would actually mean reduced Egyptian water shortages during the first four years of a drought. However, water is a highly visceral issue and real or misattributed fears over the loss of water could lead to panic amongst Egyptian civil society. Advance planning and irrevocable agreement on how reservoirs will be used and refilled post-drought is therefore particularly essential.”

Professor Marc Jeuland of the Sanford School of Public Policy, Duke University said: “The GERD is basically complete and filling has already commenced. The window for agreement on filling is thus very limited, even if there is a bit more time for negotiation on long-term operations. I would say that a filling agreement is really important before the start of the rainy season in 2021.

“It is often argued that water resources will be a source of growing conflict in the future, as population and economic growth, as well as climate change, increase the risks of scarcity and create conditions not previously experienced. This specific case offers lessons for other societies given that water resource scarcity is bound to worsen in many parts of the globe.”

The paper, ‘Understanding and managing new risks on the Nile with the Grand Ethiopian renaissance dam’ published by Nature Communications on 16 October 2020 concludes that developing robust contingency plans is not an insurmountable task, and that in most years the GERD and HAD will require only data exchange and modest coordination.

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