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Cycle 5 (2015 Deadline)

A multi-sensor hydrologic modeling framework to assess the impacts of small-scale water storage practices to water resources over Uganda

PI: Jamiat Nanteza (, Makerere University
U.S. Partner: Mathew Rodell, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center
Project Dates: December 2016 - July 2021

Project Overview:

 5-019 Study map
Map of Uganda showing study area, sub-basins, streamflow gauging stations (green triangles) and groundwater monitoring stations (red circles). Pfoto credit Jamiat Nanteza.
Water availability and accessibility are concerns that water managers strive to address in the face of climate change, population growth, and food insecurity. Water resources are strained during extreme hydrologic events, and as climate variability and extremes increase (Trenberth, 2012), the uncertainty of freshwater availability poses a threat for emerging economies like Uganda. Anecdotal reports from Uganda indicate that shrinking rivers and diminishing groundwater resources (Lwanga, 2015) have become commonplace, both of which indicate declines in groundwater storage. Water harvesting has the potential to mitigate climate impacts in the short-term (Kahinda et al., 2010); however, potential hydrologic alterations from such small-scale water captures and storage are unknown.

This study seeks to assess the viability of increasing water harvesting efforts in Uganda by examining associated hydrological impacts that result from the capture and storage of water. This study will apply an integrated modelling framework to exploit multivariate remote sensing data from NASA satellite missions combined with ground-based hydrologic observations to examine the spatial and temporal impacts of water harvesting. This project is a pilot study for model development and hypothesis testing. It thus provides a first step towards generation of a decision-support system for evaluating water use and management scenarios in the face of climate change and development. The research team will also address broader national development goals, including aiding decision making for development efforts towards irrigation-based agricultural production, as well as livelihoods. Results of the study should help to inform ongoing government efforts (for example, the Karamoja Action Plan for Food Security) aimed at transitioning the Karamoja dry-land communities from pastoralism to crop farming.

Final Project Activities' Summary

In the course of the project the team worked to identify and characterize recharge, low flow and groundwater behaviors across temporal and spatial scales with links to land use and climate changes, They used  a multi-model ensemble of eight global hydrological models (GHMs) of the Inter-Sectoral Impact Model Intercomparison Project (ISIMIP2b) that are driven by the bias-adjusted output of four global circulation models (GCMs). The team assessed the space-time variability in groundwater recharge and the recharge/precipitation ratio and identified areas potentially at risk to future groundwater shortages over Uganda. The team is preparing the manuscript for publication detailing the findings of this project.
The second objective of the project was to quantify and characterize the spatiotemporal groundwater use and water harvesting across the country with links to socio-economic factors and population dynamics,  First, the team aimed to examine the status of groundwater and rainwater harvesting supply systems in Uganda, and secondly, they worked to  determine the current rates of groundwater abstracted and rainwater harvested in Uganda as these would further inform the experimental modelling efforts. The project team further compared this potential with required tank storage (RTS) capacities based on user population, demand and dry period lengths, to examine whether existing rooftop areas in Uganda and tank storage can sustainably supply water for use during 90-day and 180-day dry periods and in the course of the project came up with interesting findings which will be published.  
Quantifying the runoff, recharge and groundwater storage alterations resulting from water harvesting operations was the project team's third objective. The study used the Community Land Model (CLM4) to evaluate the hydrologic impacts of increasing water abstraction over Uganda.  The model was modified to include rainwater and groundwater harvesting. The study results show that current water harvesting practices have no significant hydrologic impacts. However, scenario based analysis shows that if water harvesting is increased especially from aquifers it would lead to a decrease (increase) in base flow, water table depth, surface runoff (evaporation, groundwater recharge, soil moisture and infiltration). A paper manuscript out of this work is also underway..
Potential Development Impacts
  • 105 students and researchers were trained on the use of NASA's satellites and hydrologic models for water resources monitoring and management. The project PI believes this will lead to a growth in quality research that use NASA's satellites and hydrologic models to understand the region's water resources.
  •  80 undergraduate students and 22 master's students have been trained on the use of pressure transducers to monitor groundwater levels. While 20 students have been training on the application of the CLM model in hydrologic evaluations  
  • A dataset on the amounts of water abstracted across Uganda has been generated. This would help show the spatial variations in water use across the region. It has the potential to impact water development projects. 
  • Collaborations with the Ministry of water and Environment as well local governments has been launched. The project team worked with local water managers to choose local instrumentation cites. The local water offices together with the local water management committees continue to monitor of the installed field equipment. They were trained on how to download the data from the pressure transducers. Having the team at the Nile Basin Initiative pick interest in the research also points towards potential applications of the research findings.
  • A dataset on the digitized rooftop area for rainwater harvesting has been generated. This shows the spatial variations on rainwater harvesting potentials across the region and will potentially impact decisions on rainwater harvesting planned projects.
  • Two master's students graduated, adding to the number of experts in water resources field in the country
  • Winning the bid to host the AU/NEPAD center of excellence in water is also a big push towards achieving development impacts of this project. Although this PEER project has come to an end, the center is there to stay and will take forward the recommendations from this project.

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