“Cooperative filling approaches for the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam” by Kevin G. Wheeler, Mohammed Basheer, Zelalem T. Mekonnen, Sami O. Eltoum, Azeb Mersha, Gamal M. Abdo, Edith A. Zagona, Jim W. Hall & Simon J. Dadson was awarded the 2016 Water International Best Paper Award by the International Water Resources Association (IWRA). The paper, part of a special issue on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), describes the application of a RiverWare model of the Nile Basin to an analysis of strategies for filling the new dam.
The GERD, to be one of the world’s largest dams and the largest hydroelectric plant in Africa, is under construction in Ethiopia since 2011 and nearing completion, with filling anticipated to begin soon. While the benefits of reliable hydropower to the region are widely acknowledged, the potential downstream impacts on Sudan and Egypt have been the focus of controversy and analysis as the three countries continue efforts to identify agreeable plans for filling the new reservoir and operating the dam. This study uses a RiverWare model of the Nile Basin with a wide range of historical hydrological conditions and increasing coordination between the co-riparian countries to analyze strategies for filling the GERD and the implications for downstream water resources. The flexible policy modeling capabilities of RiverWare contributed to the ability of the study to express and analyze complex policy alternatives.
This research finds that risks to water diversions in Sudan can be largely managed through adaptations of Sudanese reservoir operations. Risks to Egyptian users and energy generation can be minimized through combinations of sufficient agreed annual releases from the GERD, a drought management policy for the high Aswan dam, and a basin-wide cooperative agreement that protects the elevation of Lake Nasser.
Kevin Wheeler is a D.Phil candidate at the Environmental Change Institute of the University of Oxford. The co-authors are based in Ethiopia, Sudan, the United Kingdom and the United States. The authors were recognized at the IWRA XVI World Water Congress in Cancun, Mexico, on June 1, 2017.