ThesisPDF Available

Spatially Explicit Hydrological Modelling for Water Accounting under Climate Change in the Volta River Basin in West Africa

Authors:

Abstract and Figures

Competition for scarce water resources in the Volta River Basin (VRB) of West Africa will increase in the near future due to the combined effects of rapid population growth and climate change. Residents are dependent on subsistence, mainly rainfed agriculture that is sensitive to climate variabilities. Recurrent floods and droughts damage properties and take lives. Information on water resources and their future trends is fundamental for water actors, as the basis for proper management and implementation of adequate measures to bolster resilience to water scarcity and foster water security. This PhD thesis proposes a novel and clear demonstration of combining the Water Accounting Plus (WA+) framework with hydrological modelling and climate change scenarios to report on the current and future states of water resources in the VRB. WA+ is a standardized framework that provides a comprehensive view of the water resources in terms of water availability and consumptive uses with respect to different land uses. The adopted methodological framework addresses key challenges posed by large-scale hydrological modelling in data scarce environments such as the VRB. These challenges include the issue of missing data in streamflow records, the reliability of satellite and reanalysis data for forcing or calibrating hydrological models as an alternative to in-situ measurements, and the accuracy of the spatial and temporal representation of hydrological processes with spatially explicit models. A novel multivariate model calibration strategy is proposed to improve the representation of hydrological flux and state variables simulated with the fully distributed mesoscale Hydrologic Model (mHM). The proposed calibration strategy relies on the use of multiple satellite and reanalysis datasets from various sources. Then, a large ensemble of climate models are used to assess the impacts of climate change on water resources under various scenarios. The outputs of the mHM model are used to feed the WA+ framework to comprehensively report on the current and future conditions of water resources in the VRB. The results show a clear increase in the projected exploitable water fraction while a decrease is expected in the available water fraction in the near future (2021-2050). Consequently, there is a clear need for adaptation measures to increase the water storage capacity in the VRB to facilitate a good exploitation of the projected increase in the net inflow, which would be beneficial for agriculture production and hydropower generation.
Content may be subject to copyright.
A preview of the PDF is not available
... The water accounting plus framework is an example of how a hydrologic model, informed mainly by EO data, can be run within a management context, for example, that of the Volta Basin and provide clear policy recommendations (Dembélé 2020). The need for clear information such as this one may help achieve that goal-delivery of consolidated information to policy-makers rather than contradicting results or messages. ...
Article
Full-text available
Africa stands to gain from Earth Observation (EO) science, products and applications. However, its use and application remain below potential on the continent. This article examines how EO can better serve the needs of African users. First, we argue that a successful uptake of EO services is conditional on understanding the African context and matching EO development and deployment to it. Using reference cases, we find that actors outside Africa drive most EO initiatives, whereas country-level expenditures on EO remain low. Recent developments, such as the African space policy and strategy, and initiatives in partnerships with Africa-based organisations to develop a community of practice on EO hold the potential to fill the identified gaps. The analysis indicates that most EO users are either government organisations or researchers, with very few cases involving other types of users. It is generally assumed that users at the local levels are educated and digitally literate, or that the transmission of EO-based knowledge is achieved by government officers and researchers. Although still very few, potentials are emerging for the private sector to deploy EO products and services such as crop or index-based insurance directly to farmers. These private initiatives have prospects for further developing indigenous EO capacity as envisioned in the African space policy and strategy. We then formulate recommendations for a transdisciplinary approach that integrates user contexts, attributes and needs to enhance the uptake of EO products and services in Africa. We conclude by proposing actions to close some of the identified gaps and seize emerging opportunities. Supplementary information: The online version contains supplementary material available at 10.1007/s10712-022-09724-1.
... The Volta River flows north-south over 1850 km and drains into the Atlantic Ocean at the Gulf of Guinea after transiting into the Lake Volta formed by the Akosombo Dam. The drainage system is composed of four sub-basins known as Black Volta (152 800 km 2 ), White Volta (113 400 km 2 ), Oti (74 500 km 2 ), and Lower Volta (74 900 km 2 ; Dembélé, 2020). ...
Article
Full-text available
A comprehensive evaluation of the impacts of climate change on water resources of the West Africa Volta River basin is conducted in this study, as the region is expected to be hardest hit by global warming. A large ensemble of 12 general circulation models (GCMs) from the fifth Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP5) that are dynamically downscaled by five regional climate models (RCMs) from the Coordinated Regional-climate Downscaling Experiment (CORDEX)-Africa is used. In total, 43 RCM–GCM combinations are considered under three representative concentration pathways (RCP2.6, RCP4.5, and RCP8.5). The reliability of each of the climate datasets is first evaluated with satellite and reanalysis reference datasets. Subsequently, the Rank Resampling for Distributions and Dependences (R2D2) multivariate bias correction method is applied to the climate datasets. The bias-corrected climate projections are then used as input to the mesoscale Hydrologic Model (mHM) for hydrological projections over the 21st century (1991–2100). Results reveal contrasting dynamics in the seasonality of rainfall, depending on the selected greenhouse gas emission scenarios and the future projection periods. Although air temperature and potential evaporation increase under all RCPs, an increase in the magnitude of all hydrological variables (actual evaporation, total runoff, groundwater recharge, soil moisture, and terrestrial water storage) is only projected under RCP8.5. High- and low-flow analysis suggests an increased flood risk under RCP8.5, particularly in the Black Volta, while hydrological droughts would be recurrent under RCP2.6 and RCP4.5, particularly in the White Volta. The evolutions of streamflow indicate a future delay in the date of occurrence of low flows up to 11 d under RCP8.5, while high flows could occur 6 d earlier (RCP2.6) or 5 d later (RCP8.5), as compared to the historical period. Disparities are observed in the spatial patterns of hydroclimatic variables across climatic zones, with higher warming in the Sahelian zone. Therefore, climate change would have severe implications for future water availability with concerns for rain-fed agriculture, thereby weakening the water–energy–food security nexus and amplifying the vulnerability of the local population. The variability between climate models highlights uncertainties in the projections and indicates a need to better represent complex climate features in regional models. These findings could serve as a guideline for both the scientific community to improve climate change projections and for decision-makers to elaborate adaptation and mitigation strategies to cope with the consequences of climate change and strengthen regional socioeconomic development.
... The Volta River flows north-south over 1,850 km and drains into the Atlantic Ocean at 85 the Gulf of Guinea after transiting into the Lake Volta formed by the Akosombo dam. The drainage system is composed of four sub-basins known as Black Volta (152,800 km 2 ), White Volta (113,400 km 2 ), Oti (74,500 km 2 ) and Lower Volta (74,900 km 2 ) (Dembélé, 2020 ...
Preprint
Full-text available
A comprehensive evaluation of the impacts of climate change on water resources of the West Africa Volta River basin is conducted in this study, as the region is expected to be hardest hit by global warming. A large ensemble of twelve general circulation models (GCM) from CMIP5 that are dynamically downscaled by five regional climate models (RCM) from CORDEX-Africa is used. In total, 43 RCM-GCM combinations are considered under three representative concentration pathways (RCP2.6, RCP4.5 and RCP8.5). The reliability of each of the climate datasets is first evaluated with satellite and reanalysis reference datasets. Subsequently, the Rank Resampling for Distributions and Dependences (R2D2) multivariate bias correction method is applied to the climate datasets. The corrected simulations are then used as input to the fully distributed mesoscale Hydrologic Model (mHM) for hydrological projections over the twenty-first century (1991–2100). Results reveal contrasting changes in the seasonality of rainfall depending on the selected greenhouse gas emission scenarios and the future projection periods. Although air temperature and potential evaporation increase under all RCPs, an increase in the magnitude of all hydrological variables (actual evaporation, total runoff, groundwater recharge, soil moisture and terrestrial water storage) is only projected under RCP8.5. High and low flow analysis suggests an increased flood risk under RCP8.5, particularly in the Black Volta, while hydrological droughts would be recurrent under RCP2.6 and RCP4.5, particularly in the White Volta. Disparities are observed in the spatial patterns of hydroclimatic variables across climatic zones, with higher warming in the Sahelian zone. Therefore, climate change would have severe implications for future water availability with concerns for rain-fed agriculture, thereby weakening the water-energy-food security nexus and amplifying the vulnerability of the local population. The variability between climate models highlights uncertainties in the projections and indicates a need to better represent complex climate features in regional models. These findings could serve as a guideline for both the scientific community to improve climate change projections and for decision makers to elaborate adaptation and mitigation strategies to cope with the consequences of climate change and strengthen regional socio-economic development.
Article
Full-text available
This study evaluates the ability of different gridded rainfall datasets to plausibly represent the spatio-temporal patterns of multiple hydrological processes (i.e. streamflow, actual evaporation, soil moisture and terrestrial water storage) for large-scale hydrological modelling in the predominantly semi-arid Volta River basin (VRB) in West Africa. Seventeen precipitation products based essentially on gauge-corrected satellite data (TAMSAT, CHIRPS, ARC, RFE, MSWEP, GSMaP, PERSIANN-CDR, CMORPH-CRT, TRMM 3B42 and TRMM 3B42RT) and on reanalysis (ERA5, PGF, EWEMBI, WFDEI-GPCC, WFDEI-CRU, MERRA-2 and JRA-55) are compared as input for the fully distributed mesoscale Hydrologic Model (mHM). To assess the model sensitivity to meteorological forcing during rainfall partitioning into evaporation and runoff, six different temperature reanalysis datasets are used in combination with the precipitation datasets, which results in evaluating 102 combinations of rainfall–temperature input data. The model is recalibrated for each of the 102 input combinations, and the model responses are evaluated by using in situ streamflow data and satellite remote-sensing datasets from GLEAM evaporation, ESA CCI soil moisture and GRACE terrestrial water storage. A bias-insensitive metric is used to assess the impact of meteorological forcing on the simulation of the spatial patterns of hydrological processes. The results of the process-based evaluation show that the rainfall datasets have contrasting performances across the four climatic zones present in the VRB. The top three best-performing rainfall datasets are TAMSAT, CHIRPS and PERSIANN-CDR for streamflow; ARC, RFE and CMORPH-CRT for terrestrial water storage; MERRA-2, EWEMBI/WFDEI-GPCC and PGF for the temporal dynamics of soil moisture; MSWEP, TAMSAT and ARC for the spatial patterns of soil moisture; ARC, RFE and GSMaP-std for the temporal dynamics of actual evaporation; and MSWEP, TAMSAT and MERRA-2 for the spatial patterns of actual evaporation. No single rainfall or temperature dataset consistently ranks first in reproducing the spatio-temporal variability of all hydrological processes. A dataset that is best in reproducing the temporal dynamics is not necessarily the best for the spatial patterns. In addition, the results suggest that there is more uncertainty in representing the spatial patterns of hydrological processes than their temporal dynamics. Finally, some region-tailored datasets outperform the global datasets, thereby stressing the necessity and importance of regional evaluation studies for satellite and reanalysis meteorological datasets, which are increasingly becoming an alternative to in situ measurements in data-scarce regions.
Book
Full-text available
This thesis introduces Water Accounting Plus (WA+), which is a new framework designed to provide explicit spatial information on water depletion and net withdrawal processes in complex river basins. WA+ is a simple, yet comprehensive and understandable water accounting framework that provides a standardized way of data collection and a presentation system that describes the overall land and water management situation in complex river basins. WA+ tracks water depletions rather than withdrawals and it goes past flow and run-off accounting.
Article
Full-text available
Coping with water scarcity and growing competition for water among different sectors requires proper water management strategies and decision processes. A prerequisite is a clear understanding of the basin hydrological processes, manageable and unmanageable water flows, the interaction with land use and opportunities to mitigate the negative effects and increase the benefits of water depletion on society. Currently, water professionals do not have a common framework that links depletion to user groups of water and their benefits. The absence of a standard hydrological and water management summary is causing confusion and wrong decisions. The non-availability of water flow data is one of the underpinning reasons for not having operational water accounting systems for river basins in place. In this paper, we introduce Water Accounting Plus (WA+), which is a new framework designed to provide explicit spatial information on water depletion and net withdrawal processes in complex river basins. The influence of land use and landscape evapotranspiration on the water cycle is described explicitly by defining land use groups with common characteristics. WA+ presents four sheets including (i) a resource base sheet, (ii) an evapotranspiration sheet, (iii) a productivity sheet, and (iv) a withdrawal sheet. Every sheet encompasses a set of indicators that summarise the overall water resources situation. The impact of external (e.g., climate change) and internal influences (e.g., infrastructure building) can be estimated by studying the changes in these WA+ indicators. Satellite measurements can be used to acquire a vast amount of required data but is not a precondition for implementing WA+ framework. Data from hydrological models and water allocation models can also be used as inputs to WA+.
Article
Full-text available
Precipitation is a crucial variable for hydro-meteorological applications. Unfortunately, rain gauge measurements are sparse and unevenly distributed, which substantially hampers the use of in situ precipitation data in many regions of the world. The increasing availability of high-resolution gridded precipitation products presents a valuable alternative, especially over poorly gauged regions. This study examines the usefulness of current state-of-the-art precipitation data sets in hydrological modeling. For this purpose, we force a conceptual hydrological model with multiple precipitation data sets in >200 European catchments to obtain runoff and evapotranspiration. We consider a wide range of precipitation products, which are generated via (1) the interpolation of gauge measurements (E-OBS and Global Precipitation Climatology Centre (GPCC) V.2018), (2) data assimilation into reanalysis models (ERA-Interim, ERA5, and Climate Forecast System Reanalysis – CFSR), and (3) a combination of multiple sources (Multi-Source Weighted-Ensemble Precipitation; MSWEP V2). Evaluation is done at the daily and monthly timescales during the period of 1984–2007. We find that simulated runoff values are highly dependent on the accuracy of precipitation inputs; in contrast, simulated evapotranspiration is generally much less influenced in our comparatively wet study region. We also find that the impact of precipitation uncertainty on simulated runoff increases towards wetter regions, while the opposite is observed in the case of evapotranspiration. Finally, we perform an indirect performance evaluation of the precipitation data sets by comparing the runoff simulations with streamflow observations. Thereby, E-OBS yields the particularly strong agreement, while ERA5, GPCC V.2018, and MSWEP V2 show good performances. We further reveal climate-dependent performance variations of the considered data sets, which can be used to guide their future development. The overall best agreement is achieved when using an ensemble mean generated from all the individual products. In summary, our findings highlight a climate-dependent propagation of precipitation uncertainty through the water cycle; while runoff is strongly impacted in comparatively wet regions, such as central Europe, there are increasing implications for evapotranspiration in drier regions.
Preprint
Full-text available
Over the last few years, multivariate bias correction methods have been developed to adjust spatial and/or inter-variable dependence properties of climate simulations. Most of them do not correct – and sometimes even degrade – the associated temporal features. Here, we propose a multivariate method to adjust the spatial and/or inter-variable properties while also accounting for the temporal dependence, such as autocorrelations. Our method consists in an extension of a previously developed approach that relies on an analogue-based method applied to the ranks of the time series to be corrected, rather than applied to their ``raw’’ values. Several configurations are tested and compared on daily temperature and precipitation simulations over Europe from one Earth System Model. Those differ by the conditioning information used to compute the analogues, and can include multiple variables at each given time, a univariate variable lagged over several time steps, or both – multiple variables lagged over time steps. Compared to the initial approach, results of the multivariate corrections show that, while the spatial and inter-variable correlations are still satisfactorily corrected even when increasing the dimension of the conditioning, the temporal autocorrelations are improved with some of the tested configurations of this extension. A major result is also that the choice of the information to condition the analogues is key since it partially drives the capability of the proposed method to reconstruct proper multivariate dependencies.
Article
Does the availability or variability of water matter for the economy? Does it meaningfully impact the growth and development trajectory of a country? It may seem surprising that answers to these most basic of questions remain elusive. The aim of this paper is to summarize recent work on the economic impacts of water scarcity and variability. The paper finds that there is strong evidence that variations in rainfall and water availability have significant impacts on particular sectors, such as agriculture, human capital, and even conflict. But paradoxically evidence of impacts on economic growth and other measures of aggregate economic activity remains ambiguous. The paper explains reasons for this anomaly and explores the pathways through which water impacts the economy. The paper provides a synthesis of key developments in the literature, identifies methodological gaps, and suggests policy solutions.
Article
Rainfall‐runoff models are used across academia and industry, and the number and type have proliferated over time. In this primer we briefly introduce the key features of these models and provide an overview of their historical development and drivers behind those developments. To complete the discussion there is a brief section on model choice including model intercomparison. We also seek to clarify jargon terms for readers new to this area. This article is categorized under: • Science of Water > Hydrological Processes • Science of Water > Methods