Change in low flows due to catchment management dynamics—Application of a comparative modelling approach

Tesfay G. Gebremicael*, Pieter van der Zaag, Yasir A. Mohamed, Eyasu Y. Hagos

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)
38 Downloads (Pure)


Understanding the natural low flow of a catchment is critical for effective water management policy in semi-arid and arid lands. The Geba catchment in Ethiopia, forming the headwaters of Tekeze-Atbara basin was known for its severe land degradation before the recent large scale Soil and Water conservation (SWC) programs. Such interventions can modify the hydrological processes by changing the partitioning of the incoming rainfall on the land surface. However, the literature lacks studies to quantify the hydrological impacts of these interventions in the semi-arid catchments of the Nile basin. Statistical test and Indicators of Hydrological Alteration (IHA) were used to identify the trends of streamflow in two comparatives adjacent (one treated with intensive SWC intervention and control with fewer interventions) catchments. A distributed hydrological model was developed to understand the differences in hydrological processes of the two catchments. The statistical and IHA tools showed that the low flow in the treated catchment has significantly increased while considerably decreased in the control catchment. Comparative analysis confirmed that the low flow in the catchment with intensive SWC works was greater than that of the control by >30% while the direct runoff was lower by >120%. This implies a large proportion of the rainfall in the treated catchment is infiltrated and recharge aquifers which subsequently contribute to streamflow during the dry season. The proportion of soil storage was more than double compared to the control catchment. Moreover, hydrological response comparison from pre- and post-intervention showed that a drastic reduction in direct runoff (>84%) has improved the low flow by >55%. This strongly suggests that the ongoing intensive SWC works have significantly improved the low flows while it contributed to the reduction of total streamflow in the catchment.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2101-2116
Number of pages16
JournalHydrological Processes
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • catchment management
  • Geba catchment
  • hydrological processes
  • low flow
  • soil and water conservation
  • Tekeze-Atbara River basin


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