Nile Basin Adaptation to Water Stress

Level: International
Region: MENA Region
Tags: Adaptation measure
Target audience: Agricultural authorities | Environmental authorities | Farmers | Local government/municipalities | National government | Regional government | Water authorities | Water companies


The Nile River is a crucial resource for the economy of eastern and north-eastern Africa. Agriculture, energy production and livelihoods in general, all depend strongly on the river. The region is facing rising levels of water scarcity, high population growth, watershed degradation and loss of environmental services.

UNEP, in collaboration with DHI, developed an assessment methodology including themes, tools, criteria and indicators for selecting “hot spots” linked to scenario development. The framework sought to improve regional knowledge and information based on adaptation strategies and transformative policies to manage the shared resources of the Nile Basin. A vulnerability assessment report identified the need for climate change adaptation methods that build resilience of vulnerable sectors and ecosystems in the region. The purpose of the study was to extend the knowledge and information base and to aid critical policy intervention that complements and strengthens ongoing efforts to address the challenge of managing water resources in the area.

The overall project goal was to build the resilience of ecosystems and economies in Nile Basin countries that are most vulnerable to climate change-induced water stress. This was to be achieved through technical, policy and financial interventions to boost adaptive capacity and piloting adaptation in “hot spots”.

DHI, in collaboration with the Met Office Hadley Centre, developed a modelling framework to support climate adaptation on a regional scale. The project assessed climate change impacts and the basin’s potential to adapt to floods and droughts. The framework combined a regional-scale climate modelling approach with distributed hydrological modelling using MIKE HYDRO software, both to assess the impacts of climate change on water resources and to provide the capability to evaluate adaptation measures on the regional scale. Using this framework, DHI carried out an assessment of the impacts of increasing water demands and climate change on the water resources of the Nile River Basin, drawing from a wide range of indicators.

Results obtained

  • Improved knowledge and information, analytical tools and best practices.
  • Strengthened institutional capacity for adaptation.
  • Increased the willingness of governments to mainstream climate change adaptation into policy and decision making and overall river basin development strategies.
  • Knowledge platform became a basis for better sharing of information and advice.
  • Countries discussed adaptation options, especially those concerning transboundary water resources management.
  • Increased scientific knowledge to enable science-based policies and planning for adaptation to climate change-induced water stress in the Nile River Basin countries.
  • Improved adaptive capacity of local communities to reduce vulnerability to climate change-induced water stress.
  • Increased number of communities implementing adaptation actions.

Success factors

  • Respective competencies of the implementing and executing partners.
  • “On the ground” actions and cost-effective strategies.

Indicators used

  • Scenarios developed and integrated into national development plans and water resources management policies.
  • Availability of continuous and reliable predictions related to floods and other potential risks and impacts.
  • It should be noted that many results were vague and not easily quantified: no indicators for objectives and outputs, nor were baselines and time-bound targets identified within the project.

The regional framework developed by DHI can be applied in similar large or transboundary river basins and can readily be used in smaller basins to evaluate national or local climate impact assessments for water resources, water resource management and/or the evaluation of climate adaptation measures and options. Results from the Blue Nile basin in Ethiopia can be easily replicated in similar drought-prone areas because of the practical and sustainable approaches that were used. Communities would need additional support replication and upscaling. For modelling, the following data types are needed: river-network topography; a precipitation time series; a digital elevation model; water-level discharges along rivers/channels; and a water-demand time series for all water users.

Total costs

  • USD 3.5 million