Joint Study Mobilizes Action to Counter Water Stress in Ethiopia

Ethiopia’s Ministry of Water, Irrigation and Electricity (MoWIE) hosted the first Joint Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WaSH) – Water Resource Management (WRM) Multi Stakeholder Forum in Addis Ababa on June 11 and 12, 2018.   

The event was attended by representatives from national, regional and local government agencies in Ethiopia, the United Nations, development partners, civil society, private sector, and academia. The cross-sectoral guest list was a testament to the government’s commitment to an inclusive multi-stakeholder strategy to address its water challenges.  

During a session chaired by Ato Abraham, MoWIE’s State Minister for Water Resource Management, the National Planning Commission (NPC) and 2030 WRG, jointly presented the findings of a hydro-economic analysis (HEA). The research team delivered a sobering fact—nearly all of Ethiopia’s basins are at risk of extreme water stress by 2030.   

Early Findings Indicate Extreme Water Stress by 2030 

Although the findings of the technical analysis indicate that most of Ethiopia’s basins currently experience low to moderate water stress, the research team cautioned that figures aggregated to the annual and basin-level scale can obscure more severe water stress that could be triggered by factors such as seasonality of demand, variability of supply, and a mismatch between water demand and supply. Indeed, despite a positive total water balance, the majority of Ethiopia’s twelve basins have water demand profiles that do not match supply distribution, leading to shortages as the spatial distribution of rainfall continues to change.   

Many water basins, particularly those along the southern and eastern edges of the country, have populations that are highly sensitive to any water stress.   

Looking ahead, Ethiopia’s growing population and economy, in combination with climate change, the depletion of groundwater reserves, and pollution of surface water will likely increase water demand and reduce supply. Without adequate and timely intervention by the public and private sectors, existing risks will most likely escalate.   

The implications of the analysis’ findings support the government’s messaging around the joint-conference—the cross-cutting nature of Ethiopia’s water challenges will require an integrated approach that involves actors from different sectors. The findings will feed into the 15-year perspective planning for Ethiopia, which aims to set the direction for the national policy towards 2030. This planning process is being led by NPC, and will be jointly implemented by several relevant line-ministries.   

Mobilizing Support for Coordinated Action  

To support the government of Ethiopia’s perspective planning exercise, the Ethiopia 2030 WRG team has been actively working to mobilize private, public, and civil society partners behind the inclusive vision set by the government, which aligns perfectly with 2030 WRG’s vision of sufficient safe water to support the needs of Ethiopia’s people, ecosystems, and economy.  

To complement the government-led Water Resource Management Joint Technical Review (WRM-JTR) process that aims to develop a clear and common agenda for Ethiopia’s water resources sector, 2030 WRG is collaborating with NPC on leveraging the HEA process to convene stakeholders and drive engagement in parallel.   

In addition to its role as active participants for the water quality and ground water work-stream under the joint technical review, Ethiopia 2030 WRG is convening key stakeholders from the private and public sectors to review preliminary findings from the HEA and begin the process of narrowing potential deep dive topics. The team has already held its second round of advisory group meetings with government and corporate stakeholders and anticipates their active participation in upcoming deep-dive meetings.    

The sessions were well-attended and the attendees actively debated the merits of the topics presented for a deep dive analysis as part of the HEA. An online survey has been sent out to decide on the deep dive areas. Decisions will be made based on: i) impact in closing water demand-supply gap; and ii) expressed leadership by advisory group members. Both advisory groups agreed to take some time to review 2030 WRG’s proposals and will reconvene in August.