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Modelling the water balance of Lake Victoria (East Africa)
– Part 2: Future projections

24-10-18

paper

Vanderkelen, Inne & Nicole P. M. van Lipzig, and Wim Thiery

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Hydrology and Earth System Sciences, 22, 5527–5549, 2018

EGU

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Lake Victoria, the second largest freshwater lake in the world, is one of the major sources of the Nile river. The outlet to the Nile is controlled by two hydropower dams of which the allowed discharge is dictated by the Agreed Curve, an equation relating outflow to lake level. Some regional climate models project a decrease in precipitation and an increase in evaporation over Lake Victoria, with potential important
implications for its water balance and resulting level.
Yet, little is known about the potential consequences of climate change for the water balance of Lake Victoria. In this second part of a two-paper series, we feed a new water balance model for Lake Victoria presented in the first part with climate simulations available through the COordinated Regional Climate Downscaling Experiment (CORDEX) Africa framework. Our results reveal that most regional climate
models are not capable of giving a realistic representation of the water balance of Lake Victoria and therefore require bias correction. For two emission scenarios (RCPs 4.5 and 8.5), the decrease in precipitation over the lake and an increase in evaporation are compensated by an increase in basin precipitation leading to more inflow. The future lake level projections show that the dam management scenario and not the emission scenario is the main controlling factor of the future water level evolution. Moreover, inter-model uncertainties are larger than emission scenario uncertainties. The comparison
of four idealized future management scenarios pursuing certain policy objectives (electricity generation, navigation reliability and environmental conservation) uncovers that the only sustainable management scenario is mimicking natural lake level fluctuations by regulating outflow according to the Agreed Curve. The associated outflow encompasses, however, ranges from 14m3 day (85 %) to 200m3 day
(C100 %) within this ensemble, highlighting that future hydropower generation and downstream water availability may strongly change in the next decades even if dam management adheres to he Agreed Curve. Our results overall underline that managing the dam according to the Agreed Curve is a key prerequisite for sustainable future lake levels, but that under this management scenario, climate change might potentially induce profound changes in lake level and outflow volume.