From: Editor ENN
Published July 19, 2013 11:44 AM

Volta River and Climate Change

A new study released today finds that so much water may be lost in the Volta River Basin due to climate change that planned hydroelectric projects to boost energy and food production may only tread water in keeping up with actual demand. Some 24 million people in Ghana, Burkina Faso and four other neighboring countries depend on the Volta River and its tributaries as their principal source of water.

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Specifically, the researchers with the International Water Management Institute (IWMI) and their partners concluded that the combined effects of higher temperatures and diminished rain could mean that by the year 2100, all of the current and planned hydroelectric projects in the basin would not even generate as much power as existing facilities do now. Meanwhile, there would only be enough water to meet about a third of irrigation demand.

IWMI and other centers involved with the CGIAR’s Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) are drawing attention to the Volta study as leaders from across Africa gather in Ghana for Africa Agriculture Science Week 2013, under the theme "Africa Feeding Africa."

"An unreliable supply of water for irrigation will have serious consequences for a region where most people are farmers. Beyond that, there is an urgent need to shift more food production away from rain-fed systems that are subject to the vagaries of climate to irrigated agriculture. This study shows that this strategy is not as dependable as we once thought,' said Matthew McCartney, PhD, a principal researcher and hydrologist at IWMI, which is part of CGIAR, an international consortium of agricultural research institutes. McCartney served as lead author for the study, The Water Resource Implications of Changing Climate in the Volta River Basin, along with colleagues from Ghana's Council for Scientific and Industrial Research and Germany's Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research.

Climate models show temperatures in the Volta Basin rising by up to 3.6 degrees Celsius over the next century—which the scientists warn could significantly increase water lost to evaporation. They also indicate average annual rainfall could drop by about 20 percent. McCartney and his colleagues calculated that water flows in the Volta region could fall by 24 percent through 2050 and by 45 percent by 2100, depriving the basin of water that countries are counting on to drive turbines and feed farms.

Photo credit Ghana Schools online.

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