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Reservoir Siltation In The Semi‐arid Highlands Of Northern Ethiopia: Sediment Yield–catchment Area Relationship And A Semi‐quantitative Approach For Predicting Sediment Yield

L. Tamene, S. Park, R. Dikau, P. Vlek
Published 2006 · Geology

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Due to shortage of rainfall and its increasing variability, moisture stress is identified to be one of the most critical factors affecting agricultural productivity in the drylands of Ethiopia. To circumvent this problem, a strategy of supplemental irrigation through surface water harvesting was adopted by the government and several micro-dams have been built in the semi-arid parts of the country. However, the benefits from the water harvesting schemes are not sustainable because of rapid water storage loss due to siltation. There is, therefore, an urgent need for improved catchment-based erosion control and sediment management strategies. The design and implementation of such strategies require data on the rate and magnitude of sediment deposition. To this end, reservoir surveys were conducted to estimate sediment deposition rate for 11 reservoirs identified to be representative of catchments in the Tigray region of northern Ethiopia. Two approaches were employed during the survey: one was based on measurement of sediment thickness in reservoirs while the other was based on comparing the original and existing topography of the reservoir-beds. The average annual sediment yield estimated for the study sites was about 19 t ha−1 y−1. An equation of the type SSY = 3a36A0a67 (with SSY = area specific sediment yield in t ha−1 y−1 and A = catchment area in km2) was also established for the study region, which is opposite to the ‘universal’ SSY–A relationship. In order to improve the sediment yield predictive capability of A, it was integrated with a factorial index that assesses the catchment's propensity to erosion and potential sediment yield. The effect of accelerated sediment deposition on water storage loss of reservoirs and possible controlling factors of the SSY–A relationship are outlined. The potential semi-quantitative scoring approach to characterize catchments in terms of erosion sensitivity and the significance of the A-index approach to predict SSY of similar catchments are also highlighted. Copyright © 2006 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
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