Unveiling Hydrological Dynamics in Data-Scarce Regions: A Comprehensive Integrated Approach
Abstract. The hydrological system of Rift Valley Lakes in Ethiopia has recently experienced changes since the past two decades. Potential causes for these changes include anthropogenic, hydro-climatic and geological factors. The main objective of this study was to utilize an integrated methodology to gain a comprehensive understanding of the hydrological systems and potential driving factors within a complex and data-scarce region. To this end, we integrated a hydrologic model, change point analysis, indicators of hydrological alteration (IHA), and bathymetry survey to investigate hydrological dynamics and potential causes. A hydrologic model (SWAT+) was parameterized for the gauged watersheds and extended to the ungauged watersheds using multisite regionalization techniques. The SWAT+ model performed very good to satisfactory for daily streamflow in all watersheds with respect to the objective functions, Kling–Gupta efﬁciency (KGE), the Nash–Sutcliffe efﬁciency (NSE), Percent bias (PBIAS). The findings reveal notable changes of lake inflows and lake levels over the past two decades. Chamo Lake experienced an increase in area by 11.86 km², in depth by 4.4 m, and in volume by 7.8 x 108 m³. In contrast, Lake Abijata witnessed an extraordinary 68% decrease in area and a depth decrease of 1.6 m. During the impact period, the mean annual rainfall experienced a decrease of 6.5% and 2.7% over the Abijata Lake and the Chamo Lake, respectively. Actual evapotranspiration decreased by 2.9% in Abijata Lake but increased by up to 0.5% in Chamo Lake. Surface inflow to Abijata Lake decreased by 12.5%, while Lake Chamo experienced an 80.5% increase in surface inflow. Sediment depth in Chamo Lake also increased by 0.6 m. The results highlight that the changing hydrological regime in Chamo Lake is driven by increased surface runoff and sediment intrusion associated with anthropogenic influences. The hydrological regime of Abijata Lake is affected by water abstraction from feeding rivers and lakes for industrial and irrigation purposes. This integrated methodology provides a holistic understanding of complex data scarce hydrological systems and potential driving factors in the Rift Valley Lakes in Ethiopia, which could have global applicability.
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