Sustainable water resources management is essential to socioeconomic development, improved livelihoods, and resilience to climate change. As one of the fastest growing economies in Africa and second most populous country, Ethiopia is pursuing ambitious development strategies to become a low-middle income country by 2025, with increased investment in hydropower, irrigation, and water supply expansion. Although Ethiopia is known as the “Water Tower of Africa,” the country’s water resources are unevenly distributed, and drought and water scarcity are recurring challenges. WRI finds many of the country’s twelve river basins are water stressed and nearly 25% (27 million) of the population live in areas of high water stress. Growing water demands, climate change, and watershed degradation are intensifying pressures on the country’s natural resources and threaten to exacerbate water insecurity.

WRI is working with partners to improve available information on the country’s water resources, analyse water risk across different temporal and spatial scales, and identify solutions to better manage demand and safeguard water supplies. We use this knowledge to inform water planning across sectors in an effort to advance water resources management towards a more sustainable and resilient development path.

Growth and development must advance in ways that do not stress available water supplies or degrade ecosystems.

In line with WRI’s overall mission and WRI Africa’s strategic pillars, the Water Program in Ethiopia works to advance sustainable water resources management by:

  1. Analyzing and managing water risk
  2. Promoting the role of nature-based solutions for water and healthy watersheds
  3. Driving increased urban water resilience

Our expertise and core offers include research, data and modeling as decision-support tools, training and capacity building, and convening dialogue and knowledge sharing to stimulate awareness and action.

Water Risk Modeling and Mapping

Managing water use across sectors and enhancing water governance requires accessible, transparent data. WRI is enhancing available data on water and climate in Ethiopia and working to integrate water into planning processes within and across sectors. WRI developed a model to assess Ethiopia’s water supply and sectoral water demand as well as current and projected water risk based on growth and climate change. We are enhancing institutional capacity within the Ministry of Water, Irrigation and Energy (MoWIE) and the Planning and Development Commission (PDC) to assess and manage rising water and climate constraints to growth and development and integrate these considerations into development planning processes.

Promoting Healthy Watersheds

Protecting natural ecosystems and safeguarding watershed health are critical to securing long-term water supplies. Nature-based solutions for water — such as watershed reforestation and soil and water conservation measures — can improve the quantity, timing, and reliability of water by reducing erosion and flooding and improving water quality and availability. WRI is collaborating with the Abbay Basin Development Office and other partners to promote integrated water resources management and watershed conservation in the Tana sub-basin to address land degradation and water and food insecurity.

Supporting Urban Water Resilience

To reduce water-related vulnerability in the context of rapid urbanization, WRI and partners are working with six African cities to overcome challenges of water scarcity, flooding, and watershed degradation through land use planning, city-region cooperation, multi-stakeholder action planning, and targeted finance. WRI’s Urban Water Resilience in Africa initiative works to improve understanding of urban water challenges, promotes adaptation pathways, and enables city stakeholders to share experiences. Through this initiative, WRI is supporting Addis Ababa and Dire Dawa in Ethiopia. Through the Cities4Forests initiative, WRI is also working with Addis Ababa’s River Basins and Green Areas Development and Administration Agency, Gulele Botanic Garden, Ethiopian Space Science and Technology Institute, and the Mayor’s office to build capacity in planning, implementation, and monitoring of urban green spaces and forests in nearby watersheds. Cities4Forests is developing a toolkit of nature-based solutions that address heat and water risks in Addis Ababa.