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Informing Regional Water-Energy-Food Nexus with System Analysis and Interactive Visualization // A Case Study in the Great Ruaha River of Tanzania

In sub-Saharan Africa, water resources are scarce and subject to competing uses – especially for agricultural production, energy generation, and ecosystem services. These water intensive activities in the Usangu plains and the Ruaha National Park in southern Tanzania, present a typical case for such water competition at the water-energy-food nexus. This study tries to decipher the coupled human-nature interactions in the Great Ruaha River basin and effectively communicate the results to non-technical practitioners.

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Abstract

In sub-Saharan Africa, water resources are scarce and subject to competing uses – especially for agricultural production, energy generation, and ecosystem services. These water intensive activities in the Usangu plains and the Ruaha National Park in southern Tanzania, present a typical case for such water competition at the water-energy-food nexus. To decipher the coupled human-nature interactions in the Great Ruaha River basin and effectively communicate the results to non-technical practitioners, the water-energy-food nexus competition in the system is simulated using an advanced water system modeling approach and findings are visualized via interactive web-based tools (Data-Driven Document, D3) that foster fuller understanding of the findings for both practitioners and stakeholders. Our results indicate that a combination of infrastructural and procedural measures, each acceptable from a social and economic perspective, and understanding that zero flows cannot be totally eliminated during dry years in the Ruaha National Park, are likely to be the best way forward. This study also reveals that the combination of improvements in irrigation efficiency, cutbacks on proposed expansion of irrigated lands, and a low head weir at the wetland outlet, significantly reduces the number of zero flow days (i.e., increasing ecosystem function), resulting in positive effects on agricultural sector from limited (if any) reduction in rice crop yields. These upstream measures are all relatively cost efficient and can combine to free-up resources for other economic activity downstream (i.e. more stable hydropower production).

Authors 

  • Y.C.Ethan Yang, Civil and Environmental Engineering, Lehigh University, the United States of America
  • Sungwook Wi, Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, the United States of America

This is a publication of Complex Adaptive Water Systems (CAWS).

Complex Adaptive Water Systems (CAWS) 

CAWS is a group of scientists (and scientists-to-be)  in Lehigh University, Bethlehem PA USA, who use different quantitative approaches to solve the complex water management issues around the world. We are physically located in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Lehigh University. CAWS's most recent projects focus on the dynamic interaction (or Nexus) among food, energy, water, and environment at different spatial and temporal scales. They use the Agent-based modeling (ABM) approach coupled with progress-based models to evaluate both natural and human behavior uncertainty in a Couple Natural-Human complex system.

Download 

ScienceDirect website (open access)

Published 

January 2018 

Published in 

Agricultural Water Management, Volume 196, 31 January 2018, Pages 75-86
 

Further Reading

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