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Combined 3D hydrodynamic and watershed modelling of Lake Tana, Ethiopia

Author(s): Dargahi B, Gebriye S


The growing high demand for Lake Tana water portends a disturbing future. The main objective of this paper is to make a contribution to the development of a sustainable use of the water of Lake Tana. A fully three-dimensional hydrodynamic model was combined with a watershed model and together, these models were successfully validated for the year 2006. The flow structure is characterized by large recirculation and secondary flow regions. Secondary flows are induced by hydrodynamic instabilities occurring at the interfaces of layers with a velocity gradient and the interaction with the irregularities of the bed. The weak stratification process in Lake Tana is characterized by a classic summer profile, which is more pronounced during January–February. Mixing processes in the lake are controlled by wind, the mixing energy induced by both river inflows and the lake outlet, and convective mixing due to the negative buoyancy. An alarming fall of the water levels in Lake Tana was found in response to the planned water withdrawal. The long flushing time (19 months) will not allow a fast decay of contaminated materials released into the lake. The flow structure will not be significantly modified by the planned water withdrawal but the flushing time will decrease. The hydrodynamics of Lake Tana resemble a closed system similar to a shallow reservoir with an overflow type outlet. The implication is that the lake is vulnerable to changes in external conditions and sustainable use of the water resource of the lake will require awareness of this vulnerability. The combined watershed and hydrodynamic models would be effective tools to achieve this awareness. It is also necessary to address the impact of climate change on the fate of the lake. These are all difficult challenges that need to be addressed to safeguard the sensitive eco-system of the area.

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