Main content area

Integrated impact assessment of soil and water conservation structures on runoff and sediment yield through measurements and modeling in the Northern Ethiopian highlands

Melaku, Nigus Demelash, Renschler, Chris S., Flagler, Jared, Bayu, Wondimu, Klik, Andreas
Catena 2018 v.169 pp. 140-150
Water Erosion Prediction Project, developing countries, highlands, land degradation, population growth, runoff, sediment yield, simulation models, soil, soil erosion, subwatersheds, water conservation, water resources, Ethiopia
Developing countries with an increasing population like Ethiopia experience degradation of land and water resources. To tackle this problem soil and water conservation (SWC) has been practiced and recently promoted by the Ethiopian government. However, the effectiveness of SWC practices on runoff and soil erosion have not been studied in detail for their long- and short-term effects. An integrated measurement and modeling study was conducted from 2012 to 2014 in the Gumara-Maksegnit sub watershed to assess the impacts of SWC structures on runoff and sediment yield using the Geospatial Interface for the Water Erosion Prediction Project (GeoWEPP) model. The study was conducted in two adjacent, smaller watersheds where SWC structures were constructed in one of the watersheds (treated sub watershed), while the other one was a control watershed without SWC structures (untreated sub watershed). The treated sub watershed has an area of 27.1 ha and the untreated sub watershed has an area of 31.7 ha. Runoff and sediment yield were compared based on the observations and GeoWEPP model simulations. The GeoWEPP model simulation results predicted the daily runoff satisfactorily for both sub watersheds (R2 = 0.68 and NSE = 0.43 for untreated and R2 = 0.61 and NSE = 0.84 for treated sub watershed). Similarly, the model prediction showed satisfactory results in sediment yield (R2 = 0.61 and NSE = 0.59 for untreated and R2 = 0.57 and NSE = 0.81 for treated sub watershed). SWC structures reduced slope gradient and changed flow accumulation. The observation and simulation study concluded that the treated sub watershed surface runoff was reduced by about 19% as compared to the untreated sub watershed. Similarly, the model estimated that SWC structures constructed in the treated sub watershed reduced the total area that generates soil loss above the set target limit of 10 t ha−1 y−1 from 49% to 38% of the watershed area. SWC has led to a significant reduction in sediment yield by 28 to 38% in these highland watersheds of Ethiopia. The results confirmed that SWC structures have a significant impact to prevent land degradation in the Ethiopian highlands.