Water balance of a lake with floodplain buffering: Lake Tana, Blue Nile Basin, Ethiopia

Mekete Dessie, Niko EC Verhoest, Valentijn Rachel Noel Pauwels, Enyew Adgo, Jozef A Deckers, Jean Poesen, Jan Nyssen

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78 Citations (Scopus)


Lakes are very important components of the earth s hydrological cycle, providing a variety of services for humans and ecosystem functioning. For a sustainable use of lakes, a substantial body of knowledge on their water balance is vital. We present here a detailed daily water balance analysis for Lake Tana, the largest lake in Ethiopia and the source of the Blue Nile. Rainfall on the lake is determined by Thiessen polygon procedure, open water evaporation is estimated by the Penman-combination equation and observed inflows for the gauged catchments as well as outflow data at the two lake outlets are directly used. Runoff from ungauged catchments is estimated using a simple rainfall-runoff model and runoff coefficients. Hillslope catchments and floodplains are treated separately, which makes this study unique compared to previous water balance studies. Impact of the floodplain on the lake water balance is analyzed by conducting scenario-based studies. We found an average yearly abstraction of 420×106m3 or 6% of river inflows to the lake by the floodplain in 2012 and 2013. Nearly 60% of the inflow to the lake is from the Gilgel Abay River. Simulated lake levels compare well with the observed lake levels (R2=0.95) and the water balance can be closed with a closure error of 82mm/year (3.5% of the total lake inflow). This study demonstrates the importance of floodplains and their influence on the water balance of the lake and the need of incorporating the effects of floodplains and water abstraction for irrigation to improve predictions
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)174 - 186
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Hydrology
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2015


  • Runoff
  • Transmission losses
  • Lake level
  • Inflow
  • Outflow
  • Catchments

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