Dynamics in land cover and its effect on stream flow in the Chemoga watershed, Blue Nile basin, Ethiopia

W. Bewket, G. Sterk

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134 Citations (Scopus)


The objective of this study was to analyse changes in stream flow patterns with reference to dynamics in land cover/use in a typical watershed, the Chemoga, in northwestern highland Ethiopia. The results show that, between 1960 and 1999, total annual stream flow decreased at a rate of 1 · 7 mm year-1, whereas the annual rainfall decreased only at a rate of 0 · 29 mm year-1. The decrease in the stream flow was more pronounced during the dry season (October to May), for which a statistically significant decline (0 · 6 mm year-1) was observed while the corresponding rainfall showed no discernible trend. The wet season (June to September) rainfall and stream flow did not show any trends. Extreme low flows analysed at monthly and daily time steps reconfirmed that low flows declined with time, the changes being highly significant statistically. Between 1960 and 1999, the monthly rainfall and stream flow amounts of February (month of lowest long-term mean flow) declined by 55% and 94% respectively. Similarly, minimum daily flows recorded during the three driest months (December to February) showed statistically highly significant declines over the same period. It declined from 0 · 6 m3 s-1 to 0 · 2 m3 s-1 in December, from 0 · 4 m3 s-1 to 0 · 1 m3 s-1 in January and from 0 · 4 m3 s-1 to 0 · 02 m3 s-1 in February (1 · 0 m3 s-1 = 0 · 24 mm day-1 in the Chemoga watershed). In contrast, extreme high flows analysed at monthly (for August) and daily (July to September) time steps did not reveal discernible trends. The observed adverse changes in the stream flow have partly resulted from changes in land cover/use and/or degradation of the watershed that involved destruction of natural vegetative covers, expansion of croplands, overgrazing and increased area under eucalypt plantations. The other contributory factor has been the increased dry-season water abstraction to be expected from the increased human and livestock populations in the area. Given the significance of the stream flow as the only source of water to the local people, a set of measures aimed at reducing magnitudes of surface runoff generation and increasing groundwater recharge are required to sustain the water resource and maintain a balanced dry-season flow in the watershed. Generally, an integrated watershed management approach, whereby the whole of the watershed can be holistically viewed and managed, would be desirable
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)445-458
JournalHydrological Processes
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2005


  • experimental catchments
  • eucalyptus-grandis
  • pinus-patula
  • south-africa
  • afforestation
  • mokobulaan
  • responses
  • climate


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