Multi-model Hydrologic Forecasts in Pilot Basins in Africa (NASA SERVIR & ICIWaRM-UNESCO)

Through a continuing collaboration between The University of Arizona and diverse African partner institutions, the NASA SERVIR Program and  ICIWaRM are developing monitoring tools and real-time streamflow forecasting applications using satellite precipitation measurements and numerical weather model results. This initiative started with work in the Senegal Basin, where a detailed and applied research agenda was developed with the International Senegal Basin Authority (Organisation pour la Mise en Valeur du Fleuve Senegal, OMVS Dakar) to help improve management tools to face complex challenges in the basin.

Now, with a 4 year NASA SERVIR funded project, SERVIR Water Africa Arizona Team (SWAAT) at The University of Arizona is developing real-time monitoring and forecasting applications focusing on three pilot basins in Africa (The Mara River in Kenya & Tanzania, The Upper Zambezi in Zambia & Angola and The Tekeze River in Ethiopia & Eritrea). Specifically, the project aims at monitoring water resources availability, and to provide 7 to 12 day streamflow forecasts with a multi-model approach using real-time satellite measurements and near-term weather forecasts as inputs for hydrologic modeling. The project is benefiting from a strong linkage with the end-user communities, through our partnership with the Southern Africa Development Community Climate Services Center (SADC – CSC), formerly the Drought Monitoring Center (15 member states in East-Central and Southern Africa) and the Regional Center for Mapping of Resources for Development (RCMRD, Kenya). In response to specific needs reported from the field, such as the lack of quantitative tools to estimate water availability at resolutions useful to decision-making, we are developing tailored applications that provide near-real time estimates of water availability. These applications will use (i) satellite-based precipitation and evapotranspiration products from NASA satellites, and (ii) near-term precipitation forecasts from NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) to drive hydrologic models. By enabling continuous and near-real time monitoring and assessment of water resources, these applications will support a broad range of water resources management activities that are directly linked to economic, environmental and livelihood security. Our multi-model approach will facilitate local actors in the appropriation and use of the most adequate tools to address site-specific challenges. An experimental automated near real-time forecast has been developed as a proof of concept for three sub-watersheds of the International Senegal Basin and can be found “here” (

Developed applications and products will be a collaborative output from interactions with NASA’s SERVIR Program Officers and with regional end-users such as those in the SADC-CSC and SERVIR Africa Regions. Special effort will be made to ensure that final products – such as near-real time streamflow forecasts – are easily available to the end-user communities and the public. Two regional capacity building workshops with water managers and other stakeholders will take place in Nairobi during the third and fourth years of the project, hosted at the NASA SERVIR Africa Hub.

The project also includes a climate change impacts assessment using downscaled projections for East and Southern Africa and the previously developed hydrologic models. Hence, this initiative provides a solid framework in support of both short- and long-term challenges in water resources management and adaptation.