Ethiopia’s water resources potential

Ethiopia is endowed with a substantial amount of water resources. The surface water resource potential is
huge. As a matter of this fact, it is called the “water tower” of North-east Africa. There are 12 major river/drainage basins many of which are trans-boundary. The total annual runoff from these basins is estimated at about 111 billion cubic meters. The major rivers carry water and valuable soil and drain mainly to the arid regions of neighboring countries. The Wabi Shebelle and Genale drain to the desert areas of Somalia and flow into the Indian Ocean. Abay (Blue Nile), Tekeze-Angereb (Atbara) and Baro drain to the Sudan (and Egypt) and join the Mediterranean Sea through the Nile. The total loss of top soil, along with those trans-boundary rivers, in Ethiopia has been estimated at 3 billion tons per year.
There are also eleven major lakes with a total area of 750,000 ha. The biggest is Lake Tana found in the
Northwestern part of the country while the rest of the lakes are found in the Rift Valley. The ground water
and the gross Hydro-Electric potential in the country are estimated at 2.6 billion cubic meters and 160,000
Giga Watt per Hours (GWh) per year respectively. Based on available information the potential irrigable land in the country is about 3.7 million ha.
Although Ethiopia’s water resource is large, very little of it has been developed for agriculture, hydropower, industry, water supply and other purposes. Basin wide integrated master plan studies, which envisage a development activity over the coming 30 to 50 years has been undertaken for most of the major rivers.
Recent estimates indicate that the total irrigated area in Ethiopia is 197,225 ha (MoWE, 2002). National coverage of potable water supply has increased from 19% in 1990 to 68.5% in 2009/10. It is particularly encouraging to note that the proportion in rural areas with access to clean water has significantly increased from 35% in 2004/05 to 65.8% in 2009/10, compared to increases from 80% to 91.5% in urban areas for the same period (MoFED, 2010). Those improvements has brought by the ability of the country to produce and mobilize skilled manpower in the sectors. This undergraduate engineering education program is among those that have effectively taken the role of capacitating the country’s human power in the area. Developing the water resources of the country is a way forward in eradicating poverty and meeting the Millennium Development Goal by 2015.