The Ethiopian federal government and Alliance partners, a consortium of two organizations, including Bioversity International and the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (ICTA), want to improve access to clean drinking water in Mekaneselam, a town in the Borena woreda in Amhara, a region of Ethiopia. To do so, they plan to build a supply dam in the town.
A water supply dam will soon be built in Mekaneselam, a town in the Borena woreda in Amhara, the second most populated region of Ethiopia. The federal government of Ethiopia and the Alliance partners, a consortium of two organizations, including Bioversity International and the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (ICTA), recently said they would implement a $32 million (more than 1 billion Ethiopian birr) water project in the city itself. A technical team, led by the Alliance and experts from Mekelle University in Ethiopia, is developing a detailed and integrated “landscape master plan” for implementation of the project in 2020. It will continue to update and improve the plans on an ongoing basis from that date.
The Mekaneselam water supply dam will improve the supply of drinking water to the people of the Amhara region in general and the city of Mekaneselam in particular. Mekaneselam has a population of around 100 000. Several underground wells have been dug there, but their yield remains insufficient to support the city’s development. The situation could deteriorate further with a projected annual population increase of about 7% and a strong potential for expansion of industries, universities and other services.
In addition to providing water supply, the dam will have the related benefit of allowing irrigation of plantations and thus reduce the risk of drought for small farmers in downstream areas. It will also provide a source of income as it is planned to serve as a tourist and recreational centre for the local population.
Evolution of the Mekaneselam Water Project
The Mekaneselam water supply dam project begins to take shape in June 2018. The technical team is carrying out a comprehensive pre-feasibility study, assessing the geotechnical and geohydrological framework of the Amhara region and the status of the water supply to the city of Mekaneselam. This field trip is organized by the University of Wollo, the University of Mekdela Amba and the administration of the city of Mekaneselam. The findings show that the region’s groundwater resources are insufficiently exploited even though their potential is high.
A second study was then initiated. It aimed at assessing the hydrology of the catchment area and all available surface water resources, as well as the availability of construction materials. Through this new study, the technical team was able to identify a suitable site for a water supply dam that meets the required technical qualities (adequate runoff, good foundation, suitable spillway site, stable abutments, and appropriate and sufficient construction materials for the dam, ancillary structures and infrastructure). “From a hydrological point of view, the chosen site receives very high rainfall and is dominated by typical Afroalpine grasses (guassa), resulting in high runoff and water quality that can reduce the cost of drinking water treatment,” explained Wuletawu Abera, the Alliance’s Landscape Hydrologist at the time.
Following this discovery, the Amhara Regional Government decided to allocate $1 million (more than 33.2 million Ethiopian Birrs) to the team for a detailed feasibility study of the sites identified by the Alliance team. The Amhara Design and Supervision Works Enterprise (ADSWE) undertook the feasibility analysis. After conducting the detailed site survey, ADSWE approved the location proposed by the Alliance team and thus gave the green light for the construction of the dam.
Today, people are concerned that the future Mekaneselam water supply dam could be affected by sedimentation, due to strong erosion in some parts of the upstream watershed. To solve this problem, the technical team led by the Alliance has contacted the partners concerned to start landscape restoration work before the dam is completed.