Você está na página 1de 121

Thesis

Tools for river basin management

COOLS, Jan

Abstract
Water resources management can be challenging when confronted with pollution, water
shortage, floods, water-related diseases, climate change and variability. In this thesis, it is
assessed how the management of a multi-functional river basin can be facilitated through the
development and testing of analytical tools in data-poor and data-rich context. A variety of
tools and strategies is developed and tested on a variety of stakeholder selected themes,
namely: Cost-effective improvement of water quality in the Nete river (Belgium) An early
warning system for flash floods in hyper-arid Egypt Integration of human health in wetland
management in the Inner Niger Delta (Mali). This thesis arguments that the development of
tools can support integration and cooperation between experts and decision-makers. If there
is a perceived lack of data and capacity, besides questioning the tool complexity, equally
important is the process used for model development and stakeholder involvement.

Reference
COOLS, Jan. Tools for river basin management. Thse de doctorat : Univ. Genve, 2012,
no. Sc. 4473

Available at:
http://archive-ouverte.unige.ch/unige:26021
Disclaimer: layout of this document may differ from the published version.

[ Downloaded 01/01/2016 at 08:16:37 ]

UNIVERSITE DE GENEVE

FACULTE DES SCIENCES

enviroSPACE: Spatial Predictions and Analyses in Complex Environment

Prof. Anthony Lehmann

C3i: Climatic Change and Climate Impacts

Prof. Martin Beniston

Tools for
River Basin Management
THESE
prsente la Facult des Sciences de lUniversit de Genve
pour obtenir le grade de Docteur s Sciences,
mention Sciences de lEnvironnement
par
Jan COOLS
De
Gand (Belgique)

Thse N 4473
GENEVE
2012

Table of contents

1.

Introduction ............................................................................................................................. 1

1.1. The need for River Basin Management ................................................................................... 1


1.2. The data challenge for River Basin Management .................................................................... 4
1.3. Tools for River Basin Management .......................................................................................... 5
1.3.1. Decision-support systems ..................................................................................................... 5
1.3.2. Simulation tools..................................................................................................................... 6
1.3.3. Tools for cost-optimization ................................................................................................... 6
1.3.4. Guidance documents ............................................................................................................ 7
1.3.5. Rapid assessment tools & stakeholder participation............................................................ 7
1.4. Solutions for River Basin Management ................................................................................... 8
1.5. Terminology used................................................................................................................... 11
References ..................................................................................................................................... 13
2.

Overview of this thesis .......................................................................................................... 17

2.1. Concept & Case Studies ......................................................................................................... 17


2.2. Objectives and Research Questions....................................................................................... 19
2.3. Structure of this thesis ........................................................................................................... 20
2.4. Contributing projects ............................................................................................................. 21
2.5. Achieved publications ............................................................................................................ 22
3.

Solutions for a cost-effective water quality improvement in Belgium ............................... 25

Abstract ......................................................................................................................................... 25
3.1. Introduction ........................................................................................................................... 26
3.2. Methodology .......................................................................................................................... 27
3.2.1. The study area ..................................................................................................................... 27
3.2.2. The SWAT model ................................................................................................................. 28
3.2.3. The Environmental Costing Model ...................................................................................... 29
3.2.4. Description of emission reduction measures...................................................................... 30
3.2.5. Coupling of SWAT and ECM ................................................................................................ 33
3.3. Results & discussion ............................................................................................................... 35
3.3.1. Impact of emission reduction on water quality .................................................................. 35
3.3.2. Marginal abatement cost curves......................................................................................... 38

3.4. Summary and conclusions ..................................................................................................... 39


Acknowledgements ....................................................................................................................... 40
4.

An early warning system for flash floods in hyper-arid Egypt ............................................ 45

Abstract ......................................................................................................................................... 45
4.1. Introduction ........................................................................................................................... 46
4.2. Study area .............................................................................................................................. 47
4.3. Early warning system: a chain of components ...................................................................... 51
4.3.1. Rainfall forecasting .............................................................................................................. 53
4.3.1.1. Numerical weather prediction for operational rainfall forecasting ................................ 53
4.3.1.2. Satellite precipitation estimates: analysis of historic flash flood events ......................... 54
4.3.2. Hydrological and hydraulic model....................................................................................... 54
4.3.3. Infiltration and transmission losses .................................................................................... 58
4.3.4. Warning system ................................................................................................................... 59
4.3.5. Communication and decision-making ................................................................................. 59
4.4. Results and discussions .......................................................................................................... 60
4.4.1. Challenges for a flash flood early warning system in a hyper-arid catchment ................... 60
4.4.2. Correspondence between rainfall data and flash flood events .......................................... 61
4.4.3. Forecasting runoff and discharge........................................................................................ 70
4.5. Conclusions ............................................................................................................................ 72
Acknowledgments ......................................................................................................................... 74
References ..................................................................................................................................... 74
5.

Integrating human health into wetland management for the Inner Niger Delta, Mali ..... 79

Abstract ......................................................................................................................................... 79
5.1. Introduction ........................................................................................................................... 80
5.2. Case study description ........................................................................................................... 82
5.3. Methodology .......................................................................................................................... 85
5.4. Results .................................................................................................................................... 89
5.4.1. Impact of management options .......................................................................................... 89
5.4.2. Adaptive capacity of management options ........................................................................ 90
5.5. Discussion............................................................................................................................... 91
5.6. Conclusions ............................................................................................................................ 93
Acknowledgment........................................................................................................................... 93
References ..................................................................................................................................... 93

6.

Conclusions ............................................................................................................................ 98

6.1. How to choose the most appropriate tool and related tool complexity to address
context-specific challenges in river basin management? ............................................................. 98
6.2. How to choose the best management solution in order to address priority problems of
the catchment and achieve policy targets? ................................................................................ 102
6.2.1. Optimization and ranking on cost-effectiveness for the Nete river, Belgium .................. 102
6.2.2. Comparative analysis of indicator scores in the Inner Niger Delta (Mali) ........................ 103
6.3. Final conclusions .................................................................................................................. 105
6.4. Recommendations ............................................................................................................... 106
6.4.1. Recommendations for knowledge-based river basin management ................................. 106
6.4.2.Recommendations for future research.............................................................................. 107

List of Figures
Figure 1.1 The River Basin Management Cycle (based on European Communities, 2003a,b,
Zsuffa et al., 2012, Johnston et al., 2012, Rebelo et al., 2012) ....................................................... 2
Figure 1.2 River basin management is continuous, evolving and dynamic process (based on
UNESCO, 2009, Zsuffa et al., 2012) ................................................................................................. 3
Figure 3.1 Location of the Grote Nete study area in Flanders, Belgium ....................................... 27
Figure 3.2 Output of SWAT for total nitrogen (mgN/l) and observations of total nitrogen and
flow (m/s) ..................................................................................................................................... 29
Figure 3.3 Overview of the input-output and coupling between SWAT and ECM ....................... 34
Figure 3.4 Relationship between in-stream concentration and emission reduction for total
nitrogen (summer half-annual averages). The horizontal lines indicate the WFD standards: 4
mgN/l for good status and 3 mgN/L for very good status ............................................................ 37
Figure 3.5 Relationship between in-stream concentration and emission reduction for nitrate
(90%ile). The horizontal line indicate the WFD standards for very good status (2 mgN/l). The
good status is already reached...................................................................................................... 37
Figure 3.6 Marginal cost abatement function for total nitrogen. The vertical gray line
indicates the good status standard. The letters refer to measures targeting both point and
diffuse sources as listed in Table 3.1............................................................................................. 39
Figure 4.1 Location of case study Wadi Watir in the Sinai peninsula of Egypt. Nuweiba is
located at the outlet of Wadi Watir. The known tourist city Sharm El-Sheikh is located in the
southernmost point of the Sinai peninsula ................................................................................... 49
Figure 4.2 Distribution of rainfall and storm events from 1979-2006. ......................................... 49
Figure 4.3 Wadi Watir: topography, subbasins and rain gauges .................................................. 50
Figure 4.4 International road running through the canyon, close to the outlet wadi Watir.
LEFT: normal state in dry conditions; RIGHT: damage resulting from the flash flood of 24
October 2008................................................................................................................................. 51
Figure 4.5 The chain of components that forms the early warning system ................................. 53
Figure 4.6 Schematic view of the hydrological processes considered at the catchment ............. 57
Figure 4.7 Selection of 3-hourly rainfall estimates from TRMM for the events in December
2000, October 2002, October 2004 and January 2010. Images are extracted with NASAs
Giovanni (giovanni.gsfc.nasa.gov) ................................................................................................. 65
Figure 4.8 Rainfall forecast by WRF for the January 2010 flash flood. Shown is the cumulative
rainfall at the end of the rain event (23h on January, 18, 2010) .................................................. 66
Figure 4.9 forecasted and measured rainfall in 8 stations for the January 2010 event (ranked
by measured rainfall). ................................................................................................................... 68
Figure 4.10 forecasted and measured rainfall in 3 stations for the January 2010 event ............. 69
Figure 4.11 forecasted and measured rainfall for the October 2008 event (Sorah gauge).......... 70
Figure 4.12 Forecasted discharge at the outlet based on forecasted rainfall; The peak
discharge corresponds to an observed flood depth of 1.5m at the outlet of Wadi Watir ........... 72

Figure 4.13 Modelled infiltration and transmission losses for the 2010 flash flood .................... 73
Figure 5.1 The Inner Niger Delta located in Mali, West Africa...................................................... 84
Figure 5.2 Distributional range of access to sanitation in the Inner Niger Delta, based on
CPS/MS (2007)............................................................................................................................... 85
Figure 5.3 Methodology to integrate human health in into wetland management .................... 89
Figure 5.4 Spider diagram showing the feasibility and sustainability for implementation of
the management option greywater sewers; The bold black line is the threshold for an
adequate adaptive capacity and feasibility (at the least the score good) .................................. 92
Figure 6.1 Optimal model complexity linked to data availability ................................................. 99

List of Tables
Table 3.1 Measures included in the optimization algorithm. A distinction between basic and
supplementary measures is made according to the WFD definition. The index letter is
referred to in the marginal cost abatement function (Fig. 3.6) .................................................... 31
Table 3.2 Scenarios applied for emission reductions.................................................................... 35
Table 3.3 Flemish standards for total nitrogen and nitrate (CIW, 2008) ...................................... 35
Table 3.4 Required emission reduction percentages to achieve the WFD standards. NO
means the standard cannot be achieved ...................................................................................... 36
Table 3.5 Sensitivity of in-stream concentration to an emission reduction for total nitrogen
(in mgN l-1 / kgN reduction).......................................................................................................... 36
Table 4.1 Historic flash flood events in Wadi Watir and correspondence to rainfall events: 1 3
operational rain gauges in Wadi Watir until 2007, afterwards 9 more gauges are installed; 2
Range of satellite rainfall estimates by TRMM (product 3B42(V6)) ............................................. 63
Table 4.2 Qualitative comparison of the available rainfall data from in-situ measurements,
WRF forecasts and satellite estimates for rain events since 2002 ............................................... 67
Table 4.3 Overview of type of storms of Wadi Watier in the period 1987-2010 ......................... 71
Table 5.1 Overview of environmental options for diarrhoea, schistosomiasis and malaria for
cities in or at wetlands. ................................................................................................................. 81
Table 5.2 Selected impact criteria and indicators for human health............................................ 87

Abstract
The concept of River Basin Management (RBM) asks for knowledge-based water management and is
demanding on human resources and information. Understanding the challenges facing individual
catchments and understanding the appropriate management responses to these challenges has to be
based on sound information. This not only includes basic monitoring information on state, drivers and
pressures, but also the analytical tools to interpret these into determining which measures and
instruments need to be applied where and when. A major problem for policy-makers is to obtain reliable
and relevant information upon which to base decisions. This information may be provided by the
scientific community, but may and should also come from the public opinion.
The centre piece of RBM is the River Basin Management Plan (RBMP), consisting of 1) a multidisciplinary characterization addressing the biophysical and socio-economic status, trends and related
drivers and pressures, a stakeholder analysis and the institutional and policy context; 2) a set of agreed
priorities and objectives and 3) a selection of management options that need to be implemented in
order to achieve the set objectives.
A major problem for policy-makers is to obtain reliable and relevant information on the multiple values,
uses and pressures on the water resources at river basin scale. In this thesis, it is assessed how river
basin management can be facilitated through the development and testing of analytical tools in datapoor and data-rich context, with a focus on the selection of the most appropriate tools and best
management options to address the context-specific challenges in river basin management. A variety of
tools and strategies is developed and tested on a variety of stakeholder selected themes, namely:

Cost-effective improvement of water quality in the Nete river (Belgium)


An early warning system for flash floods in hyper-arid Egypt
Integration of human health in wetland management in the Inner Niger Delta (Mali)

This thesis arguments that important elements in the choice of the most appropriate tool for RBM are
data availability, the needs of decision-makers in terms of content, capacity and required level of detail
and scale. If there is a perceived lack of data and capacity, besides questioning the tool complexity,
equally important is the process used for model development and stakeholder involvement. It is found
that the development of tools, rather than the outcomes, can support integration and cooperation
between experts and decision-makers. Rapid assessment methods can reduce the efforts for the
assessment of state and drivers of change while enhancing stakeholder involvement.
For the selection of the "best solution" to address challenges in RBM, two approaches have been used.
For the Belgian case study, computer-aided optimization (mixed integer linear programming) resulted in
a ranking of management options according to the cost-effectiveness to achieve surface water quality
targets. The outcomes are visualised in stepwise "marginal abatement cost" curves. The framework is
based on the coupling of two models: the hydrological water quality model SWAT and an economic
optimization model (Environmental Costing Model, ECM). Input data for the models are amongst others
a detailed inventory of emissions (about 15,000 sources) and a database of measures across all nutrienti

discharging sectors, covering point and non-point sources and distinguishing the impact of basic (already
decided) measures and supplementary measures. Cost-effectiveness has proven to be an important, but
insufficient selection criterion. Cost-effectiveness values are relative, and might have high propagated
uncertainty.
For the Inner Niger Delta, Mali, a framework to assess the appropriateness of management options in
data-poor context is developed based on comparative multi-criteria analysis. The framework is largely
stakeholder-driven and integrates impact, feasibility, institutional capacity and trade-off analysis
(potential conflicts, winners and losers of a management option). The major barrier for effective
wetland management in the Inner Niger Delta was found to be the lack of understanding of what the
important issues were, across sectors, and the required institutional capacity to implement effective
wetland management. The process of defining and scoring criteria was very important in identifying the
range of issues to be considered. Stakeholders in the Inner Niger Delta stressed the importance to assess
the feasibility and robustness of management options, and placed less importance to effectiveness and
investment cost. In data-poor context, where uncertainty in scoring of criteria is likely to be high, but is
not explicitly assessed, ranking of management options are of doubtful validity. The presented analysis
is appropriate to support discussion and mutual understanding between stakeholders/sectors rather
than actual decision-making.
In the Egyptian case study, an early warning system for flash floods has been developed in the Red Sea
Mountains (Sinai Peninsula). The presented EWS is the first operational early warning system for flash
floods in the Arab world. The lack of quantitative data necessitated the use of alternative sources of
information for the development and calibration of the EWS, namely remote sensing and local
stakeholders' knowledge. A set of essential parameters has been identified for flash flood risk
management under data-poor conditions. It was found that the effectiveness of an EWS is only partially
determined by technological performance. A strong institutional capacity is equally important, especially
skilled staff to operate and maintain the system and clear communication pathways and emergency
procedures in case of an upcoming disaster.
In conclusion, this thesis provides lessons learnt from various case studies to facilitate the uptake of
tools from the research community in operational water management. The most pressing requirement
for improved cooperation is the exchange of information in a timely manner and format that policy
makers and the public can readily understand and use. Early and sustained stakeholder involvement is
essential for effective river basin management. Yet, a careful strategy has to be developed in order to
avoid dropout, delays in decision-making and high transaction costs.

ii

Rsum
Le concept de gestion des bassins fluviaux (RBM) exige une gestion de l'eau fonde sur les
connaissances, des ressources humaines et de l'information. La comprhension des enjeux de chaque
bassin et la matrise des solutions de gestion adaptes ces dfis doit tre fonde sur des informations
solides. Cela inclut non-seulement lvaluation de l'tat, des facteurs de changements et des pressions
sur le systme, mais aussi les outils d'analyse permettant le choix des mesures de gestion adquates. Un
problme majeur pour les dcideurs consiste obtenir des informations fiables et pertinentes sur
lesquelles fonder leurs dcisions. Cette information peut tre fournie par la communaut scientifique,
mais peut et doit aussi venir de l'opinion publique.
La pice matresse de la RBM est le Plan de Gestion du Bassin Versant (RBMP: River Basin Management
Plan), constitu de 1) une caractrisation multi-disciplinaire abordant le statut biophysique et socioconomique, ses tendances et les facteurs de changements et pressions associs; une analyse des
parties prenantes, du cadre institutionnel et du contexte politique; 2) un ensemble de priorits et
d'objectifs convenus et 3) une slection des options de gestion qui doivent tre mises en uvre afin
d'atteindre les objectifs fixs.
Dans cette thse, la possibilit damliorer la gestion par bassin par la mise au point et l'essai d'outils
d'analyse des donnes est value dans des contextes contrasts pauvres et riches en donnes. L'accent
est mis sur la slection des outils les plus appropris et les meilleures options de gestion pour relever les
dfis spcifiques au contexte du basin tudi. Une varit d'outils et de stratgies est dvelopp et test
sur une varit de thmes ayant t slectionns par les parties prenantes des sites tudis, savoir:

Analyse Cot-Efficacit de lamlioration de la qualit de l'eau de la rivire Nete (Belgique)

Systme d'alerte aux crues subites en rgion hyper-aride (Egypte)

Intgration de la sant humaine dans la gestion des zones humides dans le Delta Intrieur du
Niger (Mali)

Cette thse souligne que les lments importants dans le choix des outils les plus appropris pour la
RBM sont la disponibilit des donnes, les besoins des dcideurs, la capacit et le niveau de dtail
requis, et l'chelle dtude. S'il y a un manque de donnes et de capacits, en plus de la remise en cause
de la complexit possible de l'outil, il est galement important dtudier le processus utilis pour
l'laboration du modle et pour l'implication des parties prenantes. On constate que le dveloppement
d'outils, plutt que lanalyse des rsultats, permet de mieux prendre en compte l'intgration et la
coopration entre les experts et les dcideurs. Les mthodes d'valuation rapides permettent de rduire
les efforts de l'valuation de l'tat et des facteurs de changement tout en amliorant la participation des
parties prenantes.
Pour le choix de la meilleure solution permettant de relever les dfis de la RBM, deux approches ont
t utilises. Pour l'tude de cas de la Belgique, l'optimisation assiste par ordinateur ( mixed integer
iii

linear programming ) ont abouti un classement des options de gestion selon le rapport cot-efficacit
pour atteindre les objectifs fixs de qualit des eaux de surface. Les rsultats sont visualiss par tapes
en tudiants les courbes dabattement des cots marginaux. Le cadre danalyse est bas sur le couplage
de deux modles: le modle hydrologique SWAT de qualit des eaux, et un modle d'optimisation
conomique (ECM). Le rapport cot-efficacit s'est rvle tre un critre de slection important, mais
insuffisant. Les valeurs obtenues de cot-efficacit restent relatives, et pourraient propager une grande
incertitude.
Pour le Delta Intrieur du Niger au Mali, un cadre danalyse permettant dvaluer la pertinence des
options de gestion dans un contexte pauvre en donnes est dvelopp sur la base dune analyse
comparative multicritre. Le cadre est en grande partie ax sur les intervenants et intgre des analyses
de l'impact, de la faisabilit, de la capacit institutionnelle et des compromis possibles (conflits
potentiels, gagnants et perdants d'une option de gestion). Le principal obstacle la gestion efficace des
zones humides dans le Delta Intrieur du Niger sest rvl tre le manque de comprhension sur les
questions importantes dans tous les secteurs dactivit, et la capacit institutionnelle requise pour la
mise en en uvre dune gestion efficace des zones humides. Le processus de dfinition et des critres
de notation tait trs important pour identifier l'ventail des questions prendre en considration. Les
parties prenantes dans le Delta Intrieur du Niger ont soulign l'importance d'valuer la faisabilit et la
robustesse des options de gestion, et accordent moins d'importance la rentabilit de l'investissement.
Dans les contextes pauvres en donnes o l'incertitude dans la notation des critres est susceptible
d'tre leve, sans tre nanmoins explicitement value, le classement des options de gestion
demeure d'une validit douteuse. L'analyse prsente a permis de favoriser la comprhension mutuelle
et les discussions entre acteurs / secteurs plutt que la prise relle de dcisions.
Dans l'tude de cas en Egypte, un systme d'alerte prcoce (EWS : Early Warning System pour les
crues subites a t dvelopp dans les montagnes de la Mer Rouge (pninsule du Sina). Le EWS propos
est le premier systme oprationnel d'alerte prcoce pour les inondations dans le monde arabe. Le
manque de donnes quantitatives a ncessit l'utilisation d'autres sources d'information pour le
dveloppement et l'talonnage des stations d'alerte, telles que les donnes de tldtection et les
connaissances des parties prenantes locales. Un ensemble de paramtres essentiels a t identifi pour
la gestion des risques de crues subites dans des conditions pauvres en donnes. Il a t constat que
l'efficacit d'un systme d'alerte prcoce n'est que partiellement dtermin par la performance
technologique. Une bonne capacit institutionnelle est tout aussi importante, particulirement un
personnel bien form pour exploiter et entretenir le systme, des voies de communication claires, et
des procdures d'urgence bien tablies en cas de catastrophe.
En conclusion, cette thse fournit des enseignements tirs des diffrentes tudes de cas afin de faciliter
lutilisation des outils dvelopp par la communaut scientifique pour la gestion oprationnelle de leau.
Le besoin le plus urgent pour amliorer la coopration est l'change d'informations en temps voulu et
dans un format que les dcideurs politiques et le grand public peut facilement comprendre et utiliser. La
participation prcoce des parties prenantes est essentielle la gestion efficace des bassins fluviaux.
Pourtant, une stratgie prudente doit tre adopte afin d'viter les abandons, les retards dans la prise
de dcision et les cots de transaction levs.
iv

Acknowledgments
It has been a long journey. I sailed on the widest rivers, escaped from sand storms, was hit by the
volcanic ash of Eyjafjallajkull and managed my way through the labyrinth of European projects. My
journey around the world took slightly more than 40 days (a decade), but I am now finally Dr. Cool.
I would like to express my gratitude to all that have supported and inspired me in any respect during the
journey to complete this thesis. Some travel mates joined me during the whole journey: Dr. Fred
Hattermann, Dr. Ann Van Griensven en Dr. Istvan Zsuffa and many members of my family and friends,
not in the least for the frequent babysitting. Special gratitude goes to my wife Dr. hilde Breesch and kids
Lina and Daan and my closest family Pa, Agnes, Moeke, Vake, Greet, Dirk, Laura, Simon and Anton, Rigo,
Jeanne, Dr. Liesbeth & Dries and Jo & Dr. Katleen. I greatly appreciated the presence and support of my
good friends: Dr. Sake & Eva, Frederic & Katrien, Dr. Joris & Dorien, Sammy & Elke (almost Dr.), Dr.
Eugne & Lien, Peter, Natasja & Danil, Helena (almost Dr.) & Matthias, Bram, Dr. Roeland & Yessica.
I furthermore would like to express my gratitude to my supervisors Prof. Anthony Lehmann and Prof.
Martin Beniston for the opportunity to complete my thesis. And the jury members to critically review
this thesis: Dr. Fred Hattermann, Dr. Sylvie Morardet and Dr. Geraldine Pflieger. It is a pleasure to thank
the collegues at the University of Brussels, where I started my journey and learned skills to survive the
world of water. Special thanks go to Prof. Florimond De Smedt, Prof. Willy Bauwens, Prof. Okke
Batelaan, Boud Verbeiren (almost Dr.) and Prof. Philippe Quevauviller (double Dr.). This journey would
furthermore not have been possible without the support of collegues of ANTEA group (previously
named Soresma), especially Dr. Marc Huygens, Tom D'Haeyer, Pascal Vlieghe, Patrick Debels, Dr.
Veronique Vandenberghe, Kristien Schelfaut, Dr. Paul Vanderkimpen, Dr. Ivan Rocabado, Irene Van der
Craats, Bart Pannemans, Ann Hostyn, Annelies Beel, Marie Mahieu, Dries Coertjens.
It was an honour to contribute to many international projects. The presents I got provided me with the
energy to keep going. I remember the hippo from Uganda, the Ecuadorian statue, the Twin2Go mug,
German chocolates, Swiss wine and Ukrainian pepper liquor. Special gratitude goes to Dr. Robyn
Johnston, Dr. Lisa Rebelo, Dr. Stefan Liersch, Dr. Wim Douven, Edi Interwies, Bakary Kone, Mori Diallo,
Dr. Chris Baker, Dr. Jos Verhoeven, Dr. Uri Shamir, Dr. Pelle Lindgaard Jorgensen, Dr. Louis Lebel and
other WETwin and Twin2Go collegues, Steven Broekx (almost Dr.), Dr. Gamal El-Afandi, Dr. Rudy
Herman, Dr. Eline Boelee, Rifat Hossain, Dr. Robert Bos, Dr. Seval Szen, Christos Fragakis, Dr. Patrick
Meire, Peter Vanderjagt, Johan Verstraeten, Marc Despiegelaere and other PROTOS collegues, Dr. Jay
Pearlman, Dr. Chris Dickens, Dr. Deborah Bossio, Dr. Eddy Wymenga, Dr. Leo Zwarts, Yannis Guigoz, Dr.
Nicolas Ray, Dr. Gregory Giulani.
Finally, my new collegues at Milieu Ltd have beared with me and offered substantial flexibility during the
6 months that I had a double job: finishing my PhD and starting work on projects at Milieu. Special
gratitude goes to Harry, Gretta, Claire, Tony, Alice, Charlotte and other collegues.

Jan Cools

Tools for River Basin Management

Chapter 1

1. Introduction
1.1.

The need for River Basin Management

Planning and management of water resources in river basins is becoming increasingly complex. River
basin managers need to balance the often competing needs of different sectors (domestic water use,
agriculture, industry, ecosystems), while conserving or restoring the water status for communities and
ecosystems throughout the catchment, both in terms of water availability and water quality. River basin
managers furthermore need to address the impact of external pressures such as land and water
developments, climate change and variability, and particularly of importance for developing countries,
population growth and rapid and often uncontrolled urban and agricultural development. Wetlands are
particularly vulnerable to the above pressures and continue to degrade, despite their importance for the
catchment and livelihood. Floods and droughts may disrupt the functioning of society and the
ecosystem urging for action before (preparedness), during (emergency response) and if needed after
(recovery & relief) the disaster. In addition, upstream-downstream effects need to be considered, often
across administrative boundaries, urging for cooperation and coordination between local institutions
and communities and scientists.
International best practice to address the above water challenges is "Integrated Water Resources
Management" (IWRM), its catchment-based component "River Basin Management" (RBM) (GWP, 2000,
Chn, 2009, UNEP, 2012) and specifically for floods the integrated concept of "Flood Risk
Management" (FRM) (Wisner et al., 2004, Pitt, 2008, Floodsite, 2009, Schelfaut et al., 2011). Integrated
management typically requires the integration of the underlying social, economic, political and
institutional drivers of unsustainable land and water use, and the integration of different kinds of
knowledge and stakeholders across scales and sectors. In this thesis, the term River Basin Management
(RBM) is used to address the above.
The River Basin Management Cycle, shown in Figure 1.1, presents the steps needed to implement RBM.
The centre piece of RBM typically is the River Basin Management Plan (RBMP) and ideally consists of
following components:

Multi-disciplinary characterization addressing the biophysical and socio-economic status and trends
and related drivers and pressures, a review of the stakeholders and institutional and policy context;
Considering that initiatives in other sectors such as agriculture development, land use planning,
nature conservation, etc. may affect the river basin, it is to be assessed where each sector is in
terms of its planning and management cycle, and beginning from this point with a process of
gradual integration and synchronization;
Based on the system characterisation, a problem description is defined which further leads to a set
of agreed priorities and objectives, ideally along with quantitative and measurable targets, based on
a set of criteria and indicators.

Jan Cools

Tools for River Basin Management

Chapter 1

A set of management options and solutions, ideally ready for implementation and linked to
budgetary provisions.
Agreement with and engagement of decision-makers and stakeholders

The finalisation of the RBMP marks the transition of the planning phase to the implementation phase.
The agreed solutions are then to be implemented. Progress and the distance to the set targets can be
monitored and might lead to a revision of the implementation strategy following the lessons learnt,
achieved impacts (through the implementation of the measures), potential changes in priorities and
observed trends in the status of the system.

Figure 1.1 The River Basin Management Cycle (based on European Communities, 2003a,b, Zsuffa et
al., 2012, Johnston et al., 2012, Rebelo et al., 2012)
River Basin Management is a continuous process and needs to adapt to the changing environment. Each
management cycle is hence to be followed by the next one and ideally evolves as a spiral over time as
one moves towards more effective water resources management, as shown in Fig.1.2, based on UNESCO
(2009) and Zsuffa et al. (2012). In the adaptive process, visualised through the spiral, opportunities are
created to address external drivers of change such as climate change, population growth, economic
growth, upstream water development, wetland management, public health, etc... and facilitating the
engagement and ownership of decision-makers and stakeholders.

Jan Cools

Tools for River Basin Management

Chapter 1

Figure 1.2: River basin management is continuous, evolving and dynamic process (based on UNESCO,
2009, Zsuffa et al., 2012)
In Europe, an analysis of the River Basin Management Plans (RBMP), delivered in 2010, (European
Commission, forthcoming publication in November 2012), as required under the Water Framework
Directive, reveals that the Programme of Measures (PoM) do not appear to be concrete, information on
their financing is not extensive, and many lack a strong presentation of the links between measures and
the attainment of objectives. Many PoMs re-propose existing measures and have not defined a baseline
scenario. Many PoMs therefore do not assess what would happen by 2015 (and beyond) based on
decisions already made to implement other legislation and socio-economic trends and may not be
effective in terms of achieving WFD and RBMP goals. Problems furthermore existed in setting targets (or
objectives) for water. While EU water law sets a number of objectives for water bodies, there is still a
major gap in the ability of (at least some) water managers to set clear targets within river basins.
Related to this, there may be a need for a stronger analytical framework to link pressures, state, impacts
and responses, as these relationships can be complex.
Worldwide, substantial progress on the application of IWRM has been made since the 1992 UN
conference on sustainable development in Rio de Janeiro. At the UN Rio+20 conference (2012), UNEP
(2012) reported that since 1992 80% of countries have embarked on reforms to improve the enabling
Jan Cools

Tools for River Basin Management

Chapter 1

environment for water resources management. About 50% of developing countries have IWRM plans at
national or federal level and about 20% show an advanced implementation. Particular challenges remain
in the development and implementation of management plans at river basin scale, including the
selection of the most appropriate management options. Common elements in water resources
management in developing countries are the limited data availability, limited institutional capacity,
limited financial resources, limited integration of other sectors and challenges related to
implementation, maintenance and operations. Especially relevant for developing countries - and
targeted in this thesis - is the need to integrate the following themes in RBM:
1) Measures to improve water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) in RBM as measures to achieve the
Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Advances continue to be made towards greater access to safe
drinking water, but that progress on sanitation is insufficient to achieve the MDG Target (WHO/UNICEF,
2010)
2) Strategies for disaster risk reduction in response to the United Nations Hyogo Framework for Action
(HFA). Substantial progress is made for disaster risk reduction is response of the. Yet, challenges remain
in the implementation of effective early warning systems (EWS) and preparedness and response;
countries are still struggling to address the underlying risk drivers (UNISDR, 2011).
3) Wetlands are too frequently regarded as standalone components and are poorly integrated into river
basin management. Guidance is offered by the Ramsar Critical Path approach, but few assessments of
implementation success exist (Ramsar Convention Secretariat, 2010, Rebelo et al., 2012).

1.2.

The data challenge for River Basin Management

The implementation of river basin management is highly demanding on human resources and
information and asks for goal-oriented quantitative water management. Data on water quantity
(discharges, flooded areas and drought) and water quality (emissions of pollutants, bacteriological
quality and ecological quality) are often scarce. Understanding the challenges facing individual
catchments and understanding the appropriate management responses to these challenges has to be
based on sound information. This not only includes basic monitoring information on state and
pressures, but also the analytical tools to interpret these into determining which measures and
instruments need to be applied where and when. A major problem for policy-makers is to obtain reliable
and relevant information upon which to base decisions. This information may be provided by the
scientific community, but may also come from the public opinion (Gooch and Stalnacke, 2010).
In Europe, at present, vast amounts of 'water' data and tools are collected through Member State
monitoring programmes and research projects in support of amongst others the European Water
Framework Directive (WFD) and Flood Risk Directive (FRD). Yet, policy makers at all levels generally
perceive a lack of data and information (Blueprint ref). Among the problems are the high costs of data
collection, the need for comparable data across jurisdictions, incompatibility of data collected and
simulated by different organizations or limited degree of data sharing, in particular of raw data and
model outputs. At present, this wealth of information is neither made available in a timely manner nor
in a format that policy makers and the public can readily understand and use (Berglund et al., 2012).

Jan Cools

Tools for River Basin Management

Chapter 1

Tools from the research community furthermore are insufficiently used in operational water
management. A number of inter-related reasons for the limited science-policy interface in Europe are
elaborated e.g. by Quevauviller (2005), Willems and De Lange (2007) and Hattermann et al. (2011) such
as the insufficient dialogue among the scientific and policymaking or implementation communities,
insufficient or late involvement of stakeholders in model development and a lack of translation of
scientific outputs into methodologies and tools readily applicable to policies.
In much of the less developed world, however, data on river basin function, processes and values are
scarce and management decisions must often be made in the absence of comprehensive information.
Expert knowledge and data (measured, simulated or estimated) is often available from global data sets
or international research projects, but insufficiently accessible and used in management decisions. The
existing data and knowledge is often not systematically stored. In data-poor context, the role of
qualitative data sources e.g. based on expert judgment or traditional knowledge is important and
observed quantitative data may be unreliable.

1.3.

Tools for River Basin Management

Tools are defined in a much broader sense than the classical software models and decision-support
tools as something (either tangible or intangible) used to support operational and strategic actions in
performing IWRM. Hence a tool can be anything from a guideline or a protocol, a method or a
technique, a device, an apparatus or a software program (Barlebo, 2007). In the last decades, large
numbers of tools for RBM have been developed. The below presents a selected set of tools and does not
aim at being exhaustive.

1.3.1. Decision-support systems


Decision support system (DSS) are software tools that asks to structure the decision-making process and
mostly includes simulation, optimization and multi-criteria analysis (MCA). Long lists of DSS exists. A
selection is give below. An overview of the DSS that have been developed in European research projects
in support of the Water Framework Directive are described in Hattermann and Kundzewicz (2009),
Vanrolleghem (2010). Fact sheets on specific tools are available at the websites of HARMONI-CA
(http://www.harmoni-ca.info/) and WISE-RTD (http://www.wise-rtd.info/en). The MULINO Decision
Support System (mDSS) is specifically designed to assist to assist the implementation of the Water
Framework Directive and the development of the River Basin Management Plans (Giupponi, 2007,
Mysiak, 2010, http://www.netsymod.eu/mdss/#4). Mysiak (2010) gives an overview of optimization
techniques and multi-criteria analysis for RBM. Hajkowizc and Collins (2006) review the use of MCA for
river basin management. GAMS (Rosenthal, 2008) offers a variety of optimization algorithms including
linear programming, mixed integer programming and non-linear programming.

Jan Cools

Tools for River Basin Management

Chapter 1

1.3.2. Simulation tools


A variety of simulation tools exists, consisting of various modelling paradigms and focus. Selected
models are given here:

Rainfall-runoff models: An overview is given in Beven (2012). Selected rainfall-runoff models include
SWAT (semi-lumped model), MIKE-SHE (complex distributed process-based model), NAM (lumped,
conceptual model) and PDM (probability distributed model).
Hydraulic models: designed to simulate river flow and velocity and are particularly useful for flood
modelling, reservoir and canal modelling and design and analysis of water infrastructures such as
bridges, culverts and dams. Selected models are HEC-RAS, MIKE11, SOBEK, DELFT3D and Infoworks.
Water allocation models: designed to analyse water-sharing and distribution problems. Water
availability (hydrology), public demands and rules/licenses can be simulated. Selected models are
MIKE-BASIN, WEAP, RIBASIM and MODSIM.

Most simulation require substantial amounts of input data. In data-poor areas, global data sets provide
an alternative. Global spatial data sets include: Digital Elevation Model (SRTM4, ASTER GDEM), Soils
(FAO74), Land cover (Global Land Cover 2000), Globcover, World Soil Database (HWSD),
GlobalSoilmap.net, Protected Areas datasets, Population density, Runoff (GRDC), Climate (H08),
ecoregions (WWF), Atlas of the changing environment for Africa (UNEP, 2008), IWMI GIS/RS Data
Storehouse Pathway, UNEP Global Resources Information Database (GRID), Global Risk Data Platform
(PREVIEW), Demographic household service,
In order to facilitate data-sharing, spatial data is increasingly made available through the spatial data
infrastructure (SDI), as discussed e.g. by Giulani et al. (2011).

1.3.3.

Tools for cost-optimization

In order to identify whether choosing for a specific solution would be a sound investment, cost-benefit
analysis (CBA) is often used. Cost-Benefit Analysis (CBA) is a tool to calculate the net impact of a project
on the economic welfare of society by measuring all the costs and benefits of the project (European
Commission, 2008). The benefits therefore need to be expressed in monetary terms. Although most CBA
results can be expressed in monetary terms, some costs and benefits such as those arising from the
displacement of people and the loss of biodiversity may be difficult to express in monetary terms.
Cost-effectiveness analysis (CEA) is similar to CBA and can be used when environmental quantitative
targets are fixed. The cost of is hence assessed. The cost of a management options are compared to the
effectiveness of achieving the target. The often controversial monetary valuation is not needed for CEA
(Zanou et al. 2003, Brouwer and De Blois, 2008).
CEA and CBA can be easily integrated in MCA as cost, benefits and effectiveness can be an criterion in
MCA.

Jan Cools

Tools for River Basin Management

1.3.4.

Chapter 1

Guidance documents

In the last 20 years, a broad variety of guidance documents have been developed for River Basin
Management. A selection is given below:

The Global Water Partnership (GWP) toolbox for IWRM consists of three types of tools: 1) enabling
environment, 2) building appropriate institutions and strengthening their capacity, 3) specific
management tools such as conflict resolution and consensus building mechanisms (GWP, 2000,
GWP/INBO, 2009).
A series of 26 Guidance documents have been developed to support the implementation of the
European Water Framework Directive. They are accessible at CIRCA (European Communities, 2012).
The Ramsar Convention has developed 21 Handbooks for the wise of wetlands (Ramsar Convention,
2010). Handbook 9 on the integration of wetlands in river basin management is of particular
relevance for this thesis.
Several UN-organizations developed guidance and progress reports on IWRM and RBM e.g. UNESCO
(2009), UNEP (2012), UNISDR (2011), the 4th World Water Development Report (UNESCO, 2012).

1.3.5.

Rapid assessment tools & stakeholder participation

Rapid assessment methods are effective tools to summarise and structure existing knowledge on river
the basin as elaborated and typically require active stakeholder involvement. The rapid assessment tools
are all based on the concept of the 50 years old and widely used Delphi technique for forecasting and
decision-making in a variety of disciplines (Rowe and Wright, 1999, Green et al., 2007). The Delphi
technique relies on a panel of experts. Experts answer questionnaires in two or more rounds. After, each
round, the experts receive a summary of the results of all experts. During the process, the range of
answers will decrease and the group will converge towards the correct answer. Delphi is intended for
use in judgment in which quantitative or model-based method are not practical or not possible and
where thus a form of human judgment is necessary (Rowe and Wright, 1999). The Delphi method is
based on the assumption that group judgments are more valid than individual judgments.
Selected methods for rapid assessment in River Basin Management are:

The rapid assessment for ecosystem services is based on qualitative tools developed in South Africa
(WET-EcoServices - Kotze et al. 2008). The sensitivity to future changes is assessed based on the
concepts outlined in TEEB (2010) and Ranganathan et al. (2008).
The institutional and legal context for IWRM is derived from the 'Water Governance Database'
developed under the Twin2Go project (Knieper, 2011) and similar to the UNEP (2012).
The World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) developed the TUL-SEA toolbox (TUL-SEA, 2012), a
negotiation support toolbox developed for multi-functional landscapes. A selection of the tools of
relevance for river basin management tool are :
o Rapid Hydrological Appraisal (RHA)
o Drivers of land use change (DriLUC)
o Participatory Landscape Appraisal (PaLa)
o Rapid biodiversity survey (RABA)

Jan Cools

Tools for River Basin Management

Chapter 1

Participatory Analysis of Poverty, Livelihoods and Environment Dynamics (PAPOLD)

Another way of generating interactions among stakeholders around water resources management are
role-playing games. An example is WAT-A-GAME (Ferrand et al., 2009). A review is given by Dionnet et
al.(2006).

1.4.

Solutions for River Basin Management

Solutions for river basin management can encompass a range of actions, policies, strategies and
interventions undertaken by different actors, from governments to communities, and can operate from
local to international scales, depending on the driver or issue being addressed. A distinction is drawn
here between management options (addressing a single issue or component) and management
solutions (packages of options); the term management responses encompasses both. The Millennium
Ecosystem Assessment identified six main response types used in ecosystem management (Chambers
and Toth, 2005):

Institutions (both formal and informal) and legislation are not responses per se, but create the
enabling environment for management responses. The efficacy of legal instruments depends
heavily on effective enforcement systems.
Economic interventions are an important way to regulate the use and overuse of ecological goods
and services from wetlands. A variety of options exists e.g. quota, taxes, subsidies or payment for
ecosystem services.
Social and behavioural interventions include public education and awareness campaigns,
empowerment of indigenous and local communities, and civil society actions including civil
disobedience and protest.
Technological responses encompass a wide variety of hardware (products, devices, tools) and
software (procedures, processes, practices) to mitigate human effects on ecosystems by allowing
less dependence, lowering anthropogenic impact, or helping to restore degraded ecosystems.
Cognitive responses rely on changing behaviour through increasing knowledge. Options include
improving knowledge acquisition and use (for example, through monitoring programs), adaptive
management approaches and legitimization and acceptance of both traditional and scientific
knowledge.

Table 1.1 lists generic river basin management responses, grouped by management domain and type of
intervention. The listing is indicative rather than exhaustive, presenting some of the types of
management options that have been gross-listed as potential management options by experts and
stakeholders in the different case studies. Because river basins are so diverse in terms of ecological
characteristics, size and use, potential management interventions are similarly diverse, they must be
targeted to the specific conditions of the river basin and its communities. Many of the options outlined
in Table 1 have application at different scales. For example, water allocation measures may be an
important component of maintaining flows at catchment scale. Legal, economic and social responses
which address both direct and indirect drivers often operate at scales beyond the river basin.
Technological responses, in contrast, tend to be localised.

Jan Cools

Tools for River Basin Management

Chapter 1

Considering the multiple values of a river basin, a set of management options has to be included into the
RBMP. A combination of management options can be:
Complementary: addressing different elements of system;
Enabling: interventions designed to support or enhance another intervention for example,
land tenure changes to support land use change;
Mitigating: designed to offset or compensate for adverse impacts of another intervention;
No regrets: where impacts are positive or neutral across all criteria: for example,
improvements in wastewater treatment and agricultural practices.
This thesis focused mainly on technological management options. However, the strong focus on
stakeholder participation has brought in social, cognitive and institutional components as a significant
part of proposed management responses. The formulation of management solutions from a long list of
potential options requires a pragmatic approach to selecting feasible combinations and narrowing down
to a practical number for evaluation, based on stakeholder preferences and practical considerations for
implementation.

Jan Cools

Tools for River Basin Management

Chapter 1

Table 1.1: Generic management responses, grouped by management domain and type of intervention
Water quantity

Water quality

Land systems

Biota

Legal

Water use regulations Regulation of industrial


pollution
Licensing of water uses
Emission permits
Water quality standards

Economic

Quotas for water


allocation
Water pricing
Tradable rights

Polluter pays principle


Market pricing of agricultural
inputs and outputs
Tax and subsidy schemes for
agrochemicals
Payment for Ecosystem Services

Social

Water User
Associations

Pollution awareness
Community catchment
Community wildlife protection
campaigns for small
management programs
programs
industries, and farmers
Promotion of alternative livelihood Community participation in
Domestic discharge, littering
opportunities
eradication of exotic species
and open defecation
Access to micro-credit
Livestock size and productivity

Technological

Water control
structures
Protected boreholes
Storm water
management
Infiltration pits
Operation of dams and
weirs
Irrigation practices
Wastewater reuse

Municipal, industrial and


individual waste water
treatment facilities
Sanitation technology
Safe disposal and treatment
of faecal sludge and solid
waste
Greywater sewers
Erosion control
infrastructure

Cognitive

Flow monitoring
Estimation of
environmental flow
requirements

Guidance on Best Available Inclusion of cultural values in


Technologies
wetland management planning
Water quality monitoring
Pathways for water-related
disease transmission

Jan Cools

Protected area designation


Land property rights
Land use regulation & zoning
Licensing of land conversion

Rehabilitate geomorphology of key


habitats (connectivity, pools)
Erosion prevention
Buffer strips along watercourses
Fencing to prevent grazing
River-bank stabilization
Improved agricultural practices crop choice, tillage methods, feed
efficiency

Protected species legislation


Permits for fishing, hunting

Quotas for wild-life harvesting


(plants, fish, animals)
Catch limits (age, size, total
catch)

Invasive species control and


removal
Restoration of native species
Regulation of hunting and
fishing gear (e.g. net size)
Measures for conservation
and restoration of natural
habitat

Traditional knowledge for


sustainable harvesting and
species conservation
Wildlife monitoring
Monitoring of exotic species
10

Tools for River Basin Management

1.5.

Chapter 1

Terminology used

This section intends to provide clarity on the prominent terminology used in this thesis. It does not aim at
being exhaustive, at proposing new definitions, or at acting as a glossary.
Early warning system
UNISDR (2009) defines an EWS as the set of capacities needed to generate and disseminate timely and
meaningful warning information to enable individuals, communities and organizations threatened by a
hazard to prepare and to act appropriately and in sufficient time to reduce the possibility of harm or loss. For
an EWS to be effective, four elements must be in place: 1) accurate hazard warning; 2) an assessment of
likely risk and impact associated with the hazard; 3) a timely and understandable communication of the
warning and 4) the capacity to act on the warning, particularly at the local level (UNISDR, 2011).
Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) & River Basin Management
The widely used definition of the Global Water Partnership (GWP, 2000) is used:
IWRM is a process which promotes the coordinated development and management of water, land and
related resources in order to maximize the resultant economic and social welfare in an equitable manner
without compromising the sustainability of vital eco-systems. RBM uses the river basin as the geographical
unit of study, and is a primary component of IWRM.
Management option / Management solution
An important component of River Basin Management Plans (RBMP's) is the action plan, consisting of a list of
management actions (alternatively termed as options, solutions, measures or interventions) that address
priority problems of the catchment and targets to which policy-makers engage themselves and thus need to
be achieved. In this thesis, we will use the term "management option" for single action and the term
"management solution" for a combination of management options.
Management options can encompass a range of actions, policies, strategies and interventions undertaken by
different actors, from governments to communities, and can operate from local to international scales,
depending on the driver or issue being addressed. Management options can be technological, social,
behavioural, economic incentives or institutional.
Adaptive capacity / Institutional capacity
Adaptive capacity is the ability of the system to adjust to climate change, to moderate potential damage, to
take advantage of opportunities and to cope with consequences (IPCC, 2007). According to IPCC (2007),
adaptive capacity is part of vulnerability, besides exposure and sensitivity. A close relationship also exists
with resilience, but a consensus on the concepts and definitions is not yet achieved. A big gap for water
resources planning purposes is that the definitions are not ready for operational use (e.g. Gallopin et al.,
2006, Schelfaut et al., 2011). In this thesis, a simplified, though quantifiable concept of adaptive capacity is
used that is close to the feasibility of a management option or solution.
Adaptive capacity is understood as the sum of all measures that can be taken to adjust a system to
environmental change and/or to adsorb a disturbance. Adaptive capacity is scored by means of four criteria:
affordability, organizational capacity, cooperation and robustness.

Jan Cools

11

Tools for River Basin Management

Chapter 1

Institutional capacity is considered in this thesis as part of adaptive capacity, specifically related to the
management options that can improve institutional performance for IWRM. The concept of institutional
capacity is based on Gupta (2010), Knieper (2011) and Ostrovskaya et al. (2012).
Tool
Tools are considered to be much broader than the classical software models and decision-support tools. A
tool is something (either tangible or intangible) used to support operational and strategic actions in
performing IWRM (Barlebo, 2007). A tool can be anything from a guideline or a protocol, a method or a
technique, a device, an apparatus or a software program.
Stakeholder
Stakeholders considered for river basin management were authorities at various sectors and scales, local
experts and local communities.

Jan Cools

12

Tools for River Basin Management

Chapter 1

References
Barlebo, H.C. (Ed)., 2007. State-of-the-art report with users requirements for new IWRM tools. Report
D4.2.1. of the European FP7 project NEWATER.
Berglund, M., Bogaert, S., Cools, J., De Paoli, G., Dworak, T., Farmer, A., Garzon Delvaux, P.A., Hernndez, G.,
Interwies, E., Schmidt, G., Stanley, K., Strosser, P., Zamparutti, T., 2012. Service contra ct to support the
impact assessment of the Blueprint to safeguard Europes waters. Lot 2: Assessment of policy options for the
Blueprint. Second Interim report.
Beven, , K.J., 2012. Rainfall-Runoff Modelling: The Primer. John Wiley & Sons.
Brouwer, R., De Blois, C., 2008. Integrated modelling of risk and uncertainty underlying the cost and
effectiveness of water quality measures. Environmental Modelling & Software 23:922-937.
Chn, J-M., 2009. Integrated Water Resources Management: Theory versus practice. Natural Resources
Forum, vol 33 pp 2-5.
European Communities, 2003a. Common Implementation Strategy for the Water Framework Directive.
Guidance document 1: Economics and the environment. The implementation challenge of the Water
Framework Directive.
European Communities, 2003b. Common Implementation Strategy for the Water Framework Directive.
Guidance document 11:Planning Processes.
European Communities, 2012. Guidance documents of the Water Framework Directive. Accessible at
http://ec.europa.eu/environment/water/waterframework/facts_figures/guidance_docs_en.htm
(last visited: 24/08/2012).
Ferrand, N., Farolfi, S., Abrami, G., Du Toit, D., 2009. WAT-A-GAME: sharing water and policies in your own
basin. ISAGA conference. Singapour : SSAGSG.
FLOODsite, 2009. Flood risk assessment and flood risk management. An introduction and guidance based on
experiences and findings of FLOODsite (an EU-funded Integrated Project). Project document.
Gallopin, G.C., 2006. Linkages between vulnerability, resilience, and adaptive capacity. Global Environmental
Change 16, 293303.
Giuliani, G., Ray, N., Lehmann, A., 2011. Grid-enabled Spatial Data Infrastructure for environmental sciences:
challenges and opportunities. Future Generation Computer Systems 27(3):292-303.
Giupponi, C., 2007. Decision Support Systems for implementing the European Water Framework Directive:
The MULINO approach. Environmental Modelling & Software 22(2): 248-258.
Gooch G, Stlnacke P (eds) (2010) Science, policy and stakeholders in water managementan integrated
approach to river basin management. Earthscan, London, p 192. ISBN 9781844079193.
Global Water Partnership (GWP), 2000. TAC background papers. No.4: Integrated Water Management,
ISBN: 91-630-9229-8.
Gupta J. et al, 2010. The Adaptive Capacity Wheel: a method to assess the inherent characteristics of
institutions to enable the adaptive capacity of society. Environmental science and Policy 13: 459-471

Jan Cools

13

Tools for River Basin Management

Chapter 1

Hattermann, F.F, Kundzewicz, Z.W., 2009. Water Framework Directive: Model Supported Implementation : a
Water Manager's Guide. IWA Publishing.
Hattermann, FF, Weiland, M, Huang, S., Krysanova, V., Kundzewicz, ZW., 2011. Model-Supported Impact
Assessment for the Water Sector in Central Germany Under Climate ChangeA Case Study. Water Resour
Manage (2011) 25:31133134.
Hajkowicz, S., and Collins, K., 2006.A Review of Multiple Criteria Analysis for Water Resource Planning and
Management. Water Resources Management, 21(9), 1553-1566.
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), 2007. Climate change 2007: impacts, adaptation and
vulnerabilitysummary for policymakers. Working Group II Contribution to the Fourth Assessment Report of
the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. IPCC Secretariat.
Knieper, C., 2011. Report on the Twin2Go Water Governance Database. Twin2Go Deliverable No. 4.2.2.
Availlable online: http://www.watergovernance.uni-osnabrueck.de/
Kotze, D., Marneweck, G., Batchelor, A., Lindley, D., and Collins, N., 2008. WET-EcoServices: A technique for
rapidly assessing ecosystem services supplied by wetlands. WRC Report TT339/08. Pretoria: Water Research
Commission.
Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, 2005. Ecosystems and human well-being: Wetlands and water synthesis.
Washington, DC, USA: World Resources Institute.
Mysiak, J., 2010. mDSS 5 - Decision methods.
Pitt, M., 2008. Learning Lessons from the 2007 Floods Full Report. The Cabinet Office, London, p. 505.
Ostrovskaya, E., Douven, W., Schwartz, K., Pataki, B., Mukuyu, P., Kaggwa, R., 2012. Capacity for sustainable
management of wetlands: Lessons from the WETwin project. Submitted to Environmental Science & Policy.
Quevauviller, Ph. (Ed.) 2009. Water System Science and Policy Interfacing. The Royal Society of Chemistry.
ISBN 978-1-84755-861-9.
Ramsar Convention Secretariat, 2010. Ramsar handbooks for the wise use of wetlands, 4th edition. Ramsar
Convention Secretariat, Gland, Switzerland.
Ramsar Convention Secretariat, 2010. River basin management: Integrating wetland conservation and wise
use into river basin management. Ramsar handbooks for the wise use of wetlands, 4th edition, vol. 9.
Ramsar Convention Secretariat, Gland, Switzerland.
Ranganathan, J., C. Raudsepp-Hearne, N. Lucas, F. Irwin, M. Zurek, K. Bennett, N. Ash, P. West, 2008
Ecosystem Services: A Guide for Decision Makers. World Resources Institute, Washington, D.C.
Rosenthal, R.A., 2008. GAMS A Users guide. GAMS Development Corporation. Washington DC, USA.
Schelfaut, K., Pannemans, B., van der Craats, I., Krywkow, J., Mysiak, J., Cools, J. (2011). Bringing Flood
Resilience into practice - the FREEMAN project. Environmental Science & Policy. Special Issue: Climate
change and water. Doi: 10.1016./j.envsci.2011.02.009.
TEEB (The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity), 2010. The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity:
Mainstreaming the Economics of Nature, A synthesis of the approach, conclusions and recommendations of
TEEB.

Jan Cools

14

Tools for River Basin Management

Chapter 1

TUL-SEA, 2012. A negotiation support toolbox for Integrated Natural Resource Management is a World
Agroforestry Centre Southeast Asia (ICRAF SEA) Project.
http://www.worldagroforestry.org/sea/projects/tulsea/ (last visited: 24/08/2012)
United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), 2012. The UN-Water Status Report on the Application of
Integrated Approaches to Water Resources Management.
United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UNISDR), 2009. UNISDR Terminology on
Disaster Risk Reduction. UNISDR, Geneva.
United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UNISDR), 2011. Global Assessment Report
(GAR) on Disaster Risk Reduction.
United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), 2009. IWRM Guidelines at River
Basin Level: Part 1, Principles. UNESCO.
United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), 2012. World Water Development
Report 4: Managing Water under Uncertainty and Risk. World Water Assment Programme, UNWATER.
Vanrolleghem, P.A., 2010. Modelling Aspects of Water Framework Directive Implementation. IWA
Publishing.
WHO/UNICEF, 2010. Joint Monitoring Programme for Water Supply and Sanitation: Progress on drinking
water and sanitation. 2010 update.
Willems, P., de lange, WJ., 2007. Concept of technical support to science-policy interfacing with respect to
the implementation of the European water framework directive. ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCE & POLICY 10: 5
464-473. 10.1016/j.envsci.2007.03.006.
Wisner, B., Blaikie, P., Cannon, T., Davis, I., 2004. At Risk. Routledge, London and New York.
Zanou, B., Kontogianni, A. & Kourtos, M., A classification approach of cost effective management measures
for the improvement of watershed quality. Ocean and Coastal Management, 46, pp. 957-983, 2003.

Jan Cools

15

Tools for River Basin Management

Jan Cools

Chapter 1

16

Tools for River Basin Management

Chapter 2

2. Overview of this thesis


2.1.

Concept & Case Studies

Common elements in this thesis are the development and application of tools for river basin management
in a multi-disciplinary setting, with strong stakeholder involvement. A variety of tools and strategies is
developed and tested on a variety of stakeholder selected themes:

Cost-effective improvement of water quality in the Nete river (Belgium)


Early warning system for flash floods in hyper-arid conditions of the Red Sea mountains (Egypt)
Integration of water-related human health in wetland management in the Inner Niger Delta (Mali)

The potential of hydrological modelling for river basin management is assessed for the case study in Belgium
(data-rich) and Egypt (data-poor). Economic valuation is done in a limited way, namely as a costeffectiveness analysis in Belgium and as a qualitative scoring of affordability and the potential for income
generation in Mali. Qualitative sources of information from local experts and other stakeholders have been
used in all case studies to fill the gaps in the quantitative data by means of rapid assessment methods,
stakeholder workshops and questionnaires. Rapid assessment methods have been adapted and applied for
ecosystem services and the institutional capacity of the Inner Niger Delta.
In the case studies, multiple criteria and methodologies have been used to select the best management
options. For the Inner Niger Delta, criteria linked to all the below questions have been scored and measures
are compared relatively. For the Nete river, cost-effectiveness was the main selection criteria and
optimization algorithms have been used to select the most-effective solution. The concept of the early
warning system in Egypt has been selected and implemented based on performance, institutional context
and stakeholder preferences.
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.

Does it work? (impact assessment)


Is it technically feasible and cost effective? (feasibility assessment)
Can it be implemented by the existing institutions? (adaptive and institutional capacity)
Will it work in the future if external conditions change? (robustness & vulnerability)
Who wins and who loses? Are there trade-offs or synergies between different sectors or
stakeholders? (trade-off analysis)
6. Does it have local support? (stakeholder acceptance)

Important for a knowledge-based river basin management is the facilitation of ownership of tools, strategies
and measures by river basin managers. As a contribution to do so, stakeholders have been engaged in the
process to highlight pressures and potential conflicts and to assess feasibility, acceptance and preference of
proposed solutions in each of the presented case studies. Greater involvement of local and national
decision-makers and other stakeholders is furthermore expected to facilitate cooperation, discussion and
negotiation on potential conflicts and trade-offs and improved mutual understanding.

Jan Cools

17

Tools for River Basin Management

Chapter 2

Table 2.1: Overview of the structure of this thesis, incl. focus and case studies

Chapter

Case study

Nete river, Belgium

Red Sea mountains,


Egypt

Inner Niger Delta,


Mali

Context
Time horizon

data-rich
long term planning

data-poor
near real-time

data-poor
long term planning

Main topic

Cost-effective
improvement of
water quality
Cools et al. (2010)

Early warning for flash


floods in hyper-arid
conditions
Cools et al. (2012a)

Wetland
management &
human health
Cools et al. (2012b)

Source:

Tools & methodologies used


Hydrological modelling
X
Rainfall forecasting
Economic valuation
X
Optimization algorithms
X
Multi-criteria analysis
Criteria for the selection of management options
Impact
X
Feasibility (incl. costs)
X
Adaptive and institutional
capacity
Robustness & Vulnerability
Trade-off analysis
X
Stakeholder acceptance
Thematic focus
Water quantity
X
Water quality
X
(Flash) Floods
Wetlands
Ecosystem services
Water-related diseases
Institutional capacity
Stakeholder involvement
X

Jan Cools

X
X
X
X
X

X
X

X
X
X
X

X
X
X

X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X

18

Tools for River Basin Management

2.2.

Chapter 2

Objectives and Research Questions

Recognising the challenges in bringing river basin management into practice and the need for tools and
sound knowledge leads to the following
General Objective:

To assess how knowledge-based river basin management can be facilitated through the
development and testing of analytical tools in data-poor and data-rich context

The general objective is broken down in the following specific objectives:

To improve the planning of river basin management, and particularly the selection of management
options to address pressures upon the catchment and its communities in both data-rich (Nete river
in Belgium) and data-poor context (Inner Niger Delta, Mali);
To improve the preparedness and emergency response to flood risk, particularly through the
development of an Early Warning System (EWS) for flash floods in data-poor context (Egypt), based
on the experiences on operational flood forecasting in a data-rich context (Belgium).

To support the objectives of this thesis, the following research questions have been formulated:
1. How to choose the most appropriate tool and related tool complexity to address context-specific
challenges in river basin management?
Tools for river basin management are nowadays dominated by numerical models. Well-calibrated complex
high-resolution models can provide detailed and accurate results and provide added value in generating
missing data, future projections and scenarios. Yet, the technically best performing models might not always
be the best choice for river basin management especially in case of limited data availability, limited human
resources and institutional capacity.

2. How to choose the best management solution in order to address priority problems of the
catchment and achieve policy targets?
Defining the "best solution" is not straightforward, highly context-specific and related to pressures, potential
trade-offs and related conflicts. Decision-making in river basin management is furthermore often not
entirely rational and transparent. The concept of "best solution" implies that the effectiveness of
management options can be compared and that some options are better than others. Yet, on which criterion
is a management solution to be judged: the highest technical performance, the most cost-effective solution,
the highest acceptance by stakeholders, the highest job creation, the highest overall impact across all
criteria, etc ... And how and when are stakeholder voices to be consulted and furthermore combined with
quantitative assessments.

Jan Cools

19

Tools for River Basin Management

2.3.

Chapter 2

Structure of this thesis

This PhD thesis is structured in 6 chapters. Chapter 1 is the problem statement. Chapter 2 provides an
overview of this thesis. Chapter 6 presents conclusions and recommendations. Chapters 3-5 present the
body of this work that were published or submitted in international peer-reviewed journals.
Chapter 3 presents an optimization tool to select the most cost-effective set of measures to achieve the instream water quality targets based on a detailed inventory of emissions (about 15,000 sources) and a
database of measures covering all nutrient-discharging sectors. The framework is based on the coupling of
two models: the hydrological water quality model SWAT and an economic optimization model
(Environmental Costing Model, ECM). This work has been used as input for the RBMP of the Belgian part of
the Scheldt river basin district. The simulation-driven approach was an exception in EU as it is among the few
RBMPs that used a baseline scenario, made a distinction between basic measures (already decided) and
supplementary measures to be taken to achieve the goals of the WFD and assessed cost-effectiveness (Cools
et al., 2010).
Chapter 4 presents the development of an early warning system for flash floods in the Red Sea Mountains
(Sinai Peninsula) of Egypt, a hyper-arid area with data-poor context. The EWS has been developed and
tested based on the best available information, namely field measurements, simulations and remote sensing
images complemented with qualitative "expert opinion" and local stakeholders' knowledge. A set of
essential parameters has been identified for flash flood risk management under data-poor conditions. The
presented EWS is the first operational early warning system for flash floods in the Arab world (Cools et al.,
2012a).
Chapter 5 focuses on tools for wetland management. Results are presented for the Inner Niger Delta in Mali,
West Africa. A methodology is presented for the rapid assessment of ecosystem services and drivers of
change and for formulating the measures of a wetland management plan in data-poor context. The latter is
focused on the integration of human health into wetland management. Multi-criteria and trade-off analyses
are used to compare management responses, which are scored against a range of criteria, chosen to reflect
the sometimes competing management objectives of different stakeholders (Cools et al., 2012b).

Jan Cools

20

Tools for River Basin Management

Chapter 2

The highlights of each chapter are given in the following textbox.


TEXT BOX: HIGHLIGHTS
CHAPTER 3 (Cools et al., 2010)
Cost-effectiveness of measures needed to achieve water quality targets visualised in stepwise
'marginal abatement cost' curves
Integration done of measures across all nutrient-discharging sectors, covering integrating point and
non-point sources and distinguishing the impact of basic (already decided) measures and
supplementary measures.
Linking of hydrological, economic modelling and policy targets
CHAPTER 4 (Cools et al., 2012a)
Set of essential parameters identified for flash flood risk management under data-poor conditions
First operational early warning system for flash floods in the Arab world
Lack of data necessitated the use of alternative sources of information, namely remote sensing and
local stakeholders' knowledge
CHAPTER 5 (Cools et al., 2012b)
Methodology to assess appropriateness of management options in data-poor context
Framework integrates impact, feasibility, institutional capacity and trade-off analysis
In data-poor contexts, analysis supports discussion rather than decision-making

2.4.

Contributing projects

The following projects have contributed - explicitly or implicitly - to this PhD thesis. The projects are ordered
chronologically (most recent first).

WETwin (2009-2012) has developed a methodology to identify and prioritize an adaptation strategy for
ecosystem services (incl. water) based on an assessment of impact (environmental, livelihood),
feasibility (finances, institutional capacity) and robustness (vulnerability to environmental change
scenarios). The methodology has been applied on 6 case studies in Europe (Hungary, Austria), Africa
(Mali, Uganda, South Africa) and Latin-America (Ecuador). More info at: www.wetwin.net. (Funded by
the European Commission, 7th Framework Programme)

Twin2Go (2009-2011) assessed the opportunities and bottlenecks to implement adaptive governance
under climate change for 28 river basins worldwide. More info at: http://www.twin2go.uos.de/ (Funded
by the European Commission, 7th Framework Programme)

FlaFloM (2007-2009) on flash flood risk management and the development of an early warning system
for Wadi Watir, part of the Sinai peninsula in Egypt. The EWS is currently operational at the Egyptian
Water Resources Research Institute (WRRI) and the South Sinai Crises and Flood Management Centre. It
is the first operational early warning system for flash floods in the Arab world. This project has shown
that an EWS is not a mission impossible when confronted with large technical and scientific
uncertainties and limited data availability. More information at: www.flaflom.org (Funded by the
European Commission, LIFE Third Countries)

Jan Cools

21

Tools for River Basin Management

Chapter 2

The Environmental costing model for Flanders (ECM) (2004-2009) developed a methodology and
optimization tool to select the most cost-effective set of measures to achieve the in-stream
concentration targets for nutrients as required by the European Water Framework Directive. The ECM
has been used as input for the RBMP of the Belgian part of the Scheldt river basin district. The highly
quantitative and simulation-driven approach was an exception in EU (Funded by the Flemish
Government)

2.5.

Achieved publications

This section includes the international peer-reviewed publications that have contributed explicitly and
implicitly to this PhD thesis. Publications that contributed explicitly have been included entirely or partly in
this PhD thesis. The implicit contributions provided ideas and concepts. The publications are ordered firstly,
as they appear in this thesis and secondly chronologically (most recent first).

Chapter 1 - Introduction & Chapter 2 - Overview


1. Johnston, R., Cools, J., Liersch, S., Morardet, S., Murgue, C., Mahieu, M., Zsuffa, I., Uyttendaele, G.P.,
2012. WETwin: a structured approach to wetland management in data-poor contexts. Accepted by
Environmental Science & Policy.
2. Rebelo, L.M., Johnston, R., Hein, T., Weigelhofer, G., DHaeyer, T., Cools, J., 2012. Integrating wetlands
into Integrated Water Resource Management: the case of the Inner Niger Delta (Mali) and the Lobau
Floodplain (Austria). Accepted by Environmental Science & Policy.
3. Schelfaut, K., Pannemans, B., van der Craats, I., Krywkow, J., Mysiak, J., Cools, J. (2011). Bringing Flood
Resilience into practice - the FREEMAN project. Environmental Science & Policy. Special Issue: Climate
change and water. Doi: 10.1016./j.envsci.2011.02.009.

Chapter 3 - Solutions for a cost-effective water quality improvement in Belgium


4. Cools, J., Broekx, S., Vandenberghe, V., Sels, H., Meynaerts, E., Vercaemst, P., Seuntjens, P., Van Hulle, S.,
Wustenberghs, H., Bauwens, W., Huygens, M., 2010. Coupling A Hydrological Water Quality Model And
An Economic Optimization Model To Set Up A Cost-Effective Emission Reduction Scenario For Nitrogen.
Environmental Modelling and Software. 10.1016/j.envsoft.2010.04.017.

Chapter 4 - An early warning system for flash floods in hyper-arid Egypt


5. Cools, J., Vanderkimpen, P., El Afandi, G., Abdelkhalek, A., Fockedey, S., El Sammany, M., Abdallah, G., El
Bihery, M., Bauwens, W., and Huygens, M. (2012a). An early warning system for flash floods in hyperarid Egypt, Nat. Hazards Earth Syst. Sci. (NHESS), 12, 443-457, doi:10.5194/nhess-12-443-2012, 2012.

Chapter 5 - Integrating human health into wetland management for the Inner Niger Delta, Mali.
6. Cools J., Diallo M., Liersch S., Coertjens D., Vandenberghe V., Kone B. (2012b). Integrating human health
into wetland management for the Inner Niger Delta, Mali. Environmental Science & Policy - Published
online
Jan Cools

22

Tools for River Basin Management

Chapter 2

Chapter 6 - Conclusions
7. Cools, J., Johnston, R., Hattermann, F.F., Douven, W., Zsuffa, I., 2012c. Tools for wetland management:
lessons learnt from a comparative assessment. Submitted to Environmental Science & Policy.
Publications with implicit contributions
8. Liersch, S., Cools, J., Kone, B., Koch, H., Diallo, M., Aich, V., Fournet, S., Hattermann, F.F., 2012.
Vulnerability of rice production in the Inner Niger Delta to water resources management under climate
variability and change. Accepted by Environmental Science & Policy.
9. Cools, J., Meyus, Y., Batelaan, O., De Smedt F., 2006. Large-scale GIS-based hydrogeological modeling of
Flanders: a tool for groundwater management. Environmental Geology. DOI 10.1007/s00254-006-02923.

Jan Cools

23

Tools for River Basin Management

Jan Cools

Chapter 2

24

Tools for River Basin Management

Chapter 3

3. Solutions for a cost-effective water quality improvement in Belgium


(Source: Cools, J., Broekx, S., Vandenberghe, V., Sels, H., Meynaerts, E., Vercaemst, P., Seuntjens, P., Van
Hulle, S., Wustenberghs, H., Bauwens, W., Huygens, M., 2010. Coupling A Hydrological Water Quality Model
And An Economic Optimization Model To Set Up A Cost-Effective Emission Reduction Scenario For Nitrogen.
Environmental Modelling and Software. 10.1016/j.envsoft.2010.04.017.)

Abstract
A modeling approach is presented that determines the most cost-effective set of reduction measures to
reach an in-stream concentration target. The framework is based on the coupling of two models: the
hydrological water quality model SWAT and an economic optimization model (Environmental Costing
Model, ECM). SWAT is used to determine the relationship between the modeled in-stream concentration at
the river basin outlet and the associated emission reduction. The ECM is used to set up marginal abatement
cost curves for nutrients and oxygen demanding substances. Results for nitrogen are presented for the
Grote Nete river basin in Belgium for the year 2006.

Results show that the good status for total nitrogen can be reached in the study area. The most costeffective measures are more productive dairy cattle, implementing basic measures as defined in the WFD,
winter cover crops, improved efficiency of WWTP, enhanced fodder efficiency for pigs, further treatment of
industrial wastewater and tuned fertilization.

Jan Cools

25

Tools for River Basin Management

3.1.

Chapter 3

Introduction

The European Union Water Framework Directive (2000/60/EC), further abbreviated as WFD, requires
member states, amongst others, to set up programs of cost-effective pollution abatement measures as part
of the river basin management plans (RBMP). Consequently, in Europe, a shift is ongoing from classical
methods such as trial and error and worst polluter first to an assessment of cost and impact of pollution
abatement measures.
Yet, the assessment of the cost-effectiveness of emission reduction measures has been one of the
bottlenecks in designing the RBMPs. Despite the simplicity of the concept of cost-effectiveness (e.g.
explained in Brouwer and De Blois, 2008), the availability of European Guidance documents (WATECO,
2002 and Interwies et al., 2004) and numerous publications on cost-effectiveness analysis for surface water
quality improvements (e.g. Schleich et al., 1997, Lise and Van Der Veeren, 2002, Arabi et al., 2006, Frschl
et al., 2008), the development of a cost-effective Programme of Measures for the RBMPs has not been
straightforward. An important reason for this is the requirement for multi-scale and multi-disciplinary
inputs from environmental scientists (effectiveness), economists (costs), engineers (technical details of
measures) and river basin managers (targets and policy priorities). It becomes evident that this is a
challenging task which needs support from appropriate information systems and modelling tools that are
able to cope with the complexity of the water system and planning process (Hattermann and Kundzewicz,
2010). Despite their availability, modelling tools have only been used to a limited extent in many river
basins for the development of the Programme of Measures.
In Europe, several tools and methodologies have been developed that can be used by water authorities
for planning and managing water resources in an integrated way at the scale of a river basin. Many of them
have been integrated in the European Catchmod project cluster (Hattermann and Kundzewicz, 2010).
Turpin et al. (2005) and Volk et al. (2008) linked SWAT to an economic model for European watersheds.
Similar hydrologic-economic modelling with SWAT is published in the US e.g. by Attwood et al. (2000),
Gassman et al. (2002, 2006), Osei et al. (2003), Qiu (2005) and Arabi et al. (2006).
This paper presents a tool which is used for the development of the RBMP of the Scheldt river basin
(Belgium). We present a generic framework which allows to determine the most cost-effective set of
reduction measures to reach an in-stream concentration target. The framework is based on a coupling of
two models: the hydrological water quality model SWAT (Neitsch et al., 2005) and the Environmental
Costing Model, abbreviated as ECM (Broekx et al., 2008).
The methodology discussed is used to assess the combined impact of measures on both point and
diffuse sources and includes measures across sectors covering industry, agriculture, waste water treatment
plants (WWTP) and households. Both the economic and hydrological model make use of the same emission
databases and are built at the scale of a river basin. Especially for the economic model, this level of detail is
contrary to most economic models, which usually follow administrative boundaries as countries or regions
(Brouwer and Hofkes, 2008). This means up- or downscaling algorithms are not required since both models
are built at the same scale and measures are defined on an individual source level. The databases have
furthermore been negotiated and accepted by the competent authority.
The tool is developed for nitrogen, phosphorus and oxygen demanding substances. For the purpose of
presenting the methodology this paper focuses on nitrogen pollution in a part of the Scheldt river basin,
namely the Grote Nete river basin, in Belgium for the year 2006.

Jan Cools

26

Tools for River Basin Management

3.2.

Chapter 3

Methodology

3.2.1.

The study area

The watershed of the Grote Nete covers approximately 400 km2 and is situated in Flanders, the
Northern region of Belgium as shown in Fig.3.1. It is a typical lowland area with slopes of the river bed
below 2%. The dominant soil type is sand, with patches of loamy alluvial sediments. Average precipitation
ranges from ca. 740 to 800 mm/y. The river basin is used intensively, having a high population density (200
inhabitants/km), high livestock density (average values are 150 cows/km, 300 pigs/km and 4000
chickens/km) and intensive industry. About 60% of the total area is used for agriculture, mainly dairy and
fodder production (pasture and corn land uses). Although large investments are made in order to improve
the surface water quality, environmental pressures remain high and originate from all sectors. In 2006,
approximately 30% of the study areas inhabitants were not connected to a waste water treatment plant
and discharge directly into surface water. These households contribute 23% of the nitrogen emission loads.
The agricultural sector used in average 220 kgN/ha of fertilizer, of which 81% is animal manure and 19%
artificial fertilizer and cause 35% of the nitrogen emission loads. Industry and waste water treatment plants
contribute respectively 15% and 26% of the nitrogen emission load.

Figure 3.1 Location of the Grote Nete study area in Flanders, Belgium

Jan Cools

27

Tools for River Basin Management

3.2.2.

Chapter 3

The SWAT model

The Soil and Water Assessement Tool (SWAT) has gained international acceptance as a robust
watershed modelling tool. Gassman et al. (2007) give an overview of the more than 50 peer-reviewed
publications on SWAT for pollutant assessments, linked to an hydrological assessment. SWAT has proven to
be effective to simulate the impact of point and non-point emission reduction measures. SWAT integrates
both land phase and in-stream processes and is suited to simulate alternative land uses and best
management practices (BMPs), such as fertilizer and manure application rates and timing, cover crops
(perennial grasses), crop rotations, filter strips, conservation tillage, grassed waterways, and wetlands. In
SWAT, point-source measures are implemented as a scenario with a reduced input load which is then
routed through the system. The amount of load reduction needs to be quantified with external tools. The
measures used in this work are described in section 2.4. Point source measures consist of emission load
reductions from industrial and public waste water. The agricultural measures are considered to reduce nonpoint sources only.
The use of SWAT for impact assessment of measures on nitrogen is reported by a.o. Chaplot et al.
(2004), Arabi et al. (2006), Bracmort et al. (2006), Gassman et al. (2006), Santhi et al. (2006), Tong and
Naramngam (2007), Nendel (2009), Pandey et al. (2009), Sahu and Gu (2009) and Volk et al. (2009).
The presented model is set-up and calibrated for the period 2002-2006 for flow, nitrogen components,
phosphorus, BOD and dissolved oxygen. Only the results for flow and nitrogen are presented (Fig. 3.2).
In order to model the nitrogen load balance, data from different sources with different time steps and
scale were collected. Point source data from industry and WWTP on discharges and emission loads are
available for individual companies or stations on an annual basis. In-stream water quality measurements
are available at monthly basis whereas the data on emission loads of unconnected households and the
mass of fertilizer applied are available on annual basis and at the scale of the municipality. The latter two
emission sources, which correspond to 50% of the total emission load for nitrogen, are converted to 14 sub
sub-catchments and are entered into SWAT as constant daily values.
Firstly, the SWAT model is calibrated for flow. The Nash-Sutcliff Efficiency (NSE) reached is 0.72. A
better calibration is not feasible and a systematic underestimation of summer flow is observed. Due to the
overgrowth by weeds in summer, the water is backed up in a significant part of the studied catchment.
Secondly, the nitrogen components are calibrated against the residual between the modelled and the
observed average concentrations. This simple objective function was chosen, in view of the fact that only a
limited amount of monthly in-stream water quality data was available. For total nitrogen, the average
observed concentration was 4.5 mgN/l whereas the average modelled concentration was 4.6 mgN/l. For
nitrate, a residual of zero was obtained: both the average modelled and observed concentration were 2.1
mgN/l.

Jan Cools

28

Tools for River Basin Management

Chapter 3

7.0

100
sim Nt
obs Nt
obs flow

6.0

90

in-stream concentration (mgN/L)

80
5.0

70
60

4.0

50
3.0

40
30

2.0

20
1.0
10
0.0
1/01/2002

1/01/2003

1/01/2004

31/12/2004

31/12/2005

0
31/12/2006

Figure 3.2 Output of SWAT for total nitrogen (mgN/l) and observations of total nitrogen and flow (m/s)

3.2.3.

The Environmental Costing Model

The Environmental Costing Model or ECM is developed to assist policymakers in designing programs of
cost-effective measures to meet the criteria for a good water status according to the WFD. The model,
initially set up for industrial air pollution (Eyckmans et al., 2005; Lodewijks and Meynaerts, 2007), has been
adapted to optimize the surface water quality management. Emission sources incorporated are industry,
households and agriculture. Pollutants targeted are chemical oxygen demand (COD), total nitrogen (Nt) and
total phosphorus (Pt).
The ECM, programmed in GAMS (Rosenthal, 2008), determines the least-cost combination of
abatement measures by means of mixed integer programming. The following straightforward optimization
algorithm is applied:
For a given pollutant, p, ECM minimizes the objective function given by the following equation:

Min(C + t p E p )

(1)

where C is the total cost of the pollution abatement measures in /year; Ep the residual export emission
load of pollutant p and tp the (virtual) tax placed upon the residual export emission load.
The cost of the pollution abatement measures is calculated as
i

C=

m,s

C m,s ]

(2)

m =1 s =1

Jan Cools

29

Tools for River Basin Management

Chapter 3

and the residual export emission load of pollutant p as


i

E p = E 0 s , p (1 Rm , p ) m, s
m =1 s =1

(3)

where Cm,s is the cost to apply measure m on source s, m,s is a binary decision variable which selects
abatement measure m on emission source s, E0s,p is the export emission load for the reference state and
Rm,p is the efficiency (in %) of measure m in reducing pollutant p.
Hereby, the following constraints hold:
i

m, s

= 1 s

(4)

m =1

m,s [0,1] s, m

(5)

From the equations, it can be derived that if the marginal cost of a measure is lower than the tax, the
measure will be selected as the most cost-effective. If not, the virtual tax will be paid. The next costeffective measures will be selected by iteratively increasing the tax. The latter leads to a cost-effective
ranking of abatement measures. Results can then be visualized in marginal abatement cost curves. Hereby,
marginal cost is defined as the ratio of the difference in cost C between consecutive optimizations and the
difference in abated emissions. The total cost C comprises both discounted investment costs and annual
operational costs. The residual emission export load Ep is calculated as the sum of the export emission loads
in the reference year (2006) (E0s,p) multiplied with the estimated reduction efficiencies R of selected
measures, as expressed in Equation 3.
As the optimization algorithm aims to rank measures or a combination of measures, equations 4 and 5
are added such that exactly one (combination of) measure is selected for each individual source. Hence,
both the individual measure as well as each combination of measures is added as a separate measure into
the database. The latter has the advantage that complementary and mutually exclusive interactions
between measures can be taken into account. For example, tertiary treatment for waste water can only be
selected if secondary treatment is also selected in a previous iteration step.

3.2.4.

Description of emission reduction measures

The emission reduction measures listed in this paper are defined in the draft river basin management
plan of the Scheldt river basin (CIW, 2008) and are considered relevant in the emission reduction of
nutrients by policy makers and experts (industry, agriculture, waste water treatment). In the optimization
algorithm, it is assumed that, when selected, a measure is implemented uniformly by all emission sources
in the study area. A distinction between sources situated upstream and downstream is not made.
Information about the measures, such as costs and reduction efficiency, is collected on an individual source
level, but then summed for all sources in the basin. Although many authors, mainly in the US (e.g.
Srivastava et al., 2002, Whittaker et al., 2003 and Arabi et al., 2006) have proven that a uniform collective
implementation is much less cost-effective than a spatially distributed optimization, a cost optimization on
individual source level is not requested by policy makers for the purpose of the RBMP.

Jan Cools

30

Tools for River Basin Management

Chapter 3

The ECM makes a distinction between basic and supplementary measures, as defined in the WFD. Basic
measures are measures necessary to comply with existing European or national water legislation or
measures that are already foreseen in ongoing policy, such as the Urban Waste Water Treatment Directive
(91/271/EEC) and the Nitrates Directive (91/676/EEC). Supplementary measures are implemented in
addition to the basic measures in order to achieve good water status. Basic measures are to be
implemented anyhow and cannot be decided upon based on a cost-effectiveness analysis as is the case for
supplementary measures. Yet, it is important to include the impact of basic measures in cost-effective
optimization as their expected emission reductions will affect the reduction potential of supplementary
measures and thereby their cost-effectiveness. The cost of basic measures is artificially set to zero to
ensure that basic measures are selected in the first iteration steps. The measures included in the
optimization are given in Table 3.1. The index letter is referred to in the marginal cost abatement function
(Fig.3.6).

Table 3.1 Measures included in the optimization algorithm. A distinction between basic and
supplementary measures is made according to the WFD definition. The index letter is referred to in the
marginal cost abatement function (Fig. 3.6)
Source

Measure

index Basic Sup.

WWTP

Construction or renovation of existing WWTP > 2000 IE a


to reach efficiency targets of European Urban
Wastewater Directive

Construction or renovation of existing WWTP < 2000 IE b


to reach efficiency targets of European Urban
Wastewater Directive
Households Connection of existing sewers to new collectors a
(waste
(projects planned before or during 2006)
water not
Connection of existing sewers to new collectors c
treated )
(projects planned after 2006)

Industry

x
x

Extension of the sewerage network; divided in three d/e/f


groups according to the cost: 1) smaller than cost of
individual treatment (low-cost sewage), 2) cost of
sewerage < 2 x cost individual treatment (medium-cost
sewage), 3) cost of sewerage > 2 x cost individual
treatment (high-cost sewage)

Iindividual waste water treatment for remote houses

Implement Best Available Technologies (BAT) and a


associated concentration targets

Implement standards of Urban Wastewater Directive h


for industrial waste water
Agriculture

Jan Cools

Comply with existing nutrient legislation, including a

31

Tools for River Basin Management

Chapter 3

derogation of European Nitrates Directive


Increased dairy cattle productivity

Winter cover crops

Conservation tillage

Buffer strips along watercourses

Fertilization without excess (maximum up to crop m


requirements)

Increased feed efficiency (pigs and poultry)

n/o

More strict nutrient legislation (exclusion of Nitrates p


Directive derogation)

Livestock reduction (poultry and other livestock)

q/r

The basic measures (measure a) include the construction or renovation of existing WWTP bigger than
2000 Inhabitant Equivalents (IE), the connection of existing sewers to new waste water collectors, the
implementation of Best Available Technologies (BAT) and associated concentration targets in industrial
companies and compliance with the existing nutrient legislation (Nitrative Directive).
Supplementary measures have been defined across sectors, including improvements of waste water
treatment plants (WWTPs) and agricultural measures. For waste water treatment plants, the renovation or
construction of smaller WWTPs (<2000IE) is defined (measure b). Cost estimates are available for each
individual station and are based on average renovation costs of similar WWTPs. The expected efficiency
gains after renovating an existing WWTP are based on the legal targets (80% for stations with a capacity >
4.000 IE and 60% for stations with a capacity < 4.000 IE).
For households not connected to a WWTP, a distinction is made between households connected to a
sewage system and households not connected to a sewage system. For the first group of households, the
existing sewers are connected to new collectors (measure c). For the second group, the construction of
new sewers is defined as a supplementary measure, based on the distance to existing sewage networks and
thus costs to connect (measures d/e/f). For the most remote houses, the construction of a small scale
individual treatment plant is assessed (measure g). Costs are assessed for each individual sewage project,
based on the available investment plans for waste water collection and the amount of sewage required to
connect households.
For individual industrial companies, the starting point for defining supplementary measures are
concentration targets. Based on differences between observed concentrations and targets, the required
reduction potential is calculated for each company. A distinction is made between targets based on BAT
(measure a) and more stringent concentration targets based on the targets for WWTPs in the Urban
Wastewater Directive (measure h). Once the required reduction potential for each company is calculated,
wastewater treatment technologies are selected to estimate the costs. Potential end-of-pipe technologies
are selected depending on the observed concentration, the industrial sector and the technologies already
implemented.

Jan Cools

32

Tools for River Basin Management

Chapter 3

For agriculture a series of supplementary abatement measures are distinguished, i.e. measures aimed
at reducing nutrient production by cattle, restricting nutrient application to crops and reducing nutrient
loss from fields. For livestock reduction of poultry (measure q) and pig-cattle (measure r), the reduction
over the period 2001-2004 is extrapolated. The yearly cost of production capacity lost is calculated using
the Standard Gross Margin per animal. With measure i, the dairy cattle efficiency is increased through
more efficient farming from the current mean of 7.156 kg/cowyear to 9000 kg/cowyear. Although the
latter results in an increasing excretion per cow, a lower total amount of cattle is needed to produce the
same amount of milk. Thus, total excretion on river basin scale decreases. More productive dairy cattle
results in an increased income (negative cost) of 0,71 /100 l milk. The nutrient excretion of pigs and
poultry is decreased by better tuning the protein content of pig or poultry feed (measure n/o) to their
needs in during different growth phases. These feeds are more expensive, though, and the installations
necessary for phased feeding require additional investments. For the restriction of nutrient application to
crops, two measures have been defined: Tuned fertilization (measure m) and implementing a more strict
fertilization limit (measure p). Tuned fertilization means that excess fertilization is avoided. Manure is only
applied up to the crops N-requirements or to the legal limits and chemical fertilizer is only added if
N-needs are larger than what can legally be supplied by manure. This means a reduction of mineral N with
37%. Professional advice based on soil analysis can help farmers to achieve this. However, advisory costs
outweigh the reduced costs of chemical fertilizer. A further reduction in animal manure application
fertilizer is proposed in measure p. Application rates from 250 kg N/hayear on grassland and
200 kg N/hayear on maize are reduced. to 170 kg N/hayear on all crops. Compared with the basic
measure, this reduces the manure disposal area is reduced by 4% (Claeys et al., 2008) and manure export
or processing needs to increase with 48% compared to the basic scenario.
A last group of agricultural measures aims to reduce nutrient losses from fields. Buffer strips along
watercourses (measure l) are estimated to reduce particle runoff from fields by 51 to 94% (MESAM, 2007),
but have little effect on nitrate abatement. Conservation tillage (measure k) reduces particle runoff by
42% (MESAM, 2007) to 93% (Gillijns et al., 2004). The costs of reduced tillage relate to the acquirement of
the appropriate machinery and production losses which can go up to 60/ha (Huybrechts, 2006). Finally,
winter cover crops (measure j) reduce erosion and take up nutrients (especially nitrogen) that remain in
the soil after the main crop is harvested. Losses can be reduced by 25 to 35 kg N/hayear (den Boer et al.,
2002). The costs are related to buying seed and cultivation. Cost savings are realized thanks to a decreased
need for chemical fertilizer.

3.2.5.

Coupling of SWAT and ECM

The ECM as standalone does not allow assessing whether a specific load reduction achieves a water
quality standard expressed as a concentration. For this purpose, the coupling with a surface water quality
model, such as SWAT, is required. SWAT also simulates the export load and in-stream processes which are
missing in the ECM. A stationary coupling between SWAT and ECM is considered adequate for the longterm planning purposes considered in a river basin management plan. As shown in Fig.3.3, data is
exchanged between separately running models. Firstly, the ECM calculates the required load reduction of a
measure following Equation 3. Secondly, the obtained load reduction is entered in SWAT as a scenario. On
its turn, SWAT models the resulting change of the in-stream concentration. Thirdly, based on multiple
scenario runs, as described below, a relationship is set up between the total load reduction and the instream concentration. From that relationship, two parameters are derived which are send back to the ECM.
The first parameter is the required emission reduction effort to reach the concentration target. The second
Jan Cools

33

Tools for River Basin Management

Chapter 3

parameter is the sensitivity of the in-stream concentration to an emission reduction, expressed as a mass
(in mgN l-1 reduction/ kgN reduction).

As measures targeting point sources have a different sensitivity than measures targeting diffuse
sources, their marginal costs cannot be compared directly. The latter however is a prerequisite for an
integrated cost-effective ranking of both types of measures. In order to do so, the marginal costs of diffuse
measures have been scaled to the level of point source measures by using the ratio of the sensitivity values.
Hence, the optimization algorithm becomes Equation 6:

(diffuse) p
Min C + t p E p ( po int) +
E p (diffuse)

( po int) p

(6)

where in comparison to Equation 1, the residual export emission load Ep is split into point and diffuse
sources, is added as the sensitivity of the in-stream concentration, respectively for point sources and
diffuse sources.

Figure 3.3 Overview of the input-output and coupling between SWAT and ECM

To set up the relationship between the load reduction and the in-stream concentration, three load
reduction scenarios have been applied, as shown in Table 3.2: 1) a reduction of point sources only; 2) a
reduction of fertilizer application only and 3) a combined and equal reduction of diffuse and point sources.

Jan Cools

34

Tools for River Basin Management

Chapter 3

In all three scenarios, the emission loads of the target source have been reduced with steps of 10% of
nitrogen emissions.

Table 3.2 Scenarios applied for emission reductions


Name

Point sources

Diffuse sources

Scenario 1

X% POINT RED

reduced with steps of 10%

0% reduction

Scenario 2

X% FERT RED

0% reduction

reduced with steps of 10%

Scenario 3

X% BOTH RED

reduced with steps of 10%

reduced with steps of 10%

3.3.

Results & discussion

3.3.1.

Impact of emission reduction on water quality

For the three scenarios, the relationship between in-stream concentration and emission load reduction
is shown in Fig. 3.4 for total nitrogen and in Fig. 3.5 for nitrate. The two horizontal lines correspond to the
water quality standards for good and very good status. In order to comply with the WFD, at least the
category good needs to be achieved. The standards fixed for the study area in Flanders for total nitrogen
and nitrate are shown in Table 3.3 (CIW, 2008). Note that that the standard for nitrate (NO3-) is expressed
as a 90 percentile whereas for total nitrogen (Nt), the standard is a summer half-annual average.

Table 3.3 Flemish standards for total nitrogen and nitrate (CIW, 2008)
Class

NO3- (mgN/L)

Nt (mgN/L)

Calculation 90 percentile
method

summer halfannual average

Very good

Good

2 10

34

The required emission reduction percentages to achieve the water quality standards for total nitrogen
and nitrate can be derived from Figs. 3.4 and 3.5 and are summarized in Table 3.4. Good status for total
nitrogen can be achieved when: 1) point emission loads are reduced with 30%; 2) diffuse emissions are
reduced with 70% or 3) both point and diffuse sources are reduced by 20%. To achieve the very good
status, efforts need to be doubled. In that case, only reducing agricultural emissions will not be sufficient to
reach the target. For nitrate, a good status is already obtained. The very good status can only be achieved
when 50% of the agricultural emissions are cut or when 35% of both point source and diffuse emissions are
reduced. The very good status cannot be reached by only reducing the point sources.

Jan Cools

35

Tools for River Basin Management

Chapter 3

Table 3.4 Required emission reduction percentages to achieve the WFD standards. NO means the
standard cannot be achieved
Scenario

Name

Total Nitrogen

Nitrate

Good status

Very good status Good status

Very good status

Scenario 1

X% POINT RED

30%

60%

0%

NO

Scenario 2

X% FERT RED

70%

NO

0%

50%

Scenario 3

X% BOTH RED

20%

40%

0%

35%

Based on the slopes of the relationships in Figs. 3.4 and 3.5, the sensitivity can be assessed in
qualitative terms. For total nitrogen, a reduction in point sources shows the largest sensitivity whereas a
reduction in agricultural sources has the largest sensitivity for nitrate. This is explained by the large
fractions of organic nitrogen and ammonia in the effluent from industry, WWTP and households. For
agricultural emissions, the majority of the in-stream nitrogen loads originates from the nitrate dissolved in
the base flow. Peak loads of nitrogen are mainly composed of organic nitrogen. Less manure application
drastically reduces the nitrate loads in the base flow, especially in summer when the contribution of base
flow to total flow is maximal.
Whereas reduction targets in percentages are useful for rough planning, the sensitivity in mass units is
needed in order to set up the marginal abatement cost curves. Given that a 1% reduction of the export load
of total nitrogen corresponds to a 8.8 kgN for diffuse sources and 17.5 kgN for point sources, the following
sensitivity values are found: -0.0018 mgN l-1 / kgN reduction of point sources and -0.0012 mgN l-1 / kgN
reduction of fertilizer. The sensitivity for point sources is 50% higher than for diffuse sources. Yet, the
sensitivity for diffuse sources is based on the export load. When compared to the applied fertilizer, the
sensitivity of the in-stream concentration for total nitrogen to a kgN reduction is an order of magnitude
lower as it needs to be multiplied by the export load coefficient. Modeling results in SWAT showed that the
export load coefficients for each sub basin range between 4% and 17% with an average of 8.6%. The
variability can be explained through differences in the distance to the outlet, the degree of excess manure
and the availability of (natural) organic matter in addition to the applied nutrients.

Table 3.5 Sensitivity of in-stream concentration to an emission reduction for total nitrogen (in mgN l-1 /
kgN reduction)
Sensitivity of total Nitrogen
Scenario

Name

Scenario 1

X% POINT RED

-0,0018

Scenario 2

X% FERT RED

-0.0012

Scenario 3

X% BOTH RED

-0.0017

Jan Cools

(in mgN l-1 / kgN reduction)

36

Tools for River Basin Management

Chapter 3

in-stream concentration Nt (mgN/L)


summer half annual average

X% POINT, 0% FERT
0% POINT, X% FERT
X% POINT, X% FERT
standard (good)
standard (very good)

0
0%

10%

20%

30%

40%

50%

60%

70%

80%

90%

100%

% Emission reduction

Figure 3.4 Relationship between in-stream concentration and emission reduction for total nitrogen
(summer half-annual averages). The horizontal lines indicate the WFD standards: 4 mgN/l for good status
and 3 mgN/L for very good status

90% ile in-stream NO3 concentration (mgN/L)

4
3.5
3
2.5
2
1.5
1

X% POINT, 0% FERT
0% POINT, X% FERT
X% POINT, X% FERT
Standard (very good)

0.5
0
0%

10%

20%

30%

40%

50%

60%

70%

80%

90%

100%

% Emission reduction

Figure 3.5 Relationship between in-stream concentration and emission reduction for nitrate (90%ile). The
horizontal line indicate the WFD standards for very good status (2 mgN/l). The good status is already
reached
Jan Cools

37

Tools for River Basin Management

Chapter 3

Although the nitrogen pathways and processes considered in SWAT are non-linear, model results
shows that the relationship between in-stream concentrations to reductions in point and diffuse sources
can be approximated as linear for summer half-annual averages of total nitrogen and 90%ile values of
nitrate (up to 30% emission reduction). For nitrate, a saturation effect is observed for diffuse sources at
about an emission reduction of more than 30%. The latter is considered to be the new short term
equilibrium. Soil groundwater exchange processes for nitrogen however remain to exist. The full benefits
of reduced fertilizer application are only expected on the longer term (10-20 years).
For the study area, the linear relationship is valid for impact assessment of nitrogen abatement in the
modeled range of concentrations. Linearization of the prevailing non-linear processes is acceptable given
the specific conditions of the study area. Firstly, in-stream conversions of nitrogen components are small as
the travel time is less than one day. Secondly, as the discharge is dominated by base flow, the majority of
the diffuse export load is dissolved as nitrate into the groundwater. Groundwater processes in SWAT can be
considered as being linear due to the semi-lumped approach. Similar results using SWAT or variants are
obtained by Chaplot et al. (2004) and Jha et al. (2007) for the intensively manured lowlands of Iowa (US).

3.3.2.

Marginal abatement cost curves

The coupled SWAT-ECM model provides the marginal costs of measures. Potential supplementary
measures are ranked in order of decreasing cost-effectiveness and consequently plotted as shown in Fig.
3.6 for total nitrogen in function of the associated in-stream concentration into stepwise marginal
abatement cost curves integrating both point and diffuse sources and measures across sectors. Hereby, it is
assumed that decision-makers will take the most cost-effective measure first and will only invest in
additional measures if the required target is not met. The latter explains the stepwise shape of the
abatement cost curve. The height of each step corresponds to the marginal cost of an additional reduction
measure. The length of a step corresponds to the concentration reduction capacity. The vertical gray line
indicates the in-stream average concentration target. The letters refer to the measures listed in Table 3.1.
Good status (4 mgN/l) for total nitrogen can be reached in the Grote Nete catchment after
implementing the following measures: more productive dairy cattle (measure i in Fig. 3.6), implementing
basic measures as defined in the WFD (a), winter cover crops (j), improved WWTP efficiency (b), enhanced
fodder efficiency for pigs (n), further treatment of industrial wastewater (h) and tuned fertilization (m). The
good status for total nitrogen can be reached at a marginal cost of 53 Euro/kgN removed. The very good
status (3 mgN/l) cannot be reached even if all remaining, less cost-efficient measures are selected. The
cumulative emission reduction of all measures included in the assessment corresponds to an emission
reduction of total nitrogen of 38% spread over diffuse and point sources.
The less cost efficient measures are lowering the maximal rates for manure application to the level of
the EU Nitrates Directive, including the processing of excess manure (p), reducing the amount of poultry
(q), extending the local sewage networks grouped into cheap (d), moderate (e) and expensive (f), extending
regional sanitation infrastructure (c), reducing cattle and pigs (r), increasing fodder efficiency for other
livestock (o) and individual treatment for household waste water (g). It was assessed that implementing
buffer strips along watercourses (l) and reduced tillage (k) would have no additional impact on total
nitrogen. These measures are not presented in the figure below.

Jan Cools

38

Tools for River Basin Management

Chapter 3

700
g

500
o
f
r

i
4,80

m
nh

j
4,60

4,40

4,20

pq

4,00

300
200

e
d

400

100

3,80

3,60

3,40

Marginal cost (/kg point)

600

0
3,20
-100

In-stream concentration (mg/l)

Figure 3.6: Marginal cost abatement function for total nitrogen. The vertical gray line indicates the good
status standard. The letters refer to measures targeting both point and diffuse sources as listed in Table
3.1

The presented results are based on average estimates for both costs and effects. The ranking of
measures might change when minimum or maximum estimates are applied. Although we have not
performed an uncertainty analysis, we consider that, the difference in cost-effectiveness between the most
cost-effective measures (i, a, j, b) and the other measures is so large that a potential change in ranking
among the most effective measures does not alter the selection of these measures. The same conclusion is
valid for the least cost-effective measures (c, e, r, f, o, g). Even at the extreme case when minimum cost
estimates and maximum effectiveness estimates are applied, these measures will not be selected as cost
effective measures. A third group of measures, the moderately cost-effective measures (n, h, m, p, q, d),
however have a cost-effectiveness that is more or less equal and some of these measures are required to
reach the objective. Based on the cost effectiveness analysis and the uncertainty related to costs and
effects, we cannot conclude which of these measures need to be selected to reach the objectives at the
lowest cost achievable. Besides cost effectiveness other criteria as the efforts and capacity needed to get
and keep a measure going and stakeholder acceptance certainly play a role when choosing between these
measures.

3.4.

Summary and conclusions

A hydro-economic modelling framework is presented to set up a cost-effective program of measures to


achieve an in-stream concentration target. It consists of a modular coupling between the hydrological
water quality model SWAT and the economic optimization model ECM. As in most hydro-economic
modeling work (Harou et al., 2009), the hydrological processes have been simplified. A semi-linear
relationship has been setup, after a series of simulations in SWAT, between point and diffuse emission load
reductions and 90%ile water quality concentrations. This relation is then integrated in the ECM to
Jan Cools

39

Tools for River Basin Management

Chapter 3

determine the measures required to achieve water quality targets by means of a marginal abatement cost
curve. The latter is considered to be a valid first assessment 1) to quantify the required emission reduction
to reach an in-stream concentration target and 2) to compare the cost-effectiveness of measures across
sectors and processes on the scale of a river basin.
Results show that the good status for total nitrogen can be reached in the study area. The most costeffective measures are more productive dairy cattle, implementing basic measures as defined in the WFD,
winter cover crops, improved efficiency of WWTP, enhanced fodder efficiency for pigs, further treatment of
industrial wastewater and tuned fertilization. An approach aiming at an emission reduction from all sectors
is the most cost-effective program of measures to improve the in-stream water quality. The biggest
reduction of total nitrogen can be obtained through a reduction of point sources. However, when focusing
on nitrate, relevant e.g. for the Nitrate Directive or Groundwater Directive, targeting agricultural sources
has the biggest impact. The large variation in marginal costs shows a large potential for cost savings if a
cost-effective selection is performed. A cost-effectiveness analysis provides an added value to river basin
managers since the costs and impacts of proposed measures are made explicit. As the results are prone to
uncertainty and more accurate cost-effectiveness analyses are expected in the next planning cycles of the
WFD, the results should not be accepted as the optimal program of measures, but as a transparent basis for
negotiation between stakeholders and authorities.

Acknowledgements
The authors acknowledge the Flemish Environment Administration (LNE) and the Flemish Environment
Agency (VMM) who commissioned the studies on which this paper is based.

Jan Cools

40

Tools for River Basin Management

Chapter 3

References
Ana, E.V., 2009. Sewer asset management sewer structural deterioration modelling and multi-criteria
decision-making in sewer rehabilitation projects. PhD thesis Vrije Universiteit Brussels, Belgium.
Arabi, M., Govindaraju, R. S., Hantush, M. M., 2006. Cost-effective allocation of watershed management
practices using a genetic algorithm. Water Resour. Res. 42.W10429, doi:10,1029/2006WR004931.
Attwood, J. D., McCarl, B., Chen, C. C., Eddleman, B. R., Nayda, B., Srinivasan, R., 2000. Assessing regional
impacts of change: Linking economic and environmental models. Agric. Syst. 63(3): 147-159.
Bracmort, K. S., Arabi, M., Frankenberger, J. R., Engel, B. A, Arnold, J.G., 2006. Modeling long-term water
quality impact of structural BMPs. Trans. ASABE 49(2): 367-374.
Broekx, S., Meynaerts, E., Vercaemst, P., 2008. Finaal Rapport Milieukostenmodel Water voor
Vlaanderen - Berekeningen voor het stroomgebiedbeheerplan 2009. Studie uitgevoerd in
opdracht van het Vlaams Gewest, VITO NV, 2008.
Brouwer, R., De Blois, C., 2008. Integrated modelling of risk and uncertainty underlying the cost and
effectiveness of water quality measures. Environmental Modelling & Software 23:922-937.
Brouwer, R., Hofkes, M., 2008. Integrated Hydro-economic modelling: approaches, key issues and future
research directions. Ecological Economics 66 16-22.
Chaplot, V., Saleh, A., Jaynes, D.B., Arnold, J., 2004. Predicting water, sediment and NO3-N loads under
scenarios of land-use and management practices in a flat watershed. Water, Air and Soil Pollution 154 271293.
CIW, 2008. Ontwerp Stroomgebiedsbeheerplan voor de Schelde. Coordinatiecommissie Integraal
Waterbeleid [in Dutch: Draft Management Plan for the river basin district of the Scheldt river]. Available at:
www.volvanwater.be (last visited August, 13, 2009).
Claeys, D., Lauwers, L., Marchand, F., Vander Vennet, B., Van Meensel, J., Buysse, J., Van der Straeten, B.,
Van Huylebroeck G., 2008. Modular data and model management for multi-user's purposes: case of
manure allocation, disposal and abatement. 107th EAAE Seminar 'Modelling Agricultural and Rural
Development Policies', Sevilla, Spain.
Den Boer, D., Bakker, R., Vergeer, W., 2002. Minder verliezen door betere benutting.
Bemesting Koeien & Kansen 1999-2001. Koeien & Kansen Rapport 13, Nutrinten Management Instituut,
Wageningen, 68 p., http://www.verantwoordeveehouderij.nl
Frschl, L., Pierrard, R., Schnbck, W., 2008. Cost-efficient choice of measures in agriculture to reduce the
nitrogen load flowing from the Danube river into the Black Sea. Ecological Economics 68 96-105.
Gassman, P. W., Osei, E., Saleh, A., Hauck, L. M., 2002. Application of an environmental and economic
modeling system for watershed assessments. J. American Water Resour. Assoc.
38(2): 423-438.
Gassman, P. W., Osei, E., Saleh, A., Rodecap, J., Norvell, S., Williams, J., 2006. Alternative practices for
sediment and nutrient loss control on livestock farms in northeast Iowa. Agric. Ecosys. Environ. 117(2-3):
135-144.

Jan Cools

41

Tools for River Basin Management

Chapter 3

Gassman P.W., Reyes, M., Green, C.H., Arnold, J.G., 2007. The Soil and Water Assessment Tool: Historical
development, applications, and future directions. Trans. ASABE 50(4): 1211-1250.
Gillijns, K., Govers, G., Poesen, J., Van Hecke, E., Verbist, K., Gabriels D., 2004. Reductie van
sedimentaanvoer naar waterlopen vanuit landelijke gebieden: begroting en evaluatie van
controlemaatregelen. Minimale bodembewerking en grasbufferstroken.
Hattermann, F.F., Kundzewicz, Z.W., 2010. Water Framework Directive: Model Supported Implementation:
A water managers Guide. IWA Publishing.
Harou, J.J., Pulido-Velazquez, M., Rosenberg, D.E., Medellin-Azuara, J., Lund, J.R., Howit, R.E., 2009. Hydroeconomic models: concepts, design, applications, and future prospects. Journal of Hydrology 375 627-643.
Huybrechts, M., 2006. Kosten-batenanalyse van erosiebestrijdingsmaatregelen [Cost-benefit analysis of
erosion prevention measures]. Presentation at the closing symposium of the Interreg IIIa project
Erosiebestrijding, Alden Biezen, Bilzen,
Jha, M.K., Gassman, P.W., Arnold, J.G., 2007. Water quality modeling for the Raccoon River Watershed
using SWAT. Transactions of the ASABE. Vol 50(2) 479-493. ISSN 0001-2351.
Lodewijks, P., Meynaerts, E., 2007. The Environmental Costing Model: a tool to advise policy makers in
Flanders on issues of cost efficiency. Proceeding of the 6th International Conference on Urban Air Quality,
Cyprus, 27-29 March 2007.
Lise, W., Van der Veeren, R.J.H.M., 2002. Cost-effective nutrient emission reductionsin the Rhine river
basin. Integrated Assessment 3 (4), 321e342.
Interwies, E., Borchardt, D., Kraemer, A., Kranz, N., Grlach, B., Richter, S., Willecke, J., Dworak, T., 2004.
Basic principles for selecting the most cost-effective combinations of measures for inclusion in the
programme of measures as described in Article 11 of the Water Framework Directive.
MESAM, 2007. Project Measures against Erosion and Sensibilisation of fArmers for the protection of the
environMent, Interreg IIIa project border region North-France and South-West-Belgium, www.mesam.be
Neitsch, S.L., Arnold, J.G., Kiniry, J.R., Williams, J.R., 2005. Soil and Water Assessment Tool, Theoretical
Documentation, Version 2005. Blackland Research Center/Soil andWater Research Laboratory, Agricultural
Research Service, Grassland/Temple, TX.
Nendel, C., 2009. Evaluation of Best Management Practices for N fertilisation in regional field vegetable
production with a small-scale simulation model. Europ. J. Agronomy 30 (2009) 110118.
Pandey, V.K., Panda, S. N., Pandey, A., Sudhakar, S., 2009. Evaluation of effective management plan for an
agricultural watershed using AVSWAT model, remote sensing and GIS. Environ Geol (2009) 56:9931008.
Qiu, Z., 2005. Using multi-criteria decision models to assess the economic and environmental impacts of
farming decisions in an agricultural watershed. Rev. Agric. Econ. 27(2): 229-244.
Rosenthal, R.A., 2008. GAMS A Users guide. GAMS Development Corporation. Washington DC, USA.
Sahu, M., Gu, R.R., 2009. Modeling the effects of riparian buffer zone and contour strips on stream water
quality. Ecological Engineering 35 (2009) 11671177.
Santhi, C., Srinivasan, R., Arnold, J. G., Williams, J. R., 2006. A modeling approach to evaluate the impacts of
water quality management plans implemented in a watershed in Texas. Environ. Model. Soft. 21(8): 11411157.
Jan Cools

42

Tools for River Basin Management

Chapter 3

Schleich, J., White, D., 1997. Cost minimization of nutrient reduction in watershed management using linear
programming. Journal of the American water resources association 33 135-142.
Srivastava, P., Hamlett, J.M., Robillard, P.D., Day, R.L., 2002. Watershed optimization of best management
practices using AnnAGNPS and a genetic algorithm. Water Resources Research. 38(3):1021,
doi:10.1029/2001WR000365.
Tong, S.T.Y., Naramngam, S. 2007. Modeling the Impacts of Farming Practices on Water Quality n the Little
Miami River Basin. Environ Manage (2007) 39:853866.
Turpin, N., Bontems, P., Rotillon, G., Barlund, I., Kaljonen, M., Tattari, S., Feichtinger, F., Strauss, P.,
Haverkamp, R., Garnier, M., Lo Porto, A., Benigni, G., Leone, A., Nicoletta Ripa, M., Eklo, O. M., Romstad, E.,
Bioteau, T., Birgand, F., Bordenave, P., Laplana, R., Lescot, J. M., Piet, L., Zahm, F., 2005. AgriBMPWater:
Systems approach to environmentally acceptable farming. Environ. Model. Soft. 20(2): 187-196.
Volk, M., Hirschfeld, J., Dehnhardt, A., Schmidt, G., Bohn, C., Liersch, S., Gassman, P.W., 2008. Integrated
ecological-economic modelling of water pollution abatement management options in the Upper Ems River
Basin. Ecological Economics 66(1): 66-76.
Volk, M., Liersch, S., Schmidt, G. 2009. Towards the implementation of the EuropeanWater Framework
Directive? Lessons learned from water quality simulations in an agricultural watershed. Land Use Policy 26
(2009) 580588.
WATECO, 2002. Economics and the environment. The implementation challenge of the Water Framework
Directive. A guidance document. European Commission Common Implementation Strategy, Brussels.
Whittaker, G. Fre, R., Srinivasan, R., Scott, D.W., 2003. Spatial evaluation of alternative nonpoint nutrient
regulatory instruments. 39(4), 1079, doi:10.1029/2001WR001119

Jan Cools

43

Tools for River Basin Management

Jan Cools

Chapter 3

44

Tools for River Basin Management

Chapter 4

4. An early warning system for flash floods in hyper-arid Egypt


(Source: Cools, J., Vanderkimpen, P., El Afandi, G., Abdelkhalek, A., Fockedey, S., El Sammany, M.,
Abdallah, G., El Bihery, M., Bauwens, W., and Huygens, M. (2012a). An early warning system for flash
floods in hyper-arid Egypt, Nat. Hazards Earth Syst. Sci. (NHESS), 12, 443-457, doi:10.5194/nhess-12443-2012, 2012.)

Abstract
An early warning system (EWS) for flash floods is developed for part of the Sinai peninsula of
Egypt, an hyper-arid area confronted with limited availability of field data, limited
understanding of the response of the wadi to rainfall and a lack of correspondence between
rainfall data and observed flash flood events. This paper shows that an EWS is not a mission
impossible when confronted with large technical and scientific uncertainties and limited
data availability. Firstly, the EWS is developed and tested based on the best available
information, being quantitative data (field measurements, simulations and remote sensing
images) complemented with qualitative expert opinion and local stakeholders' knowledge.
Secondly, a set of essential parameters has been identified to be estimated or measured
under data-poor conditions. These are: 1) an inventory of past significant rainfall and flash
flood events, 2) the spatial and temporal distribution of the rainfall events and 3)
transmission and infiltration losses and 4) thresholds for issuing warnings. Over a period of
30 year (1979-2010), only 20 significant rain events have been measured. Nine of these
resulted in a flash flood. Five flash floods are caused by regional storms and four by local
convective storms. The results for the 2010 flash flood show that 90% of the total rainfall
volume is lost to infiltration and transmission losses. Finally, it is discussed that the
effectiveness of an EWS is only partially determined by technological performance. A strong
institutional capacity is equally important, especially skilled staff to operate and maintain the
system and clear communication pathways and emergency procedures in case of an
upcoming disaster.

Jan Cools

45

Tools for River Basin Management

4.1.

Chapter 4

Introduction

Flash floods in arid mountainous regions are destructive natural disasters. A flash flood can
be generated instantly during or shortly after a rainfall event, especially when high-intensity
rain falls on steep hill slopes with exposed rocks and lack of vegetation (Lin, 1999, Wheather,
2002). Flash floods are usually characterized by raging torrents resulting in floodwaves that
sweep everything before them. As a consequence, the debris load is mostly high, which
further magnifies the destructive power of a flash flood.
The most important processes in arid catchments are: infiltration, routing and transmission
losses as described e.g. by Pilgrim et al. (1988), Gheith and Sultan (2002), Foody et al. (2004),
Morin (2006) and Bahat et al. (2009). Runoff generation is dominated by infiltration excess
rather than saturation excess. Many arid catchments have impermeable hill slopes and
highly permeable alluvial channel beds through which floodwater infiltrates. It is not
uncommon that no flood is observed at a gauging station, when further upstream a flood
has been generated and lost to bed infiltration. The process of transmission losses and
channel routing over a dry river bed also needs to be explicitly represented in arid watershed
modelling tools. For arid areas, evidence exists that simple models perform equal or better
than complex models e.g. by Michaud and Sorooshian (1994) in semi-arid US and Al-Qurashi
et al. (2008) in arid Oman. This evidence is in contradiction with the common understanding
in temperate or humid areas that complex high-resolution models can represent the
localized rainfall-events and small-scale processes better.
One effective way to reduce the risk of flash floods lies in the implementation of an early
warning system, abbreviated as EWS. When warnings are issued before a flash flood event,
additional time is created to take action and save lives and property. The unexpected arrival
of a flash flood in combination with its force, limited understanding of the risks and small
space-time scales provide explicit challenges for the development and implementation of an
early warning system for flash floods even in the most advanced regions of the world. For
data-poor areas, the challenges are exacerbated. Firstly, the lack of available data is a prime
cause of the limited understanding of the flash flood dynamics, which on its turn inhibits the
calibration and validation of hydrological and hydraulic models. In addition, many of the
hydrological models are built for more humid conditions and are not well representing arid
conditions. Conventional densities of rain gauge networks furthermore often do not
represent the intensity and spatial distribution of rainfall over the catchment well. Secondly,
due to the destructive force of a flash flood, flow measurements are lacking or uncertain. In
addition, the remoteness, harsh climate and destroyed roads inside wadis make it difficult to
measure and collect field data. The latter makes that flash flood events are particularly
difficult to observe and to predict and prompt for the development of alternative data
collection strategies. An increasingly popular trend to counteract lack of data is the use of
Jan Cools

46

Tools for River Basin Management

Chapter 4

remote sensing and rainfall forecasting. In current research, mostly done in the European
Mediterranean region and semi-arid US, preferences are given to the use of ground radars if
available. Alternatives are numerical weather prediction (NWP) and satellite precipitation
estimates. Examples of research on flash flood early warning systems are Borga et al. (2007,
2008), Collier (2007), Norbiato et al. (2007), Yatheendradas et al. (2008), Morin et al. (2006,
2009) and Anquetin et al. (2010). A comprehensive review of flash floods in the
Mediterranean region is reported by Marchi et al (2010).
An operational EWS is a system that issues forecasts upon which is acted. Warnings can be
issued based on pre-defined thresholds of meteorological observations and/or forecasts,
runoff, flow, flood depth or flood extent. In the US, the flash flood guidance (FFG) system is
operational as part of the much broader National Weather Service River Forecast System
(NWSRFS). It takes a different approach as described above as the FFG system tries to
estimate the amount of rainfall required to exceed a threshold, given initial states of soil
moisture conditions from a hydrological model, and then evaluates the probability of
receiving such rainfall. Other systems are operational, but are mostly unpublished, in grey
literature or not specifically designed for flash floods. The EWS presented in this paper
follows the first method. To the best of the authors knowledge, it is one of the first
operational EWS for flash floods in the hyper-arid areas of the Arab world and Nile Basin
countries.
This paper presents the development of an operational EWS for Wadi Watir on the Sinai
Peninsula in Egypt. The EWS is developed under the European funded LIFE project Flash
Floods Manager, abbreviated as FlaFloM (www.flaflom.org). The EWS is in operational
testing mode at the Water Resources Research Institute (WRRI) in Cairo, Egypt under the
auspices of the Minister of Water and Irrigation. It has already demonstrated its potential
through the forecast of the flash floods of October, 24, 2008 and January, 17-18, 2010. Yet,
the skills of the system and the (in)tolerance to false alarms need to be further explored.
This paper will describe how some of the typical problems encountered in arid areas
modelling are tackled, and discuss the challenges related to the development and use of the
EWS.

4.2.

Study area

Wadi Watir is situated in the South Sinai governorate of Egypt (Fig.4.1). It is one of the most
active wadis in Sinai with respect to flash floods. The catchment has an area of 3,580 km
and classifies as a hyperarid catchment (Lin, 1999). Average annual rainfall is 35 mm/year,
ranging from 10 mm/year in the low coastal areas to 50 mm/year in the highland areas.
Maximal daily rainfall in South Sinai since 1979 is 50.8 mm measured at Saint-Catherine
(mountainous). Potential evapotranspiration is about 1,750 mm/year (Tolba and Gaafer,
2003). The number of rainfall events and the maximum accumulated rainfall during one
Jan Cools

47

Tools for River Basin Management

Chapter 4

single day in Wadi Watir is shown in Fig.4.2 for the period 1979-2006. Rain is observed from
September to May.

Figure 4.1: Location of case study Wadi Watir in the Sinai peninsula of Egypt. Nuweiba is
located at the outlet of Wadi Watir. The known tourist city Sharm El-Sheikh is located in the
southernmost point of the Sinai peninsula
Number of events per month

20
15

60
50

--

Max daily rainfall measured in one month

40

rainfall (mm)

count events --

1979-2006; SE Sinai
25

30
10

20

10

0
Jan

Feb Mar Apr

May Jun

Jul

Aug Sep Oct

Nov Dec

Figure 4.2: Distribution of rainfall and storm events from 1979-2006.


Jan Cools

48

Tools for River Basin Management

Chapter 4

Figure 4.3: Wadi Watir: topography, subbasins and rain gauges

The head catchments (about 1,400 m elevation) and slopes consist of exposed impermeable
rock, whereas the wadi bed is highly transmissive as it is composed of coarse sand and
gravel. Mount Saint Catherine (2,629 m), the tallest peak in Sinai, is just south of the
catchment limits. Over a distance of 60 km, the Wadi drops from the plateau to sea level via
a steep canyon. The upstream part of the canyon is mainly composed of fractured granite
and has a terrace structure with alternating flat and steep slopes ranging from 2 to 6%. At
the outlet of Wadi Watir in the Gulf of Aqaba (Red Sea) a delta of 40 km has formed. In this
delta lies Nuweiba city, important for tourism and as trade port to other Arabic countries.

Jan Cools

49

Tools for River Basin Management

Chapter 4

Figure 4.4: International road running through the canyon, close to the outlet wadi Watir. LEFT:
normal state in dry conditions; RIGHT: damage resulting from the flash flood of 24 October 2008

The common understanding of the origin of most rain events in Sinai is that they are local
convective events with a high spatial variability and short duration, especially around the
Red Sea mountain tops. Yet, this is not supported by the synoptic analysis of climatology
during major flood events in the Sinai neighbouring areas by Kahana et al. (2002). The
authors conclude that the storms in the study area - including the most severe ones - are
mainly caused by regional weather systems. They state that only a small amount of storms
are local events. This paper aims to contribute reviews of the frequency and scale of rain
events on Wadi Watir. Most probably, both local and regional weather phenomena
contribute to the occurrence of flash floods in wadi Watir. This is discussed further in section
4.4.2.
During flash floods, a high-velocity flood wave with high sediment load is channelled along
the canyon. The flood wave can reach a height of 1-2 meters. This usually results in severe
damage to the international road, which in some parts is totally washed away (Fig.4.4). To
protect Nuweiba City, on its vulnerable position at the mouth of the canyon, large
investments are done. On the delta, flood diversion dikes have been constructed, while
upstream five dams, one artificial lake and 2 underground reservoirs have been constructed.
The dams are intended to dissipate the power of flash floods and not to block the
floodwater entirely. The artificial lake is an open retention basin, which in normal conditions
is completely dry. The underground reservoirs are covered concrete constructions intended
to capture floodwater and store it for later use.
The Water Resources Research Institute (WRRI) is the Egyptian governmental research
institute with the mandate for flash flood management. WRRI has rainfall measurements
since 1979, collected through manual rain gauges. Up to 2008, only 10 manual gauges were
located in the whole Sinai desert (about 60,000 km). Only one gauge is located inside Wadi
Watir. This is the Sheik Atteia station located on the plateau in a Bedouin village at the
Jan Cools

50

Tools for River Basin Management

Chapter 4

upstream entrance of the canyon. Three other gauges are relevant for Wadi Watir: Nuweiba
(Wadi Watir outlet of the canyon), Ras An. Naqb (or alternative name El Tiemeid in the north
of Watir on the plateau) and Saint-Catherine (south of Watir, mountainous). In 2007 and
2008, during the FlaFloM project 9 digital rain gauges have been installed inside and around
Wadi Watir. The locations are shown in Fig.4.3. The Southern gauges are about 20 km apart
and the Northern gauges about 10 km. Hence, the average density of the extended gauge
network increased to about 300-400 km. Ground radar is not available in the region. Since
the installation of the new digital rain gauges in and around the Wadi Watir catchment two
storms have occurred: a local storm event on October, 23, 2008 and a regional storm on
January, 17-18, 2010. The EWS also captured minor rain events which did not result in a flash
flood on February 15-17, 2010 and February 24-25, 2010. Results are described in section
4.4.2.

4.3.

Early warning system: a chain of components

The EWS consists of a number of components, linked and activated through an automatic
platform. Figure 4.5 shows the different components. Rainfall forecasting is the first and
most essential component. The rainfall data are consequently transformed and aggregated
into spatially averaged catchment rainfall for each sub-catchment in the study area. The subcatchment rainfall forecast serves as input for the rainfall-runoff model. Runoff volumes and
discharges are routed through the main channel until the outlet at Nuweiba. The routing can
be performed by either using the rainfall-runoff model or a more detailed hydraulic model.

Jan Cools

51

Tools for River Basin Management

Chapter 4

Figure 4.5: The chain of components that forms the early warning system

Finally, the EWS sends alerts according to user-defined thresholds of danger. The alert can
range from a simple message to a map showing the zones at risk and even a full
(automatically prepared) report. A warning will first be handled by an operator to exclude
false warnings through rapid desktop screening of simulation anomalies and communication
with experts on-the-field (e.g. based on cloud patterns and Bedouin traditional weather
knowledge). If positive, the warning is submitted as an external warning to decision-makers.
This gives decision-makers lead time to respond and take actions to avoid (or minimize)
damages.
All components are developed, but are still in an operational testing phase. Currently used
for issuing warnings is the forecasted rainfall. Due to the limited potential for calibration of
the hydrological models, the forecasts on runoff, discharge and flood depth are done only on
a qualitative basis. The effectiveness of communication and decision-making procedures for
actions is currently under evaluation.

Jan Cools

52

Tools for River Basin Management

4.3.1.

Chapter 4

Rainfall forecasting

4.3.1.1. Numerical weather prediction for operational


rainfall forecasting
The EWS uses numerical weather prediction as a tool for rainfall forecasting. The forecasts
are generated by the Weather Research and Forecasting model (WRF, Skamarock et al.
2008). WRF is a limited area model (LAM) that takes initial and lateral boundary conditions
from the Global Forecast System (GFS). WRF also takes the complex terrain (orographic
features) of the Sinai Peninsula into account, based on a 3 km resolution DEM. The GFS is a
global NWP run by the US National Center for Environmental Prediction (NCEP) which is a
unit of National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), National Weather Service
(NWS). The GFS is run four times per day (00, 06, 12 and 18 UTC) and produces forecasts up
to 384 hours ahead (16 days) in GRIB format. The spatial resolution of the forecast depends
on the forecasting horizon. Up to 3.5 days (84 hours), rainfall is forecasted with a resolution
of about 55 km, from 3.5 to 7.5 days (180 hours) with a resolution of about 80 km, and up to
day 16 (384 hours) with a resolution of about 110 km. More information on the application
of WRF for the Sinai peninsula is given by Afandi (2010).
Based on the GFS forecasts, WRF produces a series of spatially distributed rainfall grids with
an hourly time step at two spatial scales: 1) a 30 km resolution for the whole of Egypt and 2)
a 3 km resolution only for Wadi Watier. The 30 km rainfall forecast corresponds to 8-9 pixels
over Wadi Watir whereas the 3 km resolution grid corresponds to 400 pixels. It could not be
assessed, as a consequence of the limited data availability, which resolution provides better
results. On the one hand, rainfall forecasts with a 3 km resolution allow for a better spatial
distribution of rainfall and better capturing of peak intensities incl. orographic effects and
convective rainfall (important for the mountainous Wadi Watir). On the other hand, a higher
resolution forecast is expected to improve the forecasted rainfall but not the forecasted
runoff and flow. The added value of high resolution rainfall forecasts for the forecast of
runoff and flow is limited considering that the rainfall-runoff model requires sub-catchment
average rainfall and considering the limited insight in the spatial heterogeneity of infiltration
and transmission losses.
The resolution of rainfall forecasts for operational purposes is mainly a question of
resources. Given that the operator of the EWS is responsible for flash flood risk management
in the whole of Egypt, country wide forecasts are preferred to a more detailed forecast for a
single wadi. Forecasting rainfall at high resolution for nations like Egypt is still too
demanding in terms of forecasting time which takes away precious lead time - and
computer resources.

Jan Cools

53

Tools for River Basin Management

Chapter 4

4.3.1.2. Satellite precipitation estimates: analysis of historic


flash flood events
At current, satellite precipitation estimates are not directly useable for an EWS, due to the
delay between acquisition and transmission of the images and the fact that satellite
precipitation estimates are considered as observations and not forecasts. Satellite
precipitation estimates nevertheless played a key role in the development and testing of the
EWS. From the in-situ rainfall measurements, a lack of correspondence appeared with the
observed flash flood events as elaborated in section 4.2. In addition, insufficient clarity
existed on the date, spatial extent and approximate duration of the different events. For this
purpose, the visualisation tool TRMM Online Visualization and Analysis System (TOVAS) was
used to search through the archives of the Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM Daily
records 3V42) and the Global Precipitation Climatology Center (GPCC) for the period 19872010. In terms of quality, the 3V42 product is currently the best TRMM product for model
validation purposes. In order to develop this product, all of the available passive microwave
data are converted to precipitation estimates prior to use, then each data set is averaged to
the 0.25 spatial grid over the time range 90 minutes from the nominal observation time.
All of these estimates are adjusted to a "best" estimate using probability matching of
precipitation rate histograms assembled from coincident data. For detailed information for
these products the reader is referred to Huffman and Bolvin (2008).
Table 4.1 shows the result of this analysis. Especially older events (before 2000) showed a
poor match between different types of data for different events and periods. From then on,
the events are better documented and the estimation algorithms have been improved.
Therefore, only the recent flash flood events have been used in the development of the
EWS. As conclusion, satellite precipitation estimates have only been used for the
identification and analysis of historic flash flood events and are not being used for rainfall
forecasting in the EWS.

4.3.2.

Hydrological and hydraulic model

To model the specific arid zone hydrological characteristics, a discrete event lumped rainfallrunoff model was developed. A schematic view of the modelled processes is presented in
Fig. 4.6. Based on the rainfall forecast, the rainfall-runoff model calculates the excess rainfall.
Pervious and impervious areas are modelled separately (see section 4.3 assessing infiltration
and transmission). Initial losses (interception and wetting) are modelled by means of a
conceptual reservoir, which is constantly depleted by evaporation. The calculation of
depression storage is based on an empirical technique developed by Harms and Verworn
(1984). Infiltration losses in pervious areas are estimated by means of the Green and Ampt
method (Green and Ampt, 1911). In impervious areas, some water might still infiltrate
Jan Cools

54

Tools for River Basin Management

Chapter 4

through cracks. These losses are accounted for by means of an empirical runoff coefficient.
Overland flow within a sub-catchment is then computed by means of a Nash cascade (Chow
et al., 1988). A detailed description of the rainfall-runoff model is available in Abdelkhalek
(2011).
The runoff from each subcatchment is routed through the network of wadis by means of the
Muskingum method (Chow et al., 1988). Transmission losses in the highly permeable wadi
bed are accounted for by means of an empirical loss coefficient. For the purposes of
visualisation, the Muskingum routing was implemented in a commercial hydraulic modelling
software package (InfoWorks-RS, distributed by Innovyze (2008)).

Jan Cools

55

Tools for River Basin Management

Chapter 4

Forecasted
rainfall
Pervious area

Impervious area

Initial losses

Initial losses
Depression
storage

Infiltration losses
(Green & Ampt)

Infiltration losses
(runoff coeff.)

Rainfall excess
Nash cascade
Sub-catchment
runoff
Muskingum
routing
Transmission
losses
Catchment
runoff
Figure 4.6: Schematic view of the hydrological processes considered at the catchment

Jan Cools

56

Tools for River Basin Management

Chapter 4

The Wadi Watir catchment is subdivided in 48 subcatchments. This high number of


subcatchments was chosen to enable the simulation the rapid (flashy) responses that
characterize flash floods.
The lack of discharge data in Wadi Watir prohibits a data-driven calibration of the rainfallrunoff model and the hydraulic model. To date, the model parameterization is done based
on literature data and expert judgment. In order to assess the accuracy of the model
qualitatively, the outputs have been compared to flood volumes and flood depths estimated
in WRRI (2004) and to the insights of local experts and inhabitants. Once discharge data
become available, the modelling parameters need to be further adjusted. For this reason,
the rainfall-runoff model as well as the hydraulic model are currently in testing phase and
not (yet) part of the currently operational EWS.
As the rainfall-runoff model is a component of an EWS, two main improvements have been
done compared to off-line rainfall-runoff models: 1) automated routines have been
developed such that received rainfall forecasts are transformed automatically from a raster
format into a sub-catchment averaged rainfall, read into the model, and produce outputs in
a format used by the hydraulic model; 2) the output files have real time stamps, an essential
functionality for an EWS.
The hydraulic model is used to deliver flood maps for the downstream reaches of the main
canyon. It predicts the flows in the main wadis and the water levels in the storage reservoirs.
Included in the model extent are the two main Bedouins villages (Sheikh El Atteia and Ain
Um Ahmed), the existing dams and reservoirs and the delta of the Wadi Watir with the
diversion dikes as characteristic infrastructure (as shown e.g. in Fig.4.1). The hydraulic model
is driven by the (real-time) runoff hydrographs obtained from hydrological simulations for
the entire catchment.
The inclusion in an operational real-time system requires that the hydraulic model is robust:
it needs to be numerically stable and perform fast simulations. Given that the canyon of
Wadi Watir is characterized by steep slopes and occasionally supercritical flows (but not
backwater effects), a full hydrodynamic model would be continuously prone to numerical
instabilities. For these reasons the classical hydrodynamic routing was replaced by a
simplified hydrologic Muskingum routing, with the addition of a transmission loss
coefficient. Such a routing model is fast and numerically stable, but it only produces
discharges. By using discharge-stage and discharge-velocity relationships the model can also
produce water levels and flow velocities, but these are only estimates, and no exact values.
Cross-sections of the canyon are derived from the 5x5m DEM.

Jan Cools

57

Tools for River Basin Management

4.3.3.

Chapter 4

Infiltration and transmission losses

In the catchment models presented in this paper, the most important calibration parameters
are those related to infiltration and transmission losses. Based on the geological map and
expert judgment, the rainfall-runoff model consists of two land types: the hill slopes and
head catchments are considered as impermeable rock whereas the alluvial wadi deposits are
classified as pervious (sand and gravel). Similar categories are used by Gheith and Sultan
(2002) and Foody et al. (2004). The spatial distribution of pervious and impervious areas for
each sub-catchment is derived from the stratigraphic geological map. In order to do so, the
hydrogeological properties of each stratigraphic formation, as shown in the geological map,
is assessed and consequently classified as pervious or impervious irrespective of their
geological age. A similar methodology is followed as in USDA (1986), Chow (1988) and Cools
et al. (2006). Pervious formations are mainly loose Quaternary alluvial wadi deposits and
fanglomerates, consisting of coarse sands and gravels. Impervious formations are formed by
primary rocks such as cemented sand and limestones, shales, granites, acid volcanics.
Infiltration rates for the wadi deposits are available from laboratory infiltration tests. Values
range from 0.66-72 mm/min for the initial infiltration rate and 0.62-51.4 mm/min for the
final infiltration rate, which is attained relatively quickly in arid catchments (after 15 min-1
hr). WRRI (1995), based on soil texture, estimated similarly high values for the initial losses
(5-32 mm), but lower values for the constant losses (0.33-25.4 mm/hr).
Considering that the lumped rainfall-runoff model cannot represent the hydrogeological
heterogeneity well, a mean value of 2 mm for the initial losses and 2 mm/min as final
infiltration rate is chosen at the lower end of the interval. Since the wadi deposits are often
interlayered with silty sediment drapes, a reduced effective infiltration rate might fit to
reality. At the same time hydrophobic processes could initially prevent water from
infiltrating in the dry soil. As a consequence coarse sandstone with high measured
infiltration rates, could act as a rather impervious surface for a passing flood wave.
For the impervious formations, a qualitative expert-judgment based assessment of the
presence of cracks is done as well. Large cracks in impervious rock formations can quickly
remove rainfall from the surface, feeding it underground to wells in the area. Cracks are not
studied in detail and this information mainly served to estimate the lumped runoff
coefficient. For the impervious areas, a runoff coefficient of 0.8 is used in the rainfall-runoff
model.
In the hydrological routing model, transmission losses are estimated by means of an
empirical loss coefficient. Transmission losses are estimated at 20 % of the total flow in a
model branch. They are subtracted at each node, connecting two or more branches.

Jan Cools

58

Tools for River Basin Management

4.3.4.

Chapter 4

Warning system

The EWS issues warnings whenever pre-defined thresholds are exceeded. Thresholds can be
defined for rainfall, runoff, water level and discharge and be issued from each component of
the chain that composes the EWS. For each of these, three different thresholds can be
defined. The first threshold (start) indicates the onset of rainfall, runoff and discharge or
the presence of some water in the reservoirs, the second threshold (warning) indicates the
possibility of dangerous floods and the third threshold (alert) indicates a high likelihood of
dangerous floods. In the current operational system, only a rainfall threshold has been
applied. Based on local experience with flash floods in the Sinai Peninsula, a warning is
issued when the cumulative rainfall over a 6 hour period exceeds 10 mm. When the
cumulative rainfall exceeds 15 mm, an alert is issued. Insufficient insights currently exist to
set and validate other thresholds.
The EWS operates from a software platform (Floodworks, Innovyze) that automatically
activates and ensures the communication between the components of the EWS. Warnings
are issued on-screen in the user interface and are sent by e-mails to pre-defined addresses.
Future extensions will enable sending warnings via text messages (SMS) and publishing
forecasts on a website.
Although the steps to come to a flash flood warning are elaborate, the system is designed to
deliver forecasts in less than 15 minutes and forecasts 24h in advance. Considering that the
required lead time for an effective response is about 2 hours, the lead time requirements
are met by the system. Yet, in practice some elements may lead to seriously lower lead
times. These include the operational difficulties to forecast 24h a day such as the absence of
an operator at night or in the weekends, a power failure which inhibits the EWS to run,
system crashes and inter-human communication and decision-making.

4.3.5.

Communication and decision-making

Crucial for the operational use of an EWS are the steps taken between the issuing of a
warning to the actual actions on the ground. Actions can be taken before, during and after a
flash flood. In this section, an overview is given of the expected communication pathways
shortly before and during a flash flood.
Operators at WRRI send a daily report by e-mail to all governors in Egypt, with hourly and
accumulated WRF rainfall forecasts. If rainfall is forecasted the operator adds an
accompanying note with his interpretation. Before sending, a warning will first be handled
by an operator to exclude false warnings. The latter is done through rapid desktop screening
of simulation anomalies (e.g. errors in the input) and communication with experts on-thefield (e.g. based on cloud patterns and Bedouin traditional weather knowledge). For alert
warnings (such as the January 2010 event), the WRRI operator also warns the Sinai
Jan Cools

59

Tools for River Basin Management

Chapter 4

governors by phone. Decisions for actions are taken by the South Sinai governorate officials
which upon their turn warn the municipal officials in Nuweiba. The latter forward the
warning and associated decision to the municipal technical services (police, fire brigade,
traffic office, post office) and local inhabitants. The traffic office prepares for blocking the
roads running through the wadi and to the harbour.

4.4.

Results and discussions

4.4.1.
Challenges for a flash flood early warning system in
a hyper-arid catchment
Many challenges exist for the development and use of an EWS for flash floods in a hyper-arid
catchment. Major technical challenges are related to inconsistencies in the available data.
Although rainfall time series from a network of rain gauges are available from 1979 onwards,
the time series firstly have an insufficient level of detail and some lack continuity. The exact
date and temporal distribution e.g. was often missing or inconsistent. Insufficient insight
furthermore existed on the spatial variability and intensity of rainfall events. In addition, a
lack of correspondence is observed between rainfall data and observed flash flood events.
Satellite precipitation estimates have been used to provide more clarity on the temporal and
spatial characteristics of rainfall events and the associated correspondence with flash floods.
Secondly, only estimates of discharge and water level are available. As a consequence of the
destructive force of flash floods, an existing weir has been destroyed and has not resulted in
measurements. Only indirect values or qualitative expert judgment based assessments are
available. These are firstly flood volume based peak discharges as e.g. estimated in WRRI
(1995, 2004) and secondly visual observations by local experts, lay people (Bedouins) and
videos and photos taken during and after the flash flood.
From a social point of view, major challenges are the necessary participative interaction with
the local authorities for flash flood management and the local inhabitants (mostly Bedouins)
and the coordination of communication pathways from the generated warning to actual
decision-taking on the field. Egyptian officials and the Bedouins furthermore have a mutual
distrust. As a consequence, in the past, rain gauges have been destroyed as some Bedouins
felt it as an intrusion in their privacy. The latter adds to the logistic challenges of a flash flood
EWS and endangers a long-term acquisition of field measurements, which on its turn inhibits
a better understanding of the flash flood risk. Hyper-arid catchments are generally difficult
to access, and especially during and soon after a flash flood. From a communication point of
view, it was challenging to establish a clear communication pathway from the moment when
the warning is generated to the actual decision-taking by local authorities. Since the EWS
requires significant technical capacity to operate it, warnings are send from a national
Jan Cools

60

Tools for River Basin Management

Chapter 4

governmental research institute (WRRI) in Cairo to the local authorities in the catchment. In
addition, given the above limitations of the EWS, it is expected that initially the forecasts
may show some bias due to the previously mentioned reasons. To secure a positive image of
the EWS relative to the decision-makers and stakeholders, the sending out of false warning
and lack of warnings (when a flash flood did occur) needed to be avoided. For this purpose,
currently only the rainfall forecasting is used to send out official warnings. The other
components are still in operational testing phase until sufficient trust is gained.

4.4.2.
Correspondence between rainfall data and flash
flood events
An analysis of the observations, both time series of rainfall measurements and flash flood
observations revealed an apparent lack of correspondence between the two. Between 1979
and 2010 20 significant storm events have occurred in Wadi Watir. An overview is given in
Table 4.1 and results from a comparison between the data logs of flash floods, in-situ rainfall
measurements and a search through the archives of satellite precipitation estimates. All
flash floods, irrespective of the rainfall volumes, caused severe damage to existing
infrastructure, which is mainly the road and wells for water supply (both traditional wells
and commercial deep wells).

Jan Cools

61

Tools for River Basin Management

Chapter 4

Table 4.1: Historic flash flood events in Wadi Watir and correspondence to rainfall events:
1
3 operational rain gauges in Wadi Watir until 2007, afterwards 9 more gauges are
installed; 2 Range of satellite rainfall estimates by TRMM (product 3B42(V6))
ID

1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20

Dates

16 Oct 1987
20 Dec 1987
1 Apr 1988
17 Oct 1988
12 Mar 1990
23 Oct 1990
22 Mar 1991
1-2 Jan 1994
2 Nov 1994
17-18 Nov
1996
14 Jan 1997
17-18 Oct
1997
15 Jan 2000
9 Dec 2000
27-31 Oct,
3 Nov 2002
15 Dec 2003
5 Feb 2004
29 Oct 2004
24 Oct 2008
17-18 Jan
2010

In-situ rainfall
observations
(n of
stations)1
0
1
0
0
2
1
3
3
3
3

Type of
storm
event

Flash
flood

In-situ acc.
rainfall
(mm)

2
0

Regional

High

7 & 8 mm
-

10-20 mm

1
2
2

Local
Regional
Regional Moderate

11 mm
5 & 5 mm
9 &16 mm

7 mm
4-10 mm

5 mm
8 mm
-

0-1 mm
12 mm

1
1
0
2
8

Acc. rainfall
above Wadi
Watir
(remote)2
Regional Disaster
15-20 mm
Local
10 mm
Local
Weak
0-1 mm
Local
Moderate
1-3 mm
5 & 51.5 mm
Regional Moderate
5 mm
1-2 mm
Regional
11-36.5 mm
Regional
10-21 mm
Regional
1-16.5 mm
3-19 mm
-

Local
Local
Local

Weak

Local
Moderate 0.8 & 11 mm
Regional
High
11-30 mm

30 mm

Nine storm events resulted in a flash flood in the downstream canyon or at Nuweiba. In five
out of nine flash floods (1987, April and October 1988, 1997 and 2004) no in-situ rainfall was
measured. For the flash flood of 1990, rain was only observed in one gauge (5 mm), whereas
rainfall was measured in 2 gauges (9 and 16 mm) for the October-November 2002 flash
flood. For the two most recent flash floods (October 2008 and January 2010), following the
Jan Cools

62

Tools for River Basin Management

Chapter 4

installation of 9 new rainfall gauges, rainfall was observed in 2 gauges for the 2008 flash
flood and in 8 gauges for the 2010 flash flood. For the 2008 event however, significant
rainfall (10.8 mm) is only measured in 1 gauge, namely the Sorah gauge (11 mm). The ElDalal gauge at a distance of 20 km measured a small volume of 0.8 mm; All other gauges
remained dry. For the 2010 flash flood, rainfall is measured in 8 stations with a coverage of
the whole Wadi Watir. In-situ rainfall volumes are measured between 11 and 30 mm.
Although rainfall volumes of 10-30 mm are relatively small, others found similar values. Also
in Wadi Watir, an extreme value analysis by Abdelkhalek (2011) resulted in rainfall amounts
of 10-15 mm for a 5-year return period to 20-30 mm for a 25 year return period. Bahat et al.
(2009) reports 16 selected rainfall-runoff events of the Elat station (about 100 km north of
Wadi Watir). In eight of the events, minor rainfall of 3-8 mm generated runoff. For five
events it rained between 18-32 mm..
The relationship between rainfall volumes and the occurrence of a flash flood is not
straightforward. Behind the most severe flash floods (1987, 1997 and 2010) are indeed
wide-spread regional storm events which resulted in for arid areas large rainfall volumes
over the whole catchment of 10-20 mm with a maximum to 30 mm for the 2010 flash flood.
For these events, large rainfall volumes resulted in a severe flash flood. Yet, as shown in
Table 4.1, not all major rain events generated a flash flood. For five storm events (March
1990, March 1991, January and November 1994 and November 1996), a flash flood was not
observed despite rainfall observed in 2 or 3 rain gauges. At least 5 mm of rainfall fell over a
large area with maxima above 15 mm. In March 1990, maximal rainfall was observed up to
51.5 mm (Sheik Attia) and 36.5 mm (Saint Catherine) in March 1991. Considering that SheikAttia is located in a wide gravelly plateau, it can be motivated that all rainfall is lost to
infiltration and hence no flash flood was generated. Higher rainfall and especially local
convective rainfall - on the mountainous Saint-Catherine gauge can also be expected, but is
not necessarily resulting in an increased probability for runoff, considering that Saint
Catherine is located outside of Wadi Watir. Finally, three historic flash floods (March and
October 1988 and 1990) are caused by a satellite rainfall estimate below 3 mm. Although the
latter can not be validated due to the lack of in-situ measurements, the estimate is
considered to be underestimated.

Jan Cools

63

Tools for River Basin Management

Chapter 4

Figure 4.7: Selection of 3-hourly rainfall estimates from TRMM for the events in December 2000,
October 2002, October 2004 and January 2010. Images are extracted with NASAs Giovanni
(giovanni.gsfc.nasa.gov)

Jan Cools

64

Tools for River Basin Management

Chapter 4

Figure 4.8: Rainfall forecast by WRF for the January 2010 flash flood. Shown is the
cumulative rainfall at the end of the rain event (23h on January, 18, 2010)

In order to obtain an insight in the scale, spatial and temporal distribution of the storm
events, the in-situ data are complemented with rainfall maps from two sources: rainfall
satellite estimates and WRF forecasts
and hindcasts. Rainfall estimates are accessed
from the TRMM 3-hourly archive. Rainfall hindcasts with WRF are made for the events since
2002. A qualitative comparison of the available rainfall data from in-situ measurement, WRF
forecasts and satellite estimates is shown in Table 4.2. For the WRF forecast, a breakdown is
given for convective and non-convective rainfall. A selection of TRMM images is shown in
Fig. 4.7 both for local convective storm events (examples are the 2002 and 2004 event) and
the wide-spread regional (mostly) non-convective events such as the 2000 and 2010 event.
The WRF rainfall forecast (30*30 km resolution) of the 2010 flash flood is shown in Fig. 4.8.
As shown in Table 4.2, WRF has forecasted all 7 events since 2002, except the 2002 event. All
events, except the January 2010 event, are local events where only (or mostly) convective
rain is estimated. TRMM captured only the regional scale (3 out 7), but including 3 out of 4

Jan Cools

65

Tools for River Basin Management

Chapter 4

flash floods. TRMM only missed the 2008 flash flood. In-situ measurements are available for
4 out 7 events, including the flash floods of October 2008 and January 2010.

Table 4.2: Qualitative comparison of the available rainfall data from in-situ measurements, WRF
forecasts and satellite estimates for rain events since 2002

Max. cumulative rainfall (mm)


WRF rainfall forecast

Date

Flash flood

Convective Nonconvective

TRMM
In-situ
estimate observations
(mm)

Total

30/10/2002

Moderate

10

15/12/2003

36

36

5/02/2004

7.5

13.5

29/10/2004

Weak

12

28/03/2006

14

14

23-24/10/2008

Moderate

0.3-11

17-18/01/2010

High

8.5

27.5

36

30.5

11-30

A comparison of cumulative rainfall between the field gauges measurements and WRF
forecast is shown in Figs. 4.9-10 for the 2010 flash flood and Fig. 4.11 for the 2008 flash flood
(where only one gauge measured significant rainfall). The WRF values are selected at the
pixels corresponding to the locations of the rain gauges. Fig.4.9 (total rainfall volume) and
Fig. 4.10 (time series of 3 rain gauges out of 8) shows an overestimation of about 5-15 mm,
with bias decreasing with increasing rainfall. According to Fig. 4.10, WRF has predicted the
rainfall ranging from a 3-5h time lag (anticipation) to 3h after the start of the rain event
depending on the location within the Wadi. For the local storm event of October 2008,
where only rain is measured in one rain gauge (Sorah, mountainous south-west of Wadi
Watir), a similar time lag of 5h in anticipation is observed, but the total rainfall is
underestimated by 2 mm. The underestimation for the convective 2008 storm event can be
motivated by the fact that the orographic effects on rainfall are not well represented in WRF
considering its pixels of 30*30 km. In addition, it improves the probability of forecasting a
major event. Secondly, during and for days after a flash flood, the access to the gauges might
be inhibited. The accumulated sample might have become irrecoverable by debris flow or
other reasons.

Jan Cools

66

Tools for River Basin Management

Chapter 4

40
35

Accum. rainfall (mm)

30
25
20
15
10
WRF rainfall forecast
5

rain gauges

0
Mattameir

RasGhazalah

El-Hethey-1

Ain Om
Ahmed

El-Hethey-2 St.Catherine

El-Dalal

Ras-Shairah

Figure 4.9: forecasted and measured rainfall in 8 stations for the January 2010 event (ranked by
measured rainfall).

Jan Cools

67

Tools for River Basin Management

Chapter 4

Figure 4.10: forecasted and measured rainfall in 3 stations for the January 2010 event

Jan Cools

68

Tools for River Basin Management

Chapter 4

11
Rain gauge (mm)
10
WRF forecast (mm)
9
8

Accum. rainfall (mm)

7
6
5
4
3
2
1

21:00

20:00

19:00

18:00

17:00

16:00

15:00

14:00

13:00

12:00

11:00

10:00

9:00

Figure 4.11: forecasted and measured rainfall for the October 2008 event (Sorah gauge)

The inconsistency of in-situ data is commonly explained by the dominance of very local
rainfall events (which are missed by the gauges) and the high transmission losses in wadi
beds which may cause that even significant rainfall is lost to infiltration and hence does not
release a flash flood. Although the origin of flash floods is complex and requires more
research, the arguments of small scale storms and high transmission losses can only partly
explain the inconsistencies as shown in Table 4.3. Here the storm events are classified as a
local convective storm event or a wide-spread regional (mostly) non-convective event based
on following criteria: extent in rainfall maps, significant in-situ rainfall in 2 or more rain
gauges, events described in literature in neighbouring areas. Remarkably, the events are
equally divided: 9 regional events, 9 local events and 3 older events (before 1997) that are
unclear due to lack of spatial data. Half of both the regional and local events led to a flash
flood whereas the rainfall volume of the other 50% of storm events infiltrated and
evaporated. Out of the 9 storm events that caused a flash flood, 5 are regional storms (1987,
1990, 1997, 2002 and 2010 events) and 4 local convective storms (April and October 1988,
2004 and 2008 events). It can be concluded that regional storms are as frequent as local
storms. Regional storms thus play a bigger role than commonly perceived (mostly local

Jan Cools

69

Tools for River Basin Management

Chapter 4

events with limited spatial extent) but they are not the dominant weather type as stated by
Kahana et al. (2002) for a nearby catchment.

Table 4.3: Overview of type of storms of Wadi Watier in the period 1987-2010

Type of
storm
Regional
Local
Unclear
Total

flash
flood
5
4
0
9

no flash
flood
4
5
3
12

Total
9
9
3
21

Further explanatory factors are inherently related to the operational monitoring of flash
floods. Firstly, more data are available for the more accessible stations from which the data
are more regularly collected and which are also better maintained. From the end of the 90s
on, until 2007 there are less operational stations and this results in a discontinuity in the
time series. The low probability of rainfall linked to a limited understanding of the spatial
and temporal distribution of rainfall and peak rainfall intensities, furthermore does not
facilitate the selection of the best location for rain gauges and their long-term operation. In
addition to the generally difficult accessibility of arid wadis, during flash floods the access to
the gauges might become impossible until days after the event, when the accumulated
sample might have evaporated or become irrecoverable by debris flow or other reasons. As
well, despite the precautionary measures, gauges and water level infrastructure have in
some cases been destroyed by the force of the flash flood. The latter evidently results in
discontinuous or uncertain time series.

4.4.3.

Forecasting runoff and discharge

The simulation of runoff and discharge for hyper-arid and data-scarce areas like Wadi Watir
is highly challenging due to the limited availability of data and limited understanding of the
infiltration and transmission losses. Given that no measurements of runoff and discharge
existed, the model has been calibrated based on an observed maximum flood depth of 1.5 m
at the outlet of Wadi Watir (near Nuweiba) for the January 2010 flash flood. Despite the
limited potential for calibration and the uncertainty on the observed start-end of the flood
wave, the forecast of the 2010 flash flood is of an acceptable quality as shown in Fig. 4.12
and corresponds to the observed maximum flood depth and duration (30-35 hrs).
At the outlet of the wadi, a peak discharge of 235 m/s and a maximum water depth of 1.52
m is forecasted. The first discharge at the outlet is forecasted at midnight (00am on
Jan Cools

70

Tools for River Basin Management

Chapter 4

18/1/10). Although no comparable observations exist, the latter forecast is considered


acceptable given that the first rainfall is observed at 9pm on 17/1/10 and considering that
local observers claim that the flood wave takes about 2 hrs to arrive at the exit. A first
discharge peak is reached 2 hours after peak rainrate (02am; 17 mm/hr), a second peak 7
hours later. Recession thus starts 10 hrs after the start of rainfall. As a consequence of a
second small rain event (about 5mm/min depending on the sub-catchment), the discharge
remains around 70 m/s until 8.30am on January, 19. Discharge stops around 4 pm. After 21
hrs, the water depth is observed to drop below 30 cm. That time is noted as the end of the
flash flood.

250

Max. observed flood depth (1.5m depth)


5

20/01/2010 6:00

20/01/2010 3:00

20/01/2010 0:00

19/01/2010 21:00

19/01/2010 18:00

19/01/2010 15:00

19/01/2010 12:00

19/01/2010 9:00

19/01/2010 6:00

19/01/2010 3:00

19/01/2010 0:00

18/01/2010 21:00

18/01/2010 18:00

25
18/01/2010 15:00

0
18/01/2010 12:00

20

18/01/2010 9:00

50

18/01/2010 6:00

15

18/01/2010 3:00

100

18/01/2010 0:00

10

17/01/2010 21:00

150

(mm)
Rain raterainfall
(mm/hr)

forecasted discharge
forecasted rainfall (WRF)

17/01/2010 18:00

discharge (m3/s)

200

Figure 4.12: Forecasted discharge at the outlet based on forecasted rainfall; The peak discharge
corresponds to an observed flood depth of 1.5m at the outlet of Wadi Watir

The specific runoff (mm) simulated by the rainfall-runoff model for each of the individual
sub-catchments ranged from 20-28.75 mm with an average of 25 mm. Given that subcatchment rainfall ranged from 33 to 40 mm, runoff coefficients of 54-81% with an average
of 67% are obtained. After routing the sub-catchment runoff through the wadi by the
hydraulic model, discharge, flood depth and flood volume are simulated. In terms of
volumes, only 12 mm or 10% of the total rainfall volume reaches the outlet at Nuweiba (Fig.
4.13). 40.3 mm (or 32.8%) is lost to infiltration whereas 70.3 mm (or 57.2%) are transmission
losses. In total, 90% of the flood volume is hence lost to infiltration and transmission. Others
found similar values. According to Gheith and Sultan (2002), only 3-7% of the precipitation
reached the watershed outlets for the Red Sea mountains (Eastern desert) in Egypt. El

Jan Cools

71

Tools for River Basin Management

Chapter 4

Bastawesi et al. (2009) found for Wadi Hudain (Easter Desert) in Egypt that most of the
runoff infiltrates into the alluvium during its transmission through the channel.

Figure 4.13: Modelled infiltration and transmission losses for the 2010 flash flood

The rainfall-runoff model is now calibrated for the extreme 2010 flash flood, but the
calibrated parameter values for infiltration and transmission appeared not be transferable to
simulate the other flash floods. For these (less extreme) observed flash floods, some runoff
is computed, but the flood wave does not reach the outlet after routing through the wadi.
This indicates that infiltration and/or transmission losses have been overestimated for these
events.

4.5.

Conclusions

An early warning system (EWS) for flash floods is developed for part of the Sinai peninsula of
Egypt, an hyper-arid area confronted with limited availability of field data, limited
understanding of the response of the wadi to rainfall and a lack of correspondence between
rainfall data and observed flash flood events. This paper shows that an EWS is not a mission
impossible when confronted with large technical and scientific uncertainties and limited
data availability. The EWS is operational and issues warnings upon which can be acted by the
Jan Cools

72

Tools for River Basin Management

Chapter 4

Egyptian authorities based on rainfall forecasting and rainfall-runoff modelling. The EWS was
able to forecast the last two flash floods, on October, 24, 2008 and January, 17-18, 2010
with respectively an underestimation for the 2008 event and an overestimation for the 2010
event.
In order to be effective in a data-poor context, the EWS is developed and tested based on
the best available information, being quantitative data (field measurements, simulations and
remote sensing images) complemented with qualitative expert opinion and local
stakeholders' knowledge. Some iterations of improvements are expected in order to
increase the validity of the generated warnings and the conditions under which false
warnings and lack of warning (missed events) are issued.
A set of essential parameters has been identified to be estimated or measured under datapoor conditions. These are: 1) an inventory of past significant rainfall and flash flood events,
2) the spatial and temporal distribution of the rainfall events and 3) transmission and
infiltration losses and 4) thresholds for issuing warnings. Over a period of 30 year (19792010), only 20 significant rain events have been measured. Nine of these resulted in a flash
flood. The relationship between rainfall volumes and the occurrence of a flash flood in
hyper-arid areas is not straightforward. Although the origin of flash floods is complex and
requires more research, the arguments of small scale storms (which are missed by the rain
gauges) and high infiltration and transmission losses (which let a floodwave disappear before
it reaches the outlet) can only partly explain the inconsistencies between the rainfall and
flash flood observations. This paper demonstrates that for Wadi Watir 50% of the storm
events are regional and the other half local. Five flash floods are caused by regional storms
and four by local convective storms.
WRF is proven to be an appropriate tool for rainfall forecasting in hyper-arid areas. Both
local convective events and regional (mostly non-convective) rain events are forecasted. In
the lower-resolution forecasts (30*30 km), the orographic effects could not be well
represented and are under-estimated. The latter is mainly important for the local convective
rain events. Satellite precipitation estimates (TRMM) proved useful to gain insights in the
spatial scale and precise date of the storm events, but captured only the regional events and
missed the local events.
The results for the 2010 flash flood show that 90% of the total rainfall volume is lost to
infiltration and transmission losses. For other (less extreme) observed flash floods, some
runoff is computed, but the flood wave does not reach the outlet after routing through the
wadi. This indicates that infiltration and/or transmission losses have been overestimated for
these events. More research and field testing is hence needed before the floodwave
components can be used for issuing flash flood warnings for all type of flash floods.
For an operational EWS, further evidence needs to be collected on the validity of thresholds
for issuing warnings. Based on local experience with flash floods in the Sinai Peninsula,
Jan Cools

73

Tools for River Basin Management

Chapter 4

empirical thresholds are set for rainfall. In any case, given that flash floods are extreme
events, statistically sound evidence will be difficult to obtain. Although the current
thresholds seem to have worked, it is expected that a constant value will not be valid for the
whole wadi. Small rainfall of 5-10 mm on hill slopes of exposed rock can generate minor
flash floods. On the other hand, rainfall on highly transmissive alluvial wadis deposits can
result in the absence of a flash flood despite significant rainfall. Evidence exists of a rain
event of 50 mm without causing a flash flood. Hence, thresholds need to be evaluated by
means of expert judgment and modelling. Actual discharge measurements however are not
available and thus allow only a qualitative calibration.
Finally, the effectiveness of an EWS is only partially determined by technological
performance. A strong institutional capacity is equally important, especially skilled staff to
operate and maintain the system and clear communication pathways and emergency
procedures in case of an upcoming disaster. In the case of Wadi Watir, four people/institutes
need to make a decision before e.g. the road is effectively closed down (WRRI, governor,
mayor and traffic control). In any case, model results are not readily digestible and need to
be translated into a form which is useable for decision-making. The major challenge to keep
any EWS operational, is expected to be resolved by the combination of a close interaction
between the operators and decision-makers and an improved technical performance of the
system.

Acknowledgments
This paper results from the FlaFloM project. It is financed by the European Commission, LIFE
fund under project number LIFE06 TCY/ET/00232. We are grateful for the provided
resources. We are also grateful for the support provided by the Egyptian Minister for Water
and Irrigation, the Governor of the South Sinai Governorate and the Director of the South
Sinai Crises and Flood Management Centre.

References
Abdelkhalek, A., 2011, Development of an early warning system for flash floods in wadi
Watir - Sinai desert, PhD thesis at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB), Brussels, Belgium.
Anquetin S., Braud, I., Vannier, O., Viallet, P., Boudevillain, B. Creutin, J-D., and Manus, C.,
2010. Journal of Hydrology 394: 134-147.
Al-Qurashi, A., McIntyre, N., Wheather, H. and Unkirch, C., 2008, Application of the Kineros2
rainfall-runoff model to an arid catchment in Oman. Journal of Hydrology 355(1-4), 91-105.
doi:10.1016/j.hydrol.2008.03.022.

Jan Cools

74

Tools for River Basin Management

Chapter 4

Bahat, Y., Grodek, T., Lekach, J., and Morin, E., 2009,. Rainfall-runoff modeling in a small
hyper-arid catchment. J. Hydrol. 373(1-2): 204-217.
Borga, M., Boscolo, P., Zanon, F., and Sangati, M., (2007). Hydrometeorological analysis of
the August 29, 2003 flash flood in the eastern Italian Alps. Journal of HydroMeteorology,
8(5), 1049-1067.
Borga, M., E. Gaume, J.D, Creutin and Marchi, L. (2008). Surveying flash flood response:
gauging the ungauged extremes. Hydrol. Processes, 22(18), 3883-3885, DOI:
10.1002/hyp.7111, 2008.
Collier C.G., 2007, Flash flood forecasting: what are the limits of predictability. QJ Roy
Meteorol Soc 133:3-23.
Chow, V., Maidment, R. & Mays, L., Applied Hydrology, McGraw-Hill, 1988.
Cools, J., Meyus, M., Woldeamlak, S.T., Batelaan, O., and De Smedt, F. (2006). Large-scale
GIS-based hydrogeological modelling of Flanders: a tool for groundwater management.
Environ. Geol 50: 1201-1209.
El Afandi, G., 2010. Developing flash-flood guidance in Egypts Sinai Peninsula with the
Weather Research Forecast (WRF) model. The International Journal of Meteorology. March
2010, vol.35, No. 347.
El-Bastawesi, M., White, K., and Nasr., A., 2009. Integration of remote sensing and GIS for
modelling flash floods in Wadi Hudain catchment, Egypt. Hydrological processes 23: 13591368.
Foody G.M., Ghoneim, E.M., and Arnell, N.W., 2004. Predicting locations sensitive to flash
flooding in an arid environment. Journal of Hydrology 292: 48-58.
Gheith, H., and M. Sultan, 2002, Construction of a hydrologic model for estimating Wadi
runoff and groundwater recharge in the Eastern Desert, Egypt, Journal of Hydrology, 263(14), 36-55.
Green, W.H. and Ampt, G.H., 1911. Studies on soil physics, part I, the flow of air and water
through soils. Journal of Agricultural Science, 4(1), 1-24.
Harms,
R.W.
and
Verworn,
H.R.,
1984.
Hystem,
ein
hydrologisches
Stadtentwsserungmodell, Teil 1: Modellbeschreibung. Korrespondenz Abwasser, Heft 2,
Hannover.
Huffman G. J. and D. T. Bolvin, 2008. Real-Time TRMM Multi-Satellite Precipitation Analysis
Data Set Documentation. Laboratory for Atmospheres, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center
and Science Systems and Applications, Inc. Technical note.
Kahana R., Ziv B., Enzel Y. and Dayan U., 2002, Synoptic climatology of major floods in the
Negev Desert. International Journal of Climatology. , Vl. 22, NO: 7, pp 867-882
Jan Cools

75

Tools for River Basin Management

Chapter 4

Lin, X., 1999, Flash floods in arid and semi-arid zones, 65 pp, UNESCO, Paris.
Marchi L., Borga, M. , Preciso, E. and Gaume, E.: Characterisation of selected extreme flash
floods in Europe and implications for flood risk management. J. Hydrol, 394 (12), 118133.
doi:10.1016/j.jhydrol.2010.07.017, 2010.
Michaud, J.D. and Sorooshian, S., 1994, Comparison of simple versus complex distributed
runoff models on a midsized semi-arid watershed. Water Resources Research 30 (3), 593605.
Morin, E., Goodrich, D. C., Maddox, R. A., Gao, X. G., Gupta, H. V., and Sorooshian, S. 2006.
Spatial patterns in thunderstorm rainfall events and their coupling with watershed
hydrological response. Adv. Water Res., 29, 843860, doi:10.1016/j.advwatres.2005.07.014.
Morin, E., Jacoby, Y., Navon, S. and Bet-Halachmi, E.B., 2009, Towards flash-flood prediction
in the dry Dead Sea region utilizing radar rainfall information. Advances in Water Resources
32(7): 1066-1076.
Norbiato, D., Borga, M., Sangati, M., Zanon, F. 2007. Regional frequency analysis of extreme
precipitation in the eastern Italian Alps and the August 29, 2003 flash flood. Journal of
Hydrology, 345, 3-4, 149-166.
Pilgrim, D. H., Chapman, T. G. & Doran, D. G. 1988. Problems of rainfallrunoff modelling in
arid and semiarid regions. Hydrol. Sci. J. 33(4), 379400.
Skamarock, W. C., Klemp, J. B., Dudhia, J., Gill, D. O., Barker, D. M., Duda, M. G., Huang, X.-Y.,
Wang, W. and Powers, J. G., 2008, A description of the Advanced Research WRF Version 3,
NCAR Tech. Note, NCAR/TN-475+STR, 113 pp.
Tolba A. F. and Gaafer, K., 2003 On estimation of potential evapotranspiration in Egypt
Egyptian Meteorological Authority- Meteorological Research Bulletin - ISSN 1687 - 1014 Vol.- 18 -2003.
Wallingford Software, 2008. InfoWorks-RS version 9.0, Wallingford, UK.
Wheather, H.S., 2002, Hydrological processes in arid and semi-arid areas. In: Wheather, H.S.,
Al-Weshah, R.A. (Eds.) Hydrology of Wadi systems. UNESCO. Paris.
WRRI, 1995, South Sinai Water Resources Development Project. Report n.3: Hydrological
studies at Wadi Watir and its tributaries.
WRRI, 2004, Evaluation, Development and Execution of Some Flash Flood Protection Works Wadi Watir - South Sinai, 70 pp, Water Resources Research Institute, Cairo.
Yakir, H. and Morin, E., 2010, Hydrologic response of a semi-arid watershed to spatial and
temporal characteristics of convective rain cells, Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci. Discuss., 7, 77257756, doi:10.5194/hessd-7-7725-2010.

Jan Cools

76

Tools for River Basin Management

Chapter 4

Yatheendradas S., T. Wagener, H. Gupta, C. Unkrich, D. Goodrich, M. Schaffner, and Stewart,


A. 2008. Understanding uncertainty in distributed flash flood forecasting for semiarid
regions. Water Resour. Res., 44, W05S19, doi:10.1029/2007WR005940, 2008.
USDA, 1986, Urban hydrology for small watersheds. Technical Release 55 (TR-55) (Second
Edition ed.). Natural Resources Conservation Service, Conservation Engineering Division,
United States Department of Agriculture.

Jan Cools

77

Tools for River Basin Management

Jan Cools

Chapter 4

78

Tools for River Basin Management

Chapter 5

5. Integrating human health into wetland management for the Inner


Niger Delta, Mali
(Source: Cools J., Diallo M., Liersch S., Coertjens D., Boelee, E., Vandenberghe V., Kone B. (2012b).
Integrating human health into wetland management for the Inner Niger Delta, Mali. Submitted to
Environmental Science & Policy)

Abstract
Livelihood and water-related diseases are strongly linked to wetland management. The majority of
wetland stakeholders in the Inner Niger Delta, Mali considered human health and sanitation the most
important criteria of a list of challenges and water-related pressures. Yet, a methodology to integrate
health risks and opportunities into wetland management plans has previously not been proposed,
despite the clear links and substantial real-life challenges. In this paper, a framework is presented to do
this in data-poor context structured around the process to evaluate and prioritize the appropriateness
of management options to improve human health.
In the data-poor context of the Inner Niger Delta, the selection of criteria and indicators, and the scoring
of management options against these criteria and indicators has been done by a panel of stakeholders.
Criteria were chosen to reflect the often difficult conditions in which management options need to be
implemented and thus focused on the effectiveness and feasibility of management options to reduce
the disease burden and the two major pathways for environmental disease transmission, namely
contaminated water (pathogens) and stagnant water (parasites and organisms that can transmit them)
at three wetland scales: urban areas, urban wetland and rural wetland. The feasibility for the
sustainable implementation of a management option refers to the required institutional capacity and is
scored by means of the concept of "adaptive capacity".
The presented framework uses rapid assessment tools and simplified scoring methods and proved
useful in explaining issues across sectors and scales, to promote mutual understanding and to achieve
an integrated assessment of the appropriateness of management options.

Jan Cools

79

Tools for River Basin Management

5.1.

Chapter 5

Introduction

Water-related diseases are strongly linked to wetlands. The high disease burden of tropical and subtropical wetlands is related to the good breeding conditions for disease vectors and pathogens and to
the high exposure of communities attracted by the many essential ecosystem services a wetland
provides for livelihood support. Ten percent of the global disease burden and 25% of child deaths in
developing countries could be prevented by improving water supply, sanitation, hygiene and
management of water resources (Prss-stn et al., 2008). Top killers among the water-related diseases
are malaria and diarrhoeal diseases.
Environmental changes and ecosystem impairment are known to alter the infectious disease risk, as e.g.
reported in the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MA, 2005) mainly as a consequence of two
pathways for disease transmission: 1) land degradation, land cover change, wetland loss, urbanization
and consequent changes in water quantity and quality distribution lead to enhanced breeding
conditions of vectors, parasites and pathogens, increasing disease risks; 2) Increased exposure of people
to infected water on agricultural fields or in settlements. It is furthermore expected that both the
disease hazard and exposure increases in future as a consequence of population growth and climate
change. Water resources development, such as dams, reservoirs and irrigation systems have a history of
enhancing the risk of water- and vector-borne diseases (e.g. Southgate, 1997; Jobin, 1999; Ernould et al.,
1999; De Clerq et al., 2000; Keiser et al., 2005; Steinmann et al., 2006; Boelee and Madsen, 2006;
Minakawa et al., 2008; Yewhalaw et al., 2009).
Environmental options to prevent transmission of water-related diseases have proven to be effective
and often more cost-effective than medical therapy and immunization campaigns (Jamison et al., 2006,
Bartram and Cairncross, 2010). An overview of environmental options for health improvement,
specifically for cities in or at wetlands is shown in Table 1. Water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) options
reduce contact with pathogens and reduce the prevalence of diarrhoea and schistosomiasis (Curtis et
al., 2000; Fewtrell et al., 2005; Eisenberg et al., 2007; Prss-stn et al., 2008; Mara et al., 2010). The
risk for schistosomiasis can be further reduced by removing or avoiding contact with water infested by
the intermediary snail hosts of the Schistosoma parasites (genus Bulinus and Biomphalaria). Most
options to prevent mosquito-borne diseases such as malaria currently focus on reducing exposure
(mosquito nets), but the evacuation of stagnant water, levelling land and safe water storage can be
equally effective, though these might be more labour-intensive and have potential negative impacts on
the environment.

Table 5.1 Overview of environmental options for diarrhoea, schistosomiasis and malaria for cities in or
at wetlands.
Disease

Environmental options

Good practices

Diarrhoea

Safe drinking water

Deep wells (protected boreholes)

Improved sanitation

Improved latrines; Hand washing with soap

Jan Cools

80

Tools for River Basin Management

Chapter 5
Septic tank; Safe disposal of faecal sludge

Safe disposal of excreta


Evacuation and treatment
domestic waste water
Schistosomiasis

of Greywater sewers; Infiltration pits

Improved sanitation
Snail control

Avoid contact with infected water


Mosquitoborne diseases

Evacuation of stagnant water

Levelling land

Safe water storage

Improved latrines; Hand washing with soap


Removal of aquatic host plant in urban
wetlands; Adapted design and maintenance of
drainage and irrigation canals
Protective footwear; Increased awareness;
provision of alternatives (safe water)
Drainage; waste water management facilities;
collection & disposal of solid waste (trapped
water); hydraulic structures; modified house
design (including gutters and roof drains),
Contouring
reservoirs;
Filling
micro
depressions (puddles), but generally labourintensive and has to be maintained frequently
Protection of domestic water; maintenance of
water supply and sanitation

The majority of WASH projects focused on rural areas where often water quality and stagnant water is a
local problem. In urban areas, however, an integrated water-health approach is needed as a
consequence of the higher pressures, limited space, bigger scale and potential conflicts. Cities located in
or at wetlands are confronted with higher disease rates due the presence of stagnant water, a high
groundwater table and higher exposure of citizens to pathogens and parasites. Howard et al. (2010) and
the Vision 2030 of WHO (2009) revealed that very few technologies and management systems for
drinking water supply and sanitation services are resilient to climate change. This further increases the
challenges that wetland cities in developing countries are confronted with. In addition, a controversy
exists on the appropriateness of waterborne sewerage for African cities (Norman and Chenoweth, 2009
and Norman and al., 2010). Reasons are the varying suitability and interdependence according to
context and the difficulty in quantifying the cost-effectiveness and benefits especially for the urban
poor.
International best practice to address multi-disciplinary water challenges is "Integrated Water Resources
Management" (IWRM), its catchment-based component "River Basin Management" (RBM) (GWP, 2000,
Chn, 2009, UNEP, 2012) and specifically for wetlands the concept of the wise use of wetlands (Ramsar
Convention secretariat, 2010). River basin and wetland managers typically need to balance the often
competing needs of different sectors (domestic water use, agriculture, industry, ecosystems), while
conserving or restoring the water status for community livelihood and ecosystems throughout the
catchment, both in terms of water availability and water quality. The centre piece for the
implementation of RBM is the River Basin Management Plan (RBMP) and the more specific wetland

Jan Cools

81

Tools for River Basin Management

Chapter 5

management plan. Human health and WASH are often overlooked in IWRM and too often treated as
standalone practices.
A particular challenge for the development of river basin and wetland management plans is the
identification of the most appropriate management options to address the challenges in a wetland
based on impact and feasibility assessments. For the construction of large hydropower dams, an
environmental impact assessment (EIA) and/or Health Impact Assessment (HIA) (Bos et al., 2003;
Winkler et al., 2010; Birley et al., 2011) is often required by external consultants at the feasibility stage
(McCartney et al., 2007; Erlanger et al., 2008). For water resource policies and action plans, such a
strategic assessment of health and environmental impacts, following the concept of Strategic
Environmental Impact Assessment (SEA) (e.g. Tetlow and Hanusch, 2012) is usually lacking despite the
clear links and substantial real-life challenges. Furthermore, wetland and river basin management is
often given low priority as an option to improve public health (MA, 2005 and Horwitz et al., 2012) and,
vice versa, water, sanitation and hygiene is often poorly integrated in wetland and/or river basin
management plans. WASH is also often not a priority in national and local strategies on health and
development (Cairncross et all., 2010). Thus, a methodology to integrate health risk and opportunities
into wetland and river basin management plans has previously not been proposed. Due to a lack of
understanding of the system and the appropriateness of environmental options, well-founded
judgments cannot be made, making it difficult to select the most appropriate option. This paper
contributes to this challenge and presents a methodology to assess the impact and adaptive capacity of
water management options in an urban wetland context. The methodology is applied in the context of
the Inner Niger Delta in Mali, West-Africa, where data is lacking.

5.2.

Case study description

The Inner Niger Delta (Figure 5.1) is a large inland floodplain of the Niger River located in Mali located
between the Markala dam (near Sgou) at 900 km and Tombouctou at 1500 km from its source. An area
of 41,195 km was designated by Mali in 2004 as a Ramsar site. The Inner Niger Delta has important
native habitats such as flooded forests and a floating grass pasture of Echinochola stagnina locally called
bourgou, and hosts several endemic species of water birds. It is also crucial for the livelihoods of 1.5
million people, many of whom depend entirely on the Deltas natural resources. The most important
products from the floodplain are rice, fish, fodder (mainly bourgou) and drinking water. Human
livelihoods and ecosystem integrity both benefit from the annual flooding of the Niger river and its main
tributary the Bani (Zwarts et al., 2005). Annual peak discharges flowing into the Inner Niger Delta range
from 2000-9000 m/s whereas minimum flows into the Inner Niger Delta are less than 50m/s. As a
consequence of dam operations, population growth and climate change, the flood intensity and peak
flows in the Inner Niger Delta are reducing, while low flows in the dry season have increased due to
water released by the dams (Liersch et al., 2012). This results in the loss of naturally flooded farmland
and ecosystem degradation, but reduced water shortage in the dry season. The recently renewed
sustainable development plan for the Inner Niger Delta (PPD-DIN, 2011) and the national policy on
sanitation for Mali (DNACPN, 2011) addresses these concerns.

Jan Cools

82

Tools for River Basin Management

Chapter 5

Figure 5.1: The Inner Niger Delta located in Mali, West Africa
The water-related disease burden in the Inner Niger Delta is high: about 1 in 10 people (2-14%) suffered
from diarrhoea, while malaria ranged from 40 to 57% and urinary schistosomiasis affected between 50
and 70% of the population (CPS/MS, 2007; PNLP 2010; Gething et al., 2011; Schur et al. 2011). Disease
rates were higher in poor neighbourhoods. The health infrastructure in Mali is decentralized down to
Jan Cools

83

Tools for River Basin Management

Chapter 5

the local health centres. Despite considerable effort, the facilities are insufficient to fulfil the demand
(Leten et al., 2010).
According to the Joint Monitoring Program (JMP) of WHO/UNICEF (2012), Mali is on track to meet the
Millennium Development Goal (MDG) on drinking water in 2015, but as most developing countries, is
lagging behind on sanitation. In 2010, in average 35% of the urban population and 14% of the rural
population in Mali had access to improved sanitation. Access to sanitation in the Inner Niger Delta
shows large disparities, as shown in the boxplots of Figure 2, based on a large-scale household survey of
the Demographic Household Survey (DHS) (CPS/MS, 2007). The box shows the interquartile range (IQR)
or 'middle fifty'. The ends of the whiskers are set at 1,5 times above the third quartile and 1,5 times
below the first quartile and the *denotes an outlier. In the IND, 6-37% (median 19%) of the population
practises open defecation, 45-80% (median 61%) of households still uses unimproved traditional pit
latrines. Improved sanitation facilities are used by 3-17% of the population, with an outlier for Mopti
(65%).

100
90

% of households

80
70
60
50
40
30
20
10
0
open
other
improved
defecation
unimproved
Use of sanitation facilities
Figure 5.2 Distributional range of access to sanitation in the Inner Niger Delta, based on CPS/MS (2007)

This paper makes a distinction between the urban areas and urban wetland of Mopti city and the rural
wetland that forms part of many small villages in the IND. The large pristine wetland areas of the Inner
Niger Delta are not considered in this paper. Mopti is the biggest city of the Inner Niger Delta (134.000
inhabitants), centrally located and depending on the wetland for its livelihoods. Mopti is located on a
slightly elevated plateau at the junction of the Niger and the Bani river and is surrounded by wetlands. In
the wet season, as a consequence of the annual floods, Mopti is an island surrounded by water of 5-6m

Jan Cools

84

Tools for River Basin Management

Chapter 5

deep. In the dry season, the water level in the river drops to about 1m and the urban wetlands are used
as rice fields, waste water lagoons and to a lesser extent floating grass pastures (bourgou). During that
period, safe drinking water is scarce. In the urban environment, only deep groundwater from the
confined aquifer is considered as safe to use. Shallow groundwater and surface water, still frequently
used, are considered unsafe and need treatment prior to use.
The pathways for disease transmission in the Inner Niger Delta are related to the exposure of people to
excreta, contaminated water (pathogens) and stagnant water (parasites and organisms that can
transmit them). Contact with excreta is related to 1) open defecation practices: 4% of the urban
population and 20% of the rural population (WHO/UNICEF, 2012) and 2) the unsafe collection and
consequent disposal of faecal sludge from full latrines. Confronted with the lack of disposal facilities, an
urban wetland typically serves as dump site for solid waste and faecal sludge, or waste water treatment
facility for excreta or waste water, both resulting in water contamination and the spread of pathogens.
Greywater is discharged untreated on the streets or directly into the wetland, resulting in outbreaks of
water-related diseases, odour nuisance and gully formation in streets (Morel and Diener, 2006). In
Mopti, storm water drains exist but are used for dumping of faecal sludge and solid waste consequently
resulting in clogged drains and when these overflow, bring highly polluted stagnant water to the streets.
In addition, solid waste can form a substrate to which organic material and bacteria attach.

5.3.

Methodology

The framework for the integration of human health into wetland management, as proposed in this
paper, follows the integration process described in the Ramsar guidance on the integration of wetlands
into river basin management (Handbook 9, Ramsar Convention Secretariat, 2010; Rebelo et al., 2012)
and the methodology to evaluate and select management options to address wetland challenges from
Johnston et al. (2012), structured around the Multi-Criteria Analysis (MCA) (e.g. Hajkowicz and Collins,
2007). Even though the above make no mention of health, the integration process is also valid for
health. The presented framework consists of 3 steps as shown in Figure 3.

Step 1: Multi-sector characterization (health, wetland and river basin, WASH) addressing the
biophysical and socio-economic state and trends and related drivers and pressures, a review of the
stakeholders and institutional and policy context across sectors. Rapid assessment methodologies
are used to compensate for the lack of data.
Step 2: Based on the system characterisation, a problem description is defined which further leads
to a set of agreed priorities and objectives, and a set of stakeholder-defined criteria and indicators
that are important to consider in the decision-making process and a list of management options that
can help to achieve the stated objectives.
Step 3: The management options are scored against the indicators and criteria defined in step 2 in
an iterative, participatory way. Indicators may be revised and further specified along the scoring.

Jan Cools

85

Tools for River Basin Management

Chapter 5

Finally, step 3 leads to an assessment of the expected benefits, trade-offs and conflicts of the
potential management options and selection of the most appropriate management options.
The final outcome of the MCA is the "evaluation matrix". The rows and columns are composed of
management options and indicators. The matrix cells consist of the "scores". Indicators are variables
that reflect change, and which can be measured or estimated. Criteria represent broadly defined
categories, and are described and quantified using specific indicators. A great variety of methods and
exist to score and analyse the results (e.g. Hajkowicz and Collins, 2007), often using computer-aided
optimization and leading to a ranking of management options.
In the data-poor context of the Inner Niger Delta, the selection of criteria and indicators, and the
scoring of the management options against these criteria and indicators has been done by a panel of
stakeholders based on the Delphi technique (e.g. Rowe and Wright, 1999; Green et al., 2007). Three
stakeholder workshops have been organized with about a 6 months interval, and were complemented
with a series of in-depth interviews. The stakeholders were local and international experts,
representatives of the local community, representatives of the local and national authorities of various
sectors and non-governmental organizations (NGO's) working on nature conservation and/or WASH. In
the various workshops, stakeholders were asked to score the importance of criteria, identify indicators
and management options and score the impact and feasibility of management options. Templates were
asked to be filled out. Where possible, a group compromise score was given. Strongly deviating scores
were assessed in more detail.
Criteria were chosen to reflect the often difficult conditions in which management options need to be
implemented and thus focused on the effectiveness and feasibility of these options. It is known that
investments may render useless if not implemented and maintained well, especially in developing
countries. The effectiveness of a management option is scored in terms of the impact on disease
prevalence and on the two major pathways for environmental disease transmission, namely
contaminated water (pathogens) and stagnant water at each of the three considered wetland scales:
urban areas, urban wetland and rural wetland. An overview the selected impact criteria and indicators
for human health is shown in Table 2. For impact, the scores are major improvement (++), minor
improvement (+), no, indirect or unclear impact (0), minor deterioration (-) and major deterioration (- -).
Table 5.2: Selected impact criteria and indicators for human health
CRITERIA
INDICATORS
Impact
Contaminated Level of water contamination in rural wetland
water
Level of water contamination in urban wetland
(pathogens)
Level of water contamination in urban areas
Level of stagnant water in rural wetland
Stagnant water

Disease
Jan Cools

Level of stagnant water in urban wetland


Level of stagnant water in urban areas
Diarrheal disease prevalence
86

Tools for River Basin Management


prevalence

Affordability

Adaptive
capacity

Organizational
capacity

Cooperation

Robustness

Chapter 5

Malaria prevalence
Schistosomiasis prevalence
Affordability for households
Affordability for municipality
Income generation
Capacity to implement
Capacity for maintenance
Capacity to operate
Government coordination
Level of participation
Education & Awareness raising
Robustness to flow variability
Robustness to population growth

The feasibility for the sustainable implementation of a management option is scored by means of the
concept of "adaptive capacity". Feasibility is scored by means of a scale from bad to high. A score of at
least "good" is considered feasible. The cumulative score of feasibility indicators corresponds to the
adaptive capacity for that management option. Adaptive capacity is assessed by means of four criteria:
affordability, organizational capacity, cooperation and robustness. Affordability refers to the potential of
either households or the municipality to invest in a management option. The indicator income
generation allows to score the potential for cost recovery. The organizational capacity refers to the
capacity to implement, operate and maintain a management option. The cooperation criterion refers to
the need for stakeholder engagement, the need for education and awareness raising and the need for
coordination between governmental bodies. Robustness finally assesses whether a management option
will work under changing conditions, which are mainly flow variability and population growth in the
Inner Niger Delta. Information on the indicators of adaptive capacity were scarce and if existing,
descriptive. The presented framework provided a semi-quantitative description of the adaptive capacity
and has been developed together with the questionnaire-based approach of Pahl-Wostl et al. (2012).

Jan Cools

87

Tools for River Basin Management

Chapter 5

Figure 5.3 Methodology to integrate human health in into wetland management

Jan Cools

88

Tools for River Basin Management

5.4.

Chapter 5

Results

5.4.1.

Impact of management options

Based on the list of key ecosystem services, uses, water-related pressures and challenges in the Inner
Niger Delta, developed under the multi-disciplinary characterization (step 1) and presented in Rebelo et
al. (2012), a list of criteria has been presented to stakeholders of the Inner Niger Delta, who were asked
to score the importance. The majority of stakeholders considered human health the most important
criterion, followed by water quality and sanitation and provision of food. With respect to disease
prevalence, diarrhoea and malaria were scored as very important followed by schistosomiasis.
Consequently, the list of management options to address these 3 diseases was presented (Table 1), and
shortlisted management options are shown in bold. The impact of the shortlisted management options
is shown in the evaluation matrix in Table 3.
Improved sanitation, the safe disposal of faecal sludge and septic tanks are options that may result in
major improvements for the exposure to excreta and contaminated water and are expected to lead to
major improvements to the diarrhoea prevalence and transmission of Schistomisasis mansoni, especially
when combined with better personal hygiene. The impact they have on the prevalence of malaria and
schistosomiasis (both S. mansoni and S. haematobium) in the urban context of Mopti is limited. Most
malaria mosquitoes prefer clean, sunlit water. The access to safe drinking water may reduce the
transmission of diarrhoea but has less little effect on the transmission of schistosomiasis since the
transmission mainly occurs during domestic (e.g. laundry, bathing) and recreational (e.g. swimming)
activities, carried out in open water bodies. The presence of S. mansoni parasites, that are stimulated
by faecal contamination of surface water, is currently low in Mopti, but might multiply if the planned
intensive irrigation is implemented in similar ways as in the upstream city of Macina, part of the largescale irrigation domain Office du Niger. There, inefficient use of water, abundance of aquatic plants,
stagnant water in irrigation canals and frequent open defecation practices by farmers, together resulted
in increased transmission of schistosomiasis (Coulibaly et al., 2004, Boelee and Madsen, 2006, Schur et
al., 2011).
Improved drainage, by means of infiltration pits and greywater sewers, strongly reduces the presence of
stagnant water in urban areas, but could negatively affect wetland health and community livelihoods
e.g. through reduced fish stocks and predators of mosquito larvae and increased bacterial
contamination of groundwater and surface water. In urban context, storm water drains and controlled
discharge of greywater are major improvements to reduce the diarrhoea prevalence in Mopti city,
especially when combined with an effective disposal system for solid waste, as an option to avoid
obstruction of open drainage canals and the formation of micro-puddles. The disposal of solid waste can
have a limited- positive impact on urban water quality. The above positive and negative impacts are
bigger on urban wetlands compared to rural wetlands as a consequence of the large pressure that urban
areas pose on their wetlands.

Jan Cools

89

Tools for River Basin Management

Chapter 5

The seasonal floods dilute the contaminated water, flush the stagnant water and thus improve water
quality and reduce the presence of stagnant water bodies. Data are lacking to assess the water quality in
the high flood season. Persistent cholera outbreaks during the flood season (e.g. in 2011) show that the
diluted water still contains pathogens for diarrheal diseases.

Improved
Latrines

Safe disposal of
faecal sludge

Water treatment
(Septic tank)

Infiltration pits

Greywater
sewers

Disposal of
solid Waste

Safe drinking water


(deep wells )

Flushed by
seasonal flooding

Table 5.3 Impact of management options on the risk of disease transmission

Rural wetland

++

++

Urban wetland

++

++

++

--

--

++

Urban areas
++
++
++
+
+
Stagnant water (parasites and organisms that can transmit them)

Rural wetland

++

Urban wetland

++

++

Urban areas

++

++

++

Diarrhoeal disease prevalence

++

++

++

++

+/-

Malaria prevalence

Schistosomiasis prevalence

INDICATORS

Contaminated water (pathogens)

Disease prevalence

5.4.2.

Adaptive capacity of management options

The adaptive capacity for improved drinking water is better than for sanitation, mainly as a consequence
of the protected deep wells for drinking water. The adaptive capacity is acceptable for the householdscale options improved latrines and infiltration pits but poor for public, municipal options such as the
greywater sewers and a collection and disposal system for faecal sludge and solid waste. In Malis rural
and urban environment extensive experience exists to construct improved latrines and infiltration pits
that are easy to operate. Investment costs for both options are fully carried by households. The indicator
scores for the adaptive capacity of greywater sewers are shown in the spider diagram (Fig. 4). The
current institutional context scores poorly on aspects of organizational capacity. This refers mainly to
the capacity for operational management and maintenance and to a lesser degree to the needs for
cooperation and coordination with other sectors and the population. Affordability of the investment
Jan Cools

90

Tools for River Basin Management

Chapter 5

cost is an issue for municipalities. Currently cost-recovery schemes are being tested. Further challenges
are the need for improved awareness among households of the value of a clean and safe environment
for human and wetland health and the need for a better understanding of the robustness of
management options to future change, mainly population growth and flow variability. Besides the above
mentioned challenges, additional capacities are needed for the collection and disposal system for faecal
sludge and/or solid waste. A chain of activities and implementers is required to organize the collection,
transport and safe disposal. The weakest link of the chain will cause the whole system to collapse.
Technology for the final disposal, especially of faecal sludge, is heavy on investments and complex to
operate and maintain.

Figure 5.4 Spider diagram showing the feasibility and sustainability for implementation of the management
option greywater sewers; The bold black line is the threshold for an adequate adaptive capacity and
feasibility (at the least the score good)

5.5.

Discussion

The process of defining and scoring management options and criteria was very important in identifying
the range of issues to be considered, their sensitivity to management and in eliciting the values and
concerns of stakeholders. The stakeholders considered the indicators that have an explicit impact on
their life as most important (i.e. diseases, drinking water, sanitation, food provisioning), and more
Jan Cools

91

Tools for River Basin Management

Chapter 5

implicit indicators such as the breeding habitats for parasites and institutional capacity as less
important, potentially due to lack of awareness.
The scoring approach and analysis of the results were kept as simple as possible, in order to facilitate
common stakeholder understanding. By doing this, traditional challenges in multi-criteria analysis such
as the setting of weights, the identification of value functions and consequent normalization of
different, otherwise non-comparable parameters were avoided. Yet, many of the criteria could not be
scored with sufficient sensitivity or reliability to differentiate between the management options. The
main source of validation was formed by the group compromise score and workshop discussions,
whereas validation of the scores by means of quantitative data was difficult. Local models predicting
disease prevalence were not available, nor were models that simulated the pathways for disease
transmission in wetlands. Even though data reports on water quality of the main branch of the Niger
river are available, these did not include parameters needed for a health-driven water quality
assessment such as data on bacterial contamination and an emission inventory of domestic discharge
and sanitation facilities. Groundwater quality is poorly understood as data on stagnant water are only
related to the flood intensity. Even though the presence of large bodies of stagnant water is linked to
the recurrent floods, the presence of stagnant water as such depends to a large degree on difficult to
quantify local scale conditions, such as micro-depressions, solid waste and clogging of drains. In order to
gain a better understanding of the pathways of disease transmission, more insights are required in the
exact sources of bacterial and chemical contamination. Considering that a monitoring strategy is
expensive, logistically not feasible and requires substantial analytical capacity especially for bacterial
contamination (pathogens or coliforms) and organic load, a rapid water quality assessment could be
done as described by Scheren et al. (2000) and Nyenje et al. (2010) for an inventory of the emission
flows and a rapid assessment of the drinking water quality according to Tadesse et al. (2010).
Setting the criteria with qualitative scores aside, as often done in MCA when optimization is the target,
would skew the analysis by ignoring important values, simply because they could not be quantified. In a
data-poor context, where uncertainty in the scoring of criteria is likely to be high, an extensive analysis
of the results leading to the ranking of management options would be of doubtful validity. There is a
tension between the need for a range of criteria to adequately reflect complex values of the system and
complexity swamping the decision process. It is important to include all relevant criteria to assess the
appropriateness of management options such as affordability, long-term maintainability, fit within the
organizational and institutional capacity, robustness to climate change and the acceptance by
stakeholders rather than limiting to a cost-benefit analysis. At a later stage, a detailed analysis might be
required in order to clarify missing elements and to plan implementation in subsequent steps.
The added value of the presented framework is in guiding the integrated decision-making process rather
than the achievement of the most accurate analytical outcomes. The framework mainly proved useful in
revealing and explaining issues across sectors and scales, promoting mutual understanding and
achieving an integrated assessment of the appropriateness of management options. In a data-poor
context, the most pressing requirement is for cooperation and exchange of information. Yet, a careful

Jan Cools

92

Tools for River Basin Management

Chapter 5

strategy has to be developed in order to avoid dropout of essential stakeholders, delays in decisionmaking and high transaction costs.

5.6.

Conclusions

The majority of wetland stakeholders in the Inner Niger Delta considered human health and sanitation
the most important criteria of a list of water-related pressures and challenges. In this paper, a
framework is presented to integrate health risks and opportunities into wetland management plans for
the Inner Niger Delta, Mali structured around the process to evaluate and prioritize the appropriateness
of management options to improve human health.
The major barrier in the Inner Niger Delta was found to be the lack of understanding on how to
sustainably achieve a lower disease burden through water management options. As a contribution to
this challenge, rapid assessment tools and simplified scoring methods were used and proved useful in
explaining issues across sectors and scales, to promote mutual understanding and to achieve an
integrated assessment of the appropriateness of management options. The framework combines data
from different sources and of different degrees of accuracy, suitable for use in contexts where hard data
are often not available. The presented framework can be useful for the strategic assessment of health
and environmental impacts into water resources policies and action plans.

Acknowledgment
The research leading to these results has received funding from the European Union Seventh
Framework Programme (FP7/2007- 2013) under grant agreement n212300. It was carried out in the
frame of the WETwin project.

References
Bartram, J., Cairncross, S., 2010. Hygiene, sanitation, and water: Forgotten foundations of Health. PLoS
Med. 7(11), e1000367. doi: 10.1371/journal.pmed.1000367
Bos, R., Birley, M.H., Furu, P. and Engel, C., 2003. Health Opportunities in Development: A Course Manual on
Developing Intersectoral Decision-Making Skills in Support of Health Impact Assessment. World Health
Organization, Geneva.
Boelee, E., Madsen, H., 2006. Irrigation and Schistosomiasis in Africa: Ecological Aspects. IWMI Research Report 99.
International Water Management Institute, Colombo. doi: 10.3910/2009.099
Birley, M., 2011. Health Impact Assessment, Principles and Practice. Earthscan, Oxford.
Cellule de Planification et de Statistique du Ministre de la Sant (CPS/MS), Direction Nationale de la Statistique et
de lInformatique du Ministre de lconomie, de lIndustrie et du Commerce (DNSI/MEIC) et Macro
International Inc., 2007. Enqute Dmographique et de Sant du Mali 2006.CPS/DNSI et Macro International
Inc., Calverton, Maryland.

Jan Cools

93

Tools for River Basin Management

Chapter 5

Cairncross, S., Hunt, C., Boisson, S., Bostoen, K., Curtis, V., Fung, I.C.H., Schmidt, W-P., 2010. Water, sanitation and
hygiene for the prevention of diarrhoea. Int. J. Epidemiol. 39, i193i205.
Chn, J-M., 2009. Integrated Water Resources Management: Theory versus practice. Nat. Resour. Forum, 33, 25.
Cools, J., Broekx, S., Vandenberghe, V., Sels, H., Meynaerts, E., Vercaemst, P., Seuntjens, P., Van Hulle,S.,
Wustenberghs, H., Bauwens, W., Huygens, M., 2010. Coupling a hydrological water quality model and an
economic optimization model to set up a cost-effective emission reduction scenario for nitrogen. Environ.
Modell. Softw. 26(1), 4451. doi: 10.1016/j.envsoft.2010.04.017
Coulibaly, G., Diallo, M., Madsen, H., Dabo, A., Traor, M., Keita, S., 2004. Comparison of schistosome transmission
in a single- and a double-cropped area in the rice irrigation scheme, Office du Niger, Mali. Acta Tropica, 91,
15-25.
Curtis, V., Cairncross, S., Yonli, R., 2000. Domestic hygiene and diarrhoea - pinpointing the problem. Trop. Med. Int.
Health, 5(1), 2232.
De Clerq, D., Vercruysse, J., Sene, M., Seck, I., Sall, C.S.M., Ly, A., Southgate, V.R., 2000. The effects of irrigated
agriculture on the transmission of urinary schistosomiasis in the Middle and Upper Valleys of the Senegal
Basin. Ann. Trop. Med. Parasit. 6(94), 581590.
Direction Nationale de l'Assainissement et du Contrle des Pollutions et des Nuisances (DNACPN), 2011. Politique
Nationale d'Assainissement du Mali. Oprationnalisation de la stratgie de gestion des dchets liquides Cas
des dchets domestiques en milieu semi-urbain et rural. Volet 1: Options technologiques. Rapport final (Draft
3).
Eisenberg, J.N.S., Scott, J.C., Porco, T., 2007. Integrating disease control strategies: Balancing water sanitation and
hygiene interventions to reduce diarrhoeal disease burden. Am. J. Public Health, 97(5), 846852. doi:
10.2105/AJPH.2006.086207
Erlanger, T.E., Krieger, G.R., Singer, B.H., Utzinger, J., 2008. The 6/94 gap in health impact assessment, Environ.
Impact Assess. 28(4-5), 349358. doi: 10.1016/j.eiar.2007.07.003
Ernould, J. C., Ba, K., Sellin, B., 1999. The impact of the local water-development programme on the abundance of
the intermediate hosts of schistosomiasis in three villages of the Senegal River delta. Ann. Trop. Med. Parasit.
93(2), 135145.
Fewtrell, L., Kaufmann, R.B., Kay, D., Enanoria, W., Haller, L., Colford, J.M., 2005. Water, sanitation, and hygiene
interventions to reduce diarrhoea in less developed countries: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Lancet
Infect. Dis. 5(1), 4252.
Gething, P.W., Patil, A.P., Smith, D.L., Guerra, C.A., Elyazar, I.R.F., Johnston, G.L., Tatem, A.J., Hay, S.I., 2011. A new
world malaria map: Plasmodium falciparum endemicity in 2010. Malaria J. 10, 378.
Global Water Partnership (GWP), 2000. Integrated Water Management. TAC background papers 4. Global Water
Partnership, Stockholm.
Green, K. C., Armstrong, J. S., Graefe, A., 2007. Methods to elicit forecasts from groups: Delphi and prediction
markets compared. Foresight: Int. J. Appl. Forecasting, 8, 1720.
Hajkowicz, S., Collins, K., 2006. A Review of Multiple Criteria Analysis for Water Resource Planning and
Management. Int. Ser. Prog. Wat. Res. 21(9), 15531566.
Horwitz, P., Finlayson, M., Weinstein, P., 2012. Healthy wetlands, healthy people: a review of wetlands and human
health interactions. Ramsar Technical Report 6. Secretariat of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, Gland and
World Health Organization, Geneva.
Howard, G., Charles, K., Pond, K., Brookshaw, A., Hossain, R., Bartram, J., 2010. Securing 2020 vision for 2030:
climate change and ensuring resilience in water and sanitation services. J. Water Clim. Change, 1(1), 216.
Jamison, D.T., Breman, J.G., Measham, A.R., Alleyne, G., Claeson, M., Evans, D.B., Jha, P., Mills, A., Musgrove, Ph.,
2006. Disease Control Priorities in Developing Countries. Second Edition. Oxford University Press, Oxford, and
The World Bank, Washington, D.C.
Jobin W., 1999. Dams and Disease: Ecological Design and Health Impacts of Large Dams, Canals and Irrigation
Systems. Routledge, London.
Johnston, R., Cools, J., Liersch, S., Morardet, S., Murgue, C., Mahieu, M., Zsuffa, I., 2012. WETwin: a structured
approach to evaluating wetland management options in data-poor contexts. Environ. Sci. Policy (this issue).
Keiser, J., Caldas de Castro, M., Maltese, M.F., Bos, R., Tanner, M., Singer, B.H., Utzinger, J. 2005. Effect of
irrigation and large dams on the burden of malaria on a global and regional scale. Am. J. Trop. Med. Hyg. 72(4),
392406.

Jan Cools

94

Tools for River Basin Management

Chapter 5

Leten, J., Zwarts, L., Sanogo, S., Porna Kon, M., Santara, Diakit, L., Diabat, L., Coulibaly, P., 2010. tat des lieux
du Delta Intrieur vers une vision commune de dveloppement [State of the art of the Inner Niger Delta
towards a shared vision for development]. Unpublished report for the Ministry of Environment and Sanitation.
Liersch, S., Cools, J., Kone, B., Koch, H., Diallo, M., Aich, V., Fournet, S., Hatterman, F.F., 2012. Vulnerability of rice
production in the Inner Niger Delta to water resources management under climate variability and change.
Environ. Sci. Policy (this issue).
MA (Millennium Ecosystem Assessment), 2005. Ecosystems and human well-being: Wetlands and water synthesis.
World Resources Institute, Washington, D.C.
Minakawa, N., Sonye, G., Dida, G.O., Futami, K., Kaneko, S., 2008. Recent reduction in the water level of Lake
Victoria has created more habitats for Anopheles funestus. Malaria J. 7, 119, doi:10.1186/1475-2875-7-119
Mara., D, Lane, J., Scott, B., Trouba, D., 2010. Sanitation and Health. PLoS Med. 7(11), e1000363. doi:
10.1371/journal.pmed.1000363
McCartney, M.P., Boelee, E., Cofie, O., Mutero, C.M., 2007. Minimizing the negative environmental and health
impacts of agricultural water resources development in sub-Saharan Africa. IWMI Working Paper 117,
International Water Management Institute, Colombo. doi: 10.3910/2009.297
Morel, A., Diener, S. 2006. Greywater Management in Low and Middle-Income Countries, Review of different
treatment systems for households or neighbourhoods. Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and
Technology (Eawag), Dbendorf.
Norman, G., Chenoweth, J., 2009. Appropriateness of low-cost sewerage for African cities: A questionnaire survey
of expert opinion. Waterlines, 28(4), 311326.
Norman, G., Pedley, S., Takkouche, B., 2010. Effects of sewerage on diarrhoea and enteric infections: a systematic
review and meta-analysis. Lancet Infect. Dis. 10(8), 536544. doi: 10.1016/S1473-3099(10)70123-7
Nyenje, P.M, Foppen, J.W., Uhlenbrook, S., Kulabako, R., Muwanga, A., 2010. Eutrophication and nutrient release
in urban areas of sub-Saharan Africa A review. Sci. Tot. Environ. 408, 447455.
Pahl-Wostl, C., Lebel, L., Knieper, C., Nikitina, E., 2012. From applying panaceas to mastering complexity: toward
adaptive governance in river basins. Environ. Sci. Policy, 23, 2434.
Prss-stn, A., Bos, R., Gore, F., Bartram, J., 2008. Safer water, better health: costs, benefits and sustainability of
interventions to protect and promote health. World Health Organization, Geneva.
Programme National de Lutte contre le Paludisme (PNLP), INFO-STAT et ICF Macro, 2010. Enqute sur la
prvalence de lAnmie et de la Parasitmie palustre chez les enfants (EA&P) au Mali 2010.CPS/DNSI et ICF
Macro, Calverton, Maryland.
PDD-DIN, 2011. Programme de Dveloppement Durable du Delta Intrieur du Niger (2011-2020) (Version
dfinitive). Ministre de l'Environnement et de l'Assainissement, Rpublique du Mali, Bamako.
Ramsar Convention Secretariat, 2010. River basin management: Integrating wetland conservation and wise use
into river basin management. Ramsar handbooks for the wise use of wetlands, 4th edition, vol. 9. Ramsar
Convention Secretariat, Gland.
Rebelo, L.M., Johnston, R., Hein, T., Weigelhofer, G., DHaeyer, T., Cools, J., 2012. Integrating wetlands into
Integrated Water Resource Management: the case of the Inner Niger Delta (Mali) and the Lobau Floodplain
(Austria). Environ. Sci. Policy (this issue).
Rowe, G., Wright, G., 1999. The Delphi technique as a forecasting tool: issues and analysis. Int. J. Forecasting,
15(4), 353375. doi: 10.1016/S0169-2070(99)00018-7
Scheren,P.A.G.M., Zanting,H. A., Lemmens, A. M. C., 2000. Estimation of water pollution sources in Lake Victoria,
East Africa: Application and elaboration of the rapid assessment methodology. J. Environ. Manage. 58, 235
248. doi:10.1006/jema.2000.0322.
Schur, N., Hrlimann, E., Garba, A., Traor, M.S., Ndir, O., 2011. Geostatistical model-based estimates of
schistosomiasis prevalence among individuals aged 20 years in West Africa. PLoS Negl. Trop .Dis. 5(6), e1194.
doi:10.1371/journal.pntd.0001194
Southgate, V.R., 1997. Schistosomiasis in the Senegal River Basin: before and after the construction of the dams at
Diama, Senegal and Manantali, Mali and future prospects. J. Helminthol. 71 (2), 125132.
Steinmann, P., Keiser, J., Bos, R., Tanner, M., Utzinger, J., 2006. Schistosomiasis and water resources development:
systematic review, meta-analysis, and estimates of people at risk. Lancet Infect. Dis. 6 (7), 411425. doi:
10.1016/S1473-3099(06)70521-7

Jan Cools

95

Tools for River Basin Management

Chapter 5

Tetlow, M.F., Hanusch, M., 2012. Strategic Environmental Assessment: the state of the art: Impact Assess. Project
Appraisal, 30(1), 1524. doi:10.1080/14615517.2012.666400
Tadesse, D., Desta, A., Geyid, A., Fisseha, W.G.S., Schmoll, O., 2010. Rapid assessment of drinking-water quality in
the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia: country report of the pilot project implementation in 2004-2005.
WHO/UNICEF, Addis Ababa.
United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), 2012. The UN-Water Status Report on the Application of Integrated
Approaches to Water Resources Management. United Nations Environment Program, Nairobi.
WHO, 2009. Vision 2030. The resilience of water supply and sanitation in the face of climate change. World Health
Organization, Geneva.
WHO/UNICEF, 2012. Joint Monitoring Programme for Water Supply and Sanitation: Progress on drinking water and
sanitation.
Winkler, M.S., Divall, M.J., Krieger, G.R., Balge, M.Z., Singer, B.H., Utzinger, J., 2010. Assessing health impacts in
complex eco-epidemiological settings in the humid tropics: Advancing tools and methods. Environ. Impact
Assess. 30, 5261.
Yewhalaw, D., Legesse, W., Van Bortel, W., Gebre-Selassie, S., Kloos, H., Duchateau, L., Speybroeck, N., 2009.
Malaria and water resource development: the case of Gilgel-Gibe hydroelectric dam in Ethiopia. Malaria J. 8,
21. doi:10.1186/1475-2875-8-21.
Zwarts, L., van Beukering, P., Kone, B., Wymenga, E., 2005. The Niger, a lifeline. Effective water management of the
Upper Niger Basin. RIZA, Lelystad / Wetlands International, Svar / Institute for Environmental studies (IVM),
Amsterdam / A&W ecological consultants, Veenwouden. Mali / the Netherlands.

Jan Cools

96

Tools for River Basin Management

Jan Cools

Chapter 5

97

Tools for River Basin Management

Chapter 6

6. Conclusions
(Based on: Cools, J., Johnston, R., Hattermann, F.F., Douven, W., Zsuffa, I., 2012c. Tools for wetland
management: lessons learnt from a comparative assessment. Submitted to Environmental Science & Policy.)

The concept of Integrated River Basin Management asks for knowledge-based water management and is
demanding on human resources and information. Understanding the challenges facing individual catchments
and understanding the appropriate management responses to these challenges is to be based on sound
information. This not only includes basic monitoring information on state and pressures, but also the
analytical tools to interpret these into determining which measures and instruments need to be applied
where and when, and access to reliable and relevant information upon which decisions can be based. This
information may be provided by scientific tools, but also comes from the public opinion and local experts.
Recognising the above, and as a reminder to chapter 2, the objective of this thesis is:
"To assess how knowledge-based river basin management can be facilitated through the development and
testing of analytical tools in a data-poor and data-rich context"
To support the objective of this thesis, two research questions have been formulated and answered in the
chapters of this thesis. The answers brought in this thesis are summarized below.

6.1.
How to choose the most appropriate tool and related tool
complexity to address context-specific challenges in river basin
management?
Well-calibrated complex high-resolution models can provide detailed and accurate results and provide
added value in generating missing data, future projections and scenarios, or parameter simulation which are
otherwise difficult or impossible to measure (e.g. peak discharge of a flash flood, water balance, chemical
processes, etc...). Models could therefore support wetland and river basin management better than
qualitative tools. However, more complex models have more parameters and are likely to require more and
better data to reach high performance.
Based on the concept of optimal model complexity (Grayson and Blschl, 2000), Fig. 1 shows that for a given
level of data availability (in terms of quantity and quality), an optimal model complexity exists. Efficient
model applications, with the expected level of performance, are situated along the curve on Fig. 1. Using a
more complex model than the data availability allows, results in increased uncertainty because the increase
in parameter uncertainty may be larger than the decrease in model structure uncertainty (Hjberg et al.,
2010). Using a model simpler than the optimum means that the information in the data is not fully exploited.

Jan Cools

98

Tools for River Basin Management

Chapter 6

Figure 1 : optimal model complexity linked to data availability


With regard to this thesis, well-calibrated hydrological models could only be developed for the Nete
catchment in Belgium where the availability of data made it possible. For the Egyptian case study, two
models of similar complexity have been developed, namely a rainfall forecasting model and a rainfall-runoff
model. The performance of the rainfall forecasting models is better than that of the rainfall-runoff model.
The rainfall forecasting is based on the global meteorological model WRF, whereas the calibration of the
rainfall-runoff model was confronted with the lack of data on discharge, and for arid areas, the lack of
information on important infiltration and transmission losses.
Yet, if there is a perceived lack of data and capacity, besides questioning the tool complexity, equally
important is the process used for model development and stakeholder involvement. The 'modelling' process
typically has a long initial phase of data processing and simulation (up to 80% of the available resources and
time). Stakeholders are typically asked for input data in the inception phase and at project closure for
comments on the results. Data providers are not always acknowledged and stakeholders often have limited
knowledge on the possibilities for revision, limitations and assumptions used during data processing and
simulation. Stakeholders then congratulate the scientists with their splendid work and afterwards return to
work, uncertain of how the outcomes could be used in their daily practices. The effort to translate the
modelling results to the daily river basin management practices is considered to be large. River basin
managers see modelling results as an additional layer of complexity and additional information flows that
need to be managed. As a consequence of strict deadlines, limited resources and capacity, impact
assessment - that would benefit the most from modelling results - is rarely done in detail. In this thesis, it
was the aim to avoid the above classical bottlenecks in the science-policy process, but they could not all be
Jan Cools

99

Tools for River Basin Management

Chapter 6

avoided. The processes for model development and stakeholder engagement that have been used in this
thesis are described below, followed by recommendations.
For the Nete River, stakeholders have been involved in the collection of input data, notably the development
of the database of measures, but less in model development and optimization. The need to develop a good
quality database following the data structure of the models, brought decision-makers and experts together.
This includes hydrological modellers (to assess the effectiveness of emission reductions on surface water
quality), economists (cost estimation), engineers (selection of the long list of technical measures and their
emission reduction potentials) and decision-makers from river basin management, agriculture, waste water
treatment in order to match the targets and policy priorities of the River Basin Management Plan (RBMP) for
the Water Framework Directive with existing targets and policy priorities e.g. for the European Nitrates
Directive (agriculture) and Urban Waste Water Treatment Directive. The active engagement of decisionmakers facilitated formal engagements (for decisions made) and inclusion into the budgetary planning of the
RBMP. The prototype for the Nete river has currently been extended to the whole of Belgium and is hence
used as knowledge base for the development of the Programme of Measures of the River Basin
Management Plan for the international river basin district of the Scheldt.
For the Egyptian case study, the local Bedouin community and authority representatives have been involved
throughout the project, mainly with the purpose to avoid conflicts later on. For the early warning system,
rain gauges had to be installed in the catchment, but in previous attempts, some rain gauges were destroyed
by the local community as a protest against the authorities, or dismantled and consequently used for their
daily activities. Goodwill was therefore created with the local community, and agreements made to protect
the rain gauges. Awareness was furthermore raised for the early warning system in development, thereby
showing the relevance for the local community. The national water resources research institute was involved
in the development of the early warning system and later operation and issuing of warnings. The local
authorities were involved to discuss the response to the warning and the integration in the existing
emergency response procedures. Whereas the authorities considered the early warning system as an
appropriate tool to reduce flood risk, the local community saw limited value in the software and preferred
tangible measures to capture floodwater, such as dams and underground reservoirs.
The Bedouins also provided relevant local knowledge to calibrate model parameters where insufficient
quantitative data existed, such as floodwave discharge and infiltration and transmission losses. Even though
Bedouins are not familiar with the required data for model calibration, like peak discharge, infiltration and
transmission losses, they provided relevant information on travel time, maximal flood depth (based on
markings on rock facades), duration of the flash flood and contributing sub-catchments. Videos and photos
on the flash floods further provided additional qualitative information. The rainfall-runoff model for the
Egyptian case offered new insights in the response of the catchment to rainfall. For use in real-time warning,
the performance needs to be tested further, particularly to understand under which conditions false
warnings and lack of warning (missed events) occur.
For the Inner Niger Delta, a wealth of data was available, especially at the 20,000 km scale of the Inner
Niger Delta. However, at the local scale, where global data sets and (publicly available) remote sensing
images did not provide sufficient detail, data came from expert-judgment based scoring and stakeholder
preference elicitation. A more qualitative analytical approach is followed using strong stakeholder
involvement. In order to be able to present an assessment of the status and the drivers of change of the
wetland as the starting point of the discussion, rapid assessment methodologies have been used. Hence,

Jan Cools

100

Tools for River Basin Management

Chapter 6

time is freed up to discuss the most important steps for stakeholders, namely the setting of priorities and
the selection and scoring of management options.
As a conclusion, the process followed for the Nete River can be considered as a good example of
stakeholder-supported model development in data-rich conditions. For a data-poor context, the process for
the Egyptian case study was considered to be too complex. A simpler tool would have matched the available
data and technical capacity better and would have additionally freed up time to assess the potential for
stakeholder-supported calibration further. In the Inner Niger Delta case study, the rapid assessment and
qualitative scoring of the management options was appreciated by stakeholders. The outcomes though
could have benefited through from a more reliable and accurate computer-aided impact assessment for the
indicators that could not be scored well or were good quality data was available. Feedback loops and a
combination of a bottom-up approach with computer-aided modelling are expected to lead to better results.
Future steps could therefore firstly include the replacement of simple models and qualitative scorings by
more complex models and better monitoring such as to provide more and better data. Secondly, it is
important to take the existing tools one step further and translate the scientific outcomes to the needs of
river basin management. Even if better knowledge and data comes available, it will not necessarily resolve
competing views of what constitutes the best outcome, and decisions must still be negotiated in a social and
political, rather than analytical, context.
Finally, the classical wisdom that numerical values are more precise and more accurate than qualitative
values (derived from experts or local knowledge) is challenged. In a context of poor institutional capacity,
measured data are not by definition more reliable than qualitative expert assessments. Meta-data is often
lacking, and measurements might not be systematic and punctual, compromising the comparability of
measurements. In order to validate the expert-judgment based scores, several experts were asked to score
and to agree on a group compromise score and explain the reasons for doing so.

HIGHLIGHTS

Early and sustained stakeholder involvement is essential for effective river basin management. Yet, a
careful strategy has to be developed in order to avoid dropout, saturation, delays in decision-making and
high transaction costs

Rapid assessment methods can reduce the efforts for the assessment of state and drivers of change
while enhancing stakeholder involvement

The choice for the most appropriate model depends on data availability, the needs of decision-makers in
terms of content, capacity and required level of detail and scale. The best choice is highly contextspecific (taregeted problem, geographic scale, socio-economic and institutional context) and a decision
system is needed to help choosing the right tool to the context.

Jan Cools

101

Tools for River Basin Management

Chapter 6

6.2.
How to choose the best management solution in order to
address priority problems of the catchment and achieve policy
targets?
Defining the "best solution" is not straightforward and is highly context-specific. The best solution is likely to
be a series of management options, not limited to an individual management option. The best solution
consists of a range of actions, policies, strategies and interventions undertaken by different actors, from
governments to communities, and can operate from local to international scales, depending on the driver or
issue being addressed. Management options can be technological, infrastructure related, socio-economic
interventions or aim for behavioural changes or institutional strengthening. The concept of "best solution"
implies that the effectiveness of management options can be compared and that some options are better
than others. But on what criteria should they be the best?: the highest technical performance, the cheapest
solution, the highest acceptance by stakeholders, the highest job creation, the highest overall performance
across all criteria, ...
Basically, two approaches are used in this thesis for the selection of the best solution:

Computer-aided optimization (mixed integer linear programming) in the Nete river, Belgium resulted
in a ranking of measures according to cost-effectiveness;

Multi-criteria comparative analysis in the Inner Niger Delta, Mali, fed by the best available
information (quantitative and qualitative); the process is largely stakeholder-driven.

6.2.1. Optimization and ranking on cost-effectiveness for the Nete river, Belgium
An optimization approach was considered relevant for the Nete river considering that the targets and
indicators are pre-defined, measurable and quantitative and a good quality data is available including an
inventory of emissions, water quality data, cost and quantitative impact of measures. Optimization allowed
to capture the in-stream and land-based chemical processes, variability in discharges and scattered emission
loads through the definition of optimization rules, to assess what realistically can and needs to be done and
to maximize comparability of measures. A distinction could also be made between the business-as-usual
(already decided) management options and the options that needed to be implemented additionally to
achieve the targets of the WFD.
Yet, even in the data-rich conditions of the Nete catchment, the outcomes of an optimization tool cannot be
considered as directly useable for implementation. Further negotiation and clarification with/between
stakeholders is needed. The results of a cost-effectiveness analysis should furthermore be interpreted with
care. Stated CE values are to be considered as relative values and not absolute values. Even though costeffectiveness is a relevant criterion, as a consequence of the large uncertainty it is difficult to conclude which
options need to be selected to reach the objectives at the lowest cost, unless the difference between the
cost-effectiveness of measures is so large that the uncertainty would not alter the ranking and selection of
options. The latter conclusion would have justified a more simple, qualitative cost-effectiveness analysis. In
case of doubt between options, other criteria need to be considered rather than aiming to reduce
uncertainty. A more detailed analysis might then be required in the consequent steps in order to clarify
missing elements and to plan implementation
The uncertainty on the obtained cost-effectiveness values may be high and is, amongst others, related to
following difficulties:
Jan Cools

102

Tools for River Basin Management

Chapter 6

1) Measures in agriculture are e.g. not directly comparable to industrial emissions. Emission reductions are
typically in different units (kg N/day) than water quality targets (in concentrations, e.g. mg N/l). For the
conversion, it is important to know the timing and location (distance upstream of the measurement location)
of discharge into the river as well as the in-stream and land-based chemical processes. Losses can further
affect the pollution load and thus the effectiveness.
2) Considering that one additional measure will be not sufficient to reach the water quality targets, the
interaction between measures needs to be addressed, especially the impact of measures already existing,
planned or ongoing. It is important to take into consideration whether the cost is already budgeted for.
3) The comparison of costs is equally challenging due to the lack of information on the calculation method of
the cost. It is important to distinguish which type of costs are included: investment costs, labour costs and/or
operational costs. Are costs one-off or recurrent? Costs are also highly sensitive to the discount rate used
and hence this needs to be carefully assessed, especially if the discounting period is far in the future.

HIGHLIGHTS

In data-rich context, optimization and integrated modelling can support cooperation between experts
and decision-makers.

Cost-effectiveness is an important, but insufficient selection criterion. Cost-effectiveness values are


relative, and might have high propagated uncertainty

6.2.2. Comparative analysis of indicator scores in the Inner Niger Delta (Mali)
The major barrier for effective wetland management in the Inner Niger Delta was found to be the lack of
understanding of what the important issues were, across sectors, and the required institutional capacity to
implement effective wetland management. As a contribution to this challenge, rapid assessment tools and
simplified scoring methods were used and proved useful in explaining issues across sectors and scales, and
were important in creating mutual understanding, even though they did not necessarily present new
scientific insights.
The process of defining and scoring criteria was very important in identifying the range of issues to be
considered, their sensitivity to management and in eliciting the values and concerns of stakeholders. Yet,
there is a tension between the need for a range of criteria to adequately reflect complex values of the
system and complexity swamping the decision process. In the Inner Niger Delta, stakeholder groups
simplified analyses by grouping criteria.
Important for the Inner Niger Delta were the challenges related to the implementation of management
options. Stakeholders in the Inner Niger Delta stressed the importance to assess the feasibility and
robustness of management options, and placed less importance to effectiveness and investment cost. The
reasons for this are the following:

Priority options will not be implemented if the capacity for human, financial, technical or organizational
resources is lacking;

Implemented options may breakdown within 1-3 years as a consequence of the lack of maintenance and
sustained financial, human and organizational resources;

Jan Cools

103

Tools for River Basin Management

Chapter 6

Options might be rendered useless over time as they have become obsolete under the changed
environmental or societal conditions;

The need for capacity building as often the knowledge, institutional capacity and data availability often
has not improved in the next management cycle;

Difficulties to set a baseline scenario and quantitative targets;


Difficulties to estimate and hence compare the effectiveness and investment cost of management
options;

In data-poor context, where uncertainty in scoring of criteria is likely to be high, but is not explicitly assessed,
ranking of management options are of doubtful validity. Many of the criteria could not be scored with
sufficient sensitivity or reliability to differentiate between solutions. Rankings derived from MCA were useful
for exploring the preferences of different stakeholders, but were not appropriate for the final prioritization
of management options.
Case study stakeholders finally sought "no-regret" solutions at the local scale and were reluctant to frame
decisions in terms of direct trade-offs at the local scale (basically winners and losers). Yet, wetland
stakeholders accepted trade-offs at the larger scale. They saw impacts of large upstream developments and
climate change as outside their sphere of influence and hence as inevitable. Trade-offs however are caused
because of an insufficient insight into the collateral damage of a measure someone is taking for their own
benefit; in others, trade-offs are driven by perceived or actual lack of alternatives
Even where the outcomes of future management can be predicted with sufficient certainty, that knowledge
will not necessarily resolve competing views of what constitutes the best outcome, and decisions must be
negotiated in a social and political, rather than analytical, context. The question arises whether the
complexity of truly integrated management of wetlands and catchments is feasible in countries where links
in the governance between different levels are not well developed. In practical terms, the most pressing
requirement is for cooperation and exchange of information on critical links, rather than full integration.

HIGHLIGHTS

Methodology to assess appropriateness of management options in data-poor context

Framework integrates impact, feasibility, institutional capacity and trade-off analysis

In data-poor contexts, analysis supports discussion rather than decision-making

Jan Cools

104

Tools for River Basin Management

6.3.

Chapter 6

Final conclusions

A more knowledge-based river basin management can be facilitated through the use of analytical tools both
in data-poor and data-rich context. Important elements for this are where and how to involve stakeholders
in tool development. If there is a perceived lack of data and capacity, besides questioning the tool
complexity, equally important is the process used for model development and stakeholder involvement.
The role of scientific and technical studies herein is to identify links and interdependencies that may not be
obvious at local level, to provide predictive capacity, and based on this to identify thresholds and tipping
points where management (or lack of it) could fundamentally transform the system. The role of local experts
and stakeholders is to provide insights in the dynamics of the system (bio-physical, socio-economic and
institutional), to highlight pressures and potential conflicts and to assess feasibility, acceptance and
preference of proposed solutions.
This thesis arguments that the development of tools can support integration and cooperation between
experts and decision-makers. Transparency on limitations, assumptions and expected outcomes can
generate trust of the scientific tools with decision-makers. Highly quantitative approaches are only justified
when supported by quality data and quantitative targets. In data-poor context, in order to be effective, tools
and information must be simplified to a level where they can be understood and used by managers, not only
by technical experts, although this does not preclude the need for specialist input. It is hence more effective
to use a more qualitative framework to assess the appropriateness of management options, in combination
with computer-aided support where needed or where data is available. The analysis of impact, feasibility,
institutional capacity and trade-off analysis (potential conflicts, winners and losers of a management option)
in data-poor context supports discussion rather than decision-making.
In data-poor context, the classical wisdom is challenged that numerical values are more precise and more
accurate than qualitative values (derived from experts or local knowledge). In a context of poor institutional
capacity, measured data are not by definition more reliable than qualitative expert assessments. Meta-data
is often lacking, and measurements might not be systematic and punctual, compromising the comparability
of measurements. In order to validate the expert-judgment based scores, several experts were asked to
score and to agree on a group compromise score and explain the reasons for doing so.
In conclusion, this thesis provides lessons learnt from various case studies to facilitate the uptake of tools
from the research community in operational water management. The most pressing requirement for
improved cooperation is the exchange of information in a timely manner and format that policy makers and
the public can readily understand and use. Early and sustained stakeholder involvement is essential for
effective river basin management. Yet, a careful strategy has to be developed in order to avoid dropout,
delays in decision-making and high transaction costs.

Jan Cools

105

Tools for River Basin Management

6.4.

Chapter 6

Recommendations

6.4.1.
Recommendations for knowledge-based river basin
management
The following recommendations are given as the major ones to facilitate knowledge-based river basin
management:

Countries need to develop specific targets, timeframes and measurable progress indicators for preparing
and implementing a programme of solutions and financing strategy to take its integrated approaches to
water resources management forward. The experience with the European Water Framework Directive
(WFD) is valuable also in data-poor countries. A simplified WFD "light" version targeting the importance
of water in poverty reduction, ecosystem conservation and degradation and human health is to be
encouraged

Early and sustained stakeholder involvement is essential for effective river basin management. Yet, a
careful strategy has to be developed in order to avoid dropout, delays in decision-making and high
transaction costs. "Rapid assessment methods" can reduce the efforts for the assessment of state and
drivers of change while enhancing stakeholder involvement

If there is a perceived lack of data and capacity, besides questioning the tool complexity, equally
important is the process used for model development and stakeholder involvement. It is found that the
development of tools, rather than the outcomes, can support integration and cooperation between
experts and decision-makers

At local scale, look for expert-judgment based scoring and stakeholder preference elicitation. In a
context of poor institutional capacity, measured data are not by definition more reliable than qualitative
expert assessments

The process of defining and scoring criteria is very important in identifying the range of issues to be
considered, their sensitivity to management and in eliciting the values and concerns of stakeholders. Yet,
there is a tension between the need for a range of criteria to adequately reflect complex values of the
system and complexity swamping the decision process

Look for mutual understanding through better data sharing, cooperation and the identification of noregret solutions rather than trade-offs. Trade-offs are caused because of an insufficient insight into the
collateral damage of a measure someone is taking for their own benefit; in others, trade-offs are driven
by perceived or actual lack of alternatives

River Basin Management is strongly affected by natural hazards. A better integration of disaster risk
reduction (especially floods) with RBM is needed. Investment in effective early warning systems (EWS)
and better preparedness and emergency response can be beneficial.

Jan Cools

106

Tools for River Basin Management

6.4.2.

Chapter 6

Recommendations for future research

The following recommendations are relevant to research further:

More research is needed on how to improve the use of scientific tools in operational river basin
management. This includes further development in choosing the most appropriate tool and best
management solutions that matches to the local context.

Further development of alternative data sources, in case of data scarcity, including a better
understanding of the propagated uncertainty and limitations alternative data sources. This can be:

Qualitative, expert judgment based knowledge (through rapid assessment techniques,


questionnaires, group compromises and crowd sourcing)

Through downscaling of global data sets and the better use of remote sensing for river basin
management

Better platforms share and exchange data and good practices in data-poor regions.

To identify the factors of success and failure for the integration of the components of river basin
management, with attention to the integration of:
o

Local knowledge and scientific quantitative data

Wetlands, flood risk management and public health in river basin management

Stakeholder preferences in river basin management planning without delays in decisionmaking and high transaction costs

More research on the underlying drivers of risk and the development of an effective early warning
system. To do this, four elements must be in place:
o

Accurate hazard warning

Assessment of likely risk and impact associated with the hazard

Timely and understandable communication of the warning

Capacity to act on the warning, particularly at the local level.

Better understanding of the impacts, vulnerability, robustness to change, trade-offs and potential
conflicts of potential management options, including the impact on the ecosystem, livelihood and
institutional performance. This recommendation is linked to the need to set realistic quantitative policy
targets and likelihood that it can be achieved.

Jan Cools

107