Space-Enabled Modeling of the Niger River to Enhance Regional Water Resources Management (SEMOR)
River and floodplain landscapes are constantly undergoing change due to natural and manmade processes putting pressure on fluvial systems, such as reservoirs, intensive agriculture, irrigation, high-impact repetitive droughts and floods and the overall effects of climate change. All these bring about considerable changes, some of which irreversibly degrade ecosystem services, local economies and impact lives, particularly in sensitive transitional zones, such as the Sahel region in Africa and its Niger River Basin (NRB). Each year, there has been an upward trend in how many people are affected by these seasonal rains and floods, and the population struggles to cope with the effects. Probably the most devastating floods in Niger happened in late summer 2020, defined the worst floods in its history, affecting over half a million people in one season.
The number of people affected by floods has doubled since 2015, as well as increasing damage including destruction of crops and loss of livestockUnited Nations
The Niger River is the main river of West Africa, with an extension of about 4 180 km and a drainage basin of 2 117 700 km2 in area. Its source is in the Guinea Highlands in south-eastern Guinea near the Sierra Leone border and It runs in a crescent through Mali, Niger, on the border with Benin and then through Nigeria, discharging through a massive delta (the Niger Delta) into the Gulf of Guinea in the Atlantic Ocean. The Niger is the third-longest river in Africa, exceeded only by the Nile and the Congo River.
Both water resources development and management are strongly dependent on the availability of data, yet data collection and hydrometric measurement are not fully implemented in most part of the NRB. There is also a need for institutional reforms to resuscitate the many abandoned hydrometric stations or find alternatives, coupled with training of local agencies and researcher in hydraulic engineering, water resources planning and management.
Together with regional and local public and private partners in Niger and Luxembourg, this project is addressing the current data challenge in the NRB, specifically the middle reaches, by proposing a low-cost and sustainable space-based ICT solution that will be transferred and maintained by the public partner institution, AGRHYMET, in Niger. Our solution uses industry-proven affordable small water level sensors complemented by public, open-access satellite Earth observation (EO) data and RSS-Hydro’s drones for local river and floodplain topography to build a flood inundation model as well as a sustainable river monitoring network along the middle reaches of the NRB in Niger.
The flood model has already been built for Mali with colleagues from the University of Bristol. Here we use the same underlying model input data and parameters to extend the model all the way to Niger, which is about 90% of the total length of the river and flows across several countries of the Sahel. The team uses the new data streams to extend and improve predictions of RSS-Hydro’s existing 2-D flood inundation model in the NRB that will be then shared with the local partner AGRHYMET, that can use it to simulate events and climate change scenarios. We complement the model transfer with capacity training workshop(s) in Earth Observation and model use for floods and droughts. The team also uses open access EO data to estimate drought patterns to identify possible drought risks in Niger. This can be done through the use of optical (Sentinel-2) and thermal (Sentinel-3) data at a resolution of 10m in order to achieve the high resolution to identify different spatial drought patterns. By using EO data for flood extent and drought risk, these data can be used to extrapolate these methods to other flood and drought affected areas in Africa as well as globally due to the openly available data required as inputs.
The partners work as a consortium of local and international experts in the fields of geospatial and sensors technologies, hydrology, and climate change:
Innovative development aid project supported by the Business Partnership Facility (BPF) Luxembourg, with the mission to enable the implementation of sustainable business projects in developing countries through successful public-private partnership.
Check the project page on the space4water portal.
- Support the data against floods and droughts
- Improvement of regional predictions of hydrological extremes
- Increase of communities’ resilience
- Monitoring equipment provision
- Local job creation, trainings
- Regional/national working groups – meteorological, hydrological, crops, pastures conditions monitoring
- Positive regional economic and environmental impacts
- Margherita Bruscolini (2021). SEMOR: The innovative aid project enhancing flood management of the Niger River. Innovation News Network article
- Space-Enabled Modeling of the Niger River to Enhance Regional Water Resources Management. Space4Water portal
- Margherita Bruscolini, lightning talk at the United Nations/Ghana/PSIPW – 5th International conference on the use of space technology for water resources management (10-13 May 2022)