Future Scenarios of Surface Water Resources Availability in North African Dams

Tramblay, Yves ; Jarlan, Lionel ; Hanich, Lahoucine ; Somot, Samuel

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Climate change may have strong impacts on water resources in developing countries. In North Africa, many dams and reservoirs have been built to secure water availability in the context of a strong inter-annual variability of precipitation. The goal of this study is to evaluate climate change impacts on surface water resources for the largest dams in Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia using high-resolution (12 km) regional climate models (RCM) simulations. To evaluate the atmospheric demand (evapotranspiration), two approaches are compared: The direct use of actual evaporation simulated by the RCMs, or estimation of reference evapotranspiration computed with the Hargreaves-Samani (HAR) equation, relying on air temperature only, and the FAO-Penman Monteith (PM) equation, computed with temperature, wind, radiation and relative humidity. Results showed a strong convergence of the RCM simulations towards increased temperature and a decrease in precipitation, in particular during spring and the western part of North Africa. A decrease in actual evapotranspiration, highly correlated to the decrease in precipitations, is observed throughout the study area. On the opposite, an increase in reference evapotranspiration is observed, with similar changes between HAR and PM equations, indicating that the main driver of change is the temperature increase. Since the catchments are rather water-limited than energy-limited, despite opposite projections for actual and reference evapotranspiration a decrease of water availability is projected for all basins under all scenarios, with a strong east-to-west gradient. The projected decrease is stronger when considering reference evapotranspiration rather than actual evaporation. These pessimistic future projections are an incentive to adapt the current management of surface water resources to future climatic conditions.

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