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Comparative assessment of the water balance and hydrology of selected Ethiopian and Kenyan Rift Lakes

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The study area is part of the East African Rift system, characterized by a cluster of lakes occupying an extremely faulted rift floor with geothermal manifestations. Some of the lakes illustrated contrasting water levels and size evolution over the last few decennia, believed to have been caused by various natural and anthropogenic factors. The relative importance of these factors, however, is unknown. This study attempts to present the hydrology of the lakes in a broader context, by giving more emphasis to lake water level fluctuations and to the water balance. These factors have far-reaching implications in regard to future management of the lake basin water. It also provides information on the relation of the groundwater with the lakes, and with the local and regional groundwater flow system from the adjacent highlands to the floor of the Rift. The methods utilized in this study include conventional hydrogeological field surveys, and hydrometeorological and data analyses, coupled with digital image processing and spatial analysis under a Geographic Information System environment. Ancillary supporting information has been obtained from environmental isotopes and hydrochemical data. The study results indicate the terminal Ethiopian lakes changed in size and water level significantly over the last half century. In contrast, the Kenyan lakes only exhibited slight changes. The lakes in both countries exhibit a striking similarity in their subsurface hydraulic connection, and are strongly governed by complex rift geological structures. Groundwater plays a vital role in the water balance of the study lakes. The study results indicate that future sustainable use of the study lakes demands that serious attention be given to the role of the groundwater component of the lake water balances.

Keywords: Ethiopian and Kenyan lakes; groundwater; hydrology; lakes level; water balance

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: International Institute for Geo-information Sciences and Earth Observation (ITC), Hengelosestraat 99, PO Box 6, 7500 AA, Enschede, The Netherlands

Publication date: 2008-09-01

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