Most parts of Somalia are facing serious drought conditions with the larger part of the population facing severe to extreme drought conditions. Since the last half of 2016, the severity has been spreading spatially and the impacts getting worse with time. Some climate models are already predicting a poor rainy season in the coming season which may further aggravate the existing drought conditions. However, this forecast will be confirmed in the coming month during a regional Climate Outlook Forum.
The months of January and February usually experience the lowest amounts of river flow along the Shabelle River. January 2017, has however seen significantly below normal levels along the river since the beginning of the month. Some parts of the river in the lower reaches have dried up. This has been caused by below normal rains experienced in the upper parts of the Shabelle basin during the previous season which in turn has led to reduced river flow and over utilization of the river water for various uses both in Ethiopia and inside Somalia. Information from Ethiopian side of the basin indicate low river levels. The decreasing trend is expected to continue in the next weeks as no rains are foreseen.
River levels along the Shabelle River in Ethiopia are also currently below normal. Water levels have decreased significantly in the Melka Wakena Hydroelectric Power Station in Ethiopia located in the upper part of the Shabelle river. There are reported cases of water diversion from the river for irrigation purposes in Gode and Khellafo areas (some 50 kilometers from the Somali border). With no rains expected in the coming week, the situation is likely to deteriorate further with reduction of the river flow inside Somalia.
The low flows along the Shabelle River both in Somalia and Ethiopia are due to a hydrological drought within the basin, specially in the upper part. Water availability for human and animal use will continue to deteriorate until the river levels increase. The reduced river flow currently cannot support irrigated agriculture especially in Middle and Lower Shabelle reaches. This will affect the livestock, agriculture and all other water dependent sectors adversely. It is advisable to take advantage of the current situation and close any open river breakages and weak river embankments along the river. De-siltation of the river bed is also highly recommended at this time. SWALIM and other technical partners will keep monitoring and updating the situation