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The Role of Multimodel Climate Forecasts in Improving Water and Energy Management over the Tana River Basin, Kenya

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  • 1 Department of Meteorology, University of Nairobi, Nairobi, Kenya
  • | 2 Department of Civil, Construction, and Environmental Engineering, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, North Carolina
  • | 3 Columbia Water Center, Columbia University, New York, New York
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Abstract

The Masinga Reservoir located in the upper Tana River basin, Kenya, is extremely important in supplying the country's hydropower and protecting downstream ecology. The dam serves as the primary storage reservoir, controlling streamflow through a series of downstream hydroelectric reservoirs. The Masinga dam's operation is crucial in meeting power demands and thus contributing significantly to the country's economy. La Niña–related prolonged droughts of 1999–2001 resulted in severe power shortages in Kenya. Therefore, seasonal streamflow forecasts contingent on climate information are essential to estimate preseason water allocation. Here, the authors utilize reservoir inflow forecasts downscaled from monthly updated precipitation forecasts from ECHAM4.5 forced with constructed analog SSTs and multimodel precipitation forecasts developed from the Ensemble-Based Predictions of Climate Changes and their Impacts (ENSEMBLES) project to improve water allocation during the April–June and October–December seasons for the Masinga Reservoir. Three-month-ahead inflow forecasts developed from ECHAM4.5, multiple GCMs, and climatological ensembles are used in a reservoir model to allocate water for power generation by ensuring climatological probability of meeting the end-of-season target storage required to meet seasonal water demands. Retrospective reservoir analysis shows that inflow forecasts developed from single GCM and multiple GCMs perform better than use of climatological values by reducing the spill and increasing the allocation for hydropower during above-normal inflow years. Similarly, during below-normal inflow years, both of these forecasts could be effectively utilized to meet the end-of-season target storage by restricting releases for power generation. The multimodel forecasts preserve the end-of-season target storage better than the single-model inflow forecasts by reducing uncertainty and the overconfidence of individual model forecasts.

Corresponding author address: A. Sankarasubramanian, Department of Civil, Construction and Environmental Engineering, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC 27695-7908. E-mail: sankar_arumugam@ncsu.edu

Abstract

The Masinga Reservoir located in the upper Tana River basin, Kenya, is extremely important in supplying the country's hydropower and protecting downstream ecology. The dam serves as the primary storage reservoir, controlling streamflow through a series of downstream hydroelectric reservoirs. The Masinga dam's operation is crucial in meeting power demands and thus contributing significantly to the country's economy. La Niña–related prolonged droughts of 1999–2001 resulted in severe power shortages in Kenya. Therefore, seasonal streamflow forecasts contingent on climate information are essential to estimate preseason water allocation. Here, the authors utilize reservoir inflow forecasts downscaled from monthly updated precipitation forecasts from ECHAM4.5 forced with constructed analog SSTs and multimodel precipitation forecasts developed from the Ensemble-Based Predictions of Climate Changes and their Impacts (ENSEMBLES) project to improve water allocation during the April–June and October–December seasons for the Masinga Reservoir. Three-month-ahead inflow forecasts developed from ECHAM4.5, multiple GCMs, and climatological ensembles are used in a reservoir model to allocate water for power generation by ensuring climatological probability of meeting the end-of-season target storage required to meet seasonal water demands. Retrospective reservoir analysis shows that inflow forecasts developed from single GCM and multiple GCMs perform better than use of climatological values by reducing the spill and increasing the allocation for hydropower during above-normal inflow years. Similarly, during below-normal inflow years, both of these forecasts could be effectively utilized to meet the end-of-season target storage by restricting releases for power generation. The multimodel forecasts preserve the end-of-season target storage better than the single-model inflow forecasts by reducing uncertainty and the overconfidence of individual model forecasts.

Corresponding author address: A. Sankarasubramanian, Department of Civil, Construction and Environmental Engineering, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC 27695-7908. E-mail: sankar_arumugam@ncsu.edu
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