Understanding the relationship between hydrological processes and environmental changes is important for improved water management. The Geba catchment in Ethiopia, forming the headwaters of Tekeze-Atbara basin, was known for its severe land degradation before the recent success in integrated watershed management. This study analyses the hydrological response attributed to land management change using an integrated approach composed of (i) simulating the hydrological response of Land Use/Cover (LULC) changes; (ii) assessing the alteration of streamflow using Alteration of Hydrological Indicators (IHA); and (iii) quantifying the contribution of individual LULC types to the hydrology using Partial Least Square Regression model (PLSR). The results show that the expansion of agricultural and grazing land at the expense of natural vegetation has increased the surface runoff 77% and decreased dry season flow by 30% in the 1990s compared to 1970s. However, natural vegetation started to recover from the late 1990s and dry season flows increased by 16%, while surface runoff declined by 19%. More pronounced changes of the streamflow were noticed at sub-catchment level, mainly associated with the uneven spatial distribution of land degradation and rehabilitation. However, the rate of increase of low-flow halted in the 2010s, most probably due to an increase of water withdrawals for irrigation. Fluctuations in hydrological alteration parameters are in agreement with the observed LULC change. The PLSR analysis demonstrates that most LULC types showed a strong association with all hydrological components. These findings demonstrate that changing water conditions are attributed to the observed LULC change dynamics. The combined analysis of rainfall-runoff modelling, alteration indicators and PLSR is able to assess the impact of environmental change on the hydrology of complex catchments. The IHA tool is robust to assess the magnitude of streamflow alterations obtained from the hydrological model while the PLSR method is useful to zoom into which LULC is responsible for this alteration.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1155-1167
Number of pages13
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Publication statusPublished - 2019

    Research areas

  • Geba catchment, Hydrological processes, IHA analysis, Land use/cover, PSLR analysis, Wflow model

ID: 51123454