Advances in water resources research in the Upper Blue Nile basin and the way forward: A review
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The Upper Blue Nile basin is considered as the lifeline for ∼250 million people and contributes ∼50 Gm3/year of water to the Nile River. Poor land management practices in the Ethiopian highlands have caused a significant amount of soil erosion, thereby threatening the productivity of the Ethiopian agricultural system, degrading the health of the aquatic ecosystem, and shortening the life of downstream reservoirs. The Upper Blue Nile basin, because of limited research and availability of data, has been considered as the “great unknown.” In the recent past, however, more research has been published. Nonetheless, there is no state-of-the-art review that presents research achievements, gaps and future directions. Hence, this paper aims to bridge this gap by reviewing the advances in water resources research in the basin while highlighting research needs and future directions. We report that there have been several research projects that try to understand the biogeochemical processes by collecting information on runoff, groundwater recharge, sediment transport, and tracers. Different types of hydrological models have been applied. Most of the earlier research used simple conceptual and statistical approaches for trend analysis and water balance estimations, mainly using rainfall and evapotranspiration data. More recent research has been using advanced semi-physically/physically based distributed hydrological models using high-resolution temporal and spatial data for diverse applications. We identified several research gaps and provided recommendations to address them. While we have witnessed advances in water resources research in the basin, we also foresee opportunities for further advancement. Incorporating the research findings into policy and practice will significantly benefit the development and transformation agenda of the Ethiopian government.