Conference paper

Analysis of flow regime changes due to operation of large reservoirs on the Zambezi River

The Zambezi Basin, a semi-arid 1.4 Mio km2 catchment area spreading across eight countries, constitutes a highly complex system. With several large dams, namely Kariba, Cahora Bassa, Kafue Gorge and Itezhi-Tezhi, the basin’s hydrology is also influenced by vast wetlands with high ecological value such as the Barotse plains, the Mana Pools or the Kafue flats. The African DAms ProjecT (ADAPT) is an interdisciplinary research project aiming to develop an integrated set of methods that help assessing the ecological and socio-economic effects of dams.Acomprehensive evaluation and characterization of the flow regimes before and after the dam’s construction is a stepping stone towards this goal. The analysis is based on historical data, taking into account the evolution of existing reservoirs and hydropower plants. Three indicators are considered to describe the flow regimes in the basin. They allow quantifying the seasonal transfer of the water, the subweekly flow fluctuations and the intensity and frequency of the flow changes. In a further stage, a semi-distributed conceptual hydrological model will be built to simulate the flow regime with and without dams for actual and future hydrological scenarios.

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