Negotiating Nile infrastructure management should consider climate change uncertainties

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Based on 29 climate projections, we find that both the sign and magnitude of potential changes in naturalized streamflow of the Nile in 2021–2050 are highly uncertain. These uncertainties spark the need for an adaptive and cooperative approach. We show that cooperative adaptive management of the GERD yields compromise solutions with economy-wide benefits to Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt compared with a proposal discussed in Washington, D.C. in 2020 (Fig. 1). Under an example compromise solution (Fig. 1), the mean (based on 29 projections) discounted (at 3%) real gross domestic product (GDP) increases by US$0.77, 0.67 and 0.18 billion in 2020–2045 for Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt, respectively, relative to the Washington draft proposal. These benefits are more pronounced under extreme climate scenarios, with rises in discounted real GDP of up to US$15.8, 6.3 and 3.0 billion over 2020–2045 for Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt, respectively. Our results should be complemented by evaluating the impacts on ecology, groundwater and riparian populations.

Fig. 1: Ethiopian, Sudanese and Egyptian economic and river system performance under the best-performing designs of an adaptive GERD operating approach, considering 29 climate change projections for 2020–2045.

Each line of the parallel coordinates plot shows the performance achieved by one of the Pareto-efficient adaptive designs or policies, that is, a policy that, if further improved for one performance metric, would imply a reduction in one or more other performance metrics. All change values are calculated from a baseline in which the GERD is operated based on the Washington draft proposal. The upward direction on each axis indicates better performance (that is, a ‘perfect adaptive plan’ would be a straight line across the top); diagonal lines between neighbouring axes imply tradeoffs, whereas horizontal ones show synergies. The firm power values are calculated based on a 90% reliability, and the real GDP values are discounted at a 3% rate. bcm, billion cubic metres.

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