Pan-Africa Hydropower Reoperation Survey – The purpose of this project was to advance the ability of the World Bank Group and the Regional Development Banks to assist developing countries in enhancing water service benefits from existing hydropower facilities. These benefits include both power generation and the livelihoods and food production systems that are dependent upon a health river system. NHI created an analytical tool and applied it to the 141 existing hydropower dams in Sub-Saharan Africa to evaluate the potential for beneficial reoperation of hydropower facilities. Called REOPS, the tool is suitable for application to hydropower facilities anywhere in the world, yet is transparent and simple enough to be used without substantial training or technical fluency and in data-poor environments.
The final report includes for each hydropower facility a brief description of the reoperation concept that appears to be most worthy of further exploration and a list of the sixteen facilities that appear to warrant a more definitive technical feasibility. Check out the REOPS Tool & Guidance Notes for Hydropower and Irrigation Systems.
Sharing Water: Transboundary Management of the Okavango River – The Okavango River is one of the last undeveloped rivers in the world, and at the end of its course, it creates one of the largest and most biologically rich inland deltas in the world. This pristine environment is home to myriad species of animals and plants that have escaped the impact of modern industrial and municipal human development. Yet the three basin states — Angola, Namibia, and Botswana — face pressing developmental needs that place demands on the fragile river environment, making it critical that they develop an integrated basin plan to ensure a sustainable future for the basin. NHI led a multi-party collaboration that was designed to integrate both local and national development needs, as well as the uncertainties associated with management of a highly variable system. NHI’s approach built the commitment and knowledge base needed to manage this complex basin. Project objectives included:
- Promoting joint fact-finding through development of a Shared Okavango/Cubango Data Base and a transparent decision-making model of the basin;
- Broadening stakeholder participation in the OKACOM planning process, particularly for Angolan water managers and stakeholders; and
- Building regional capacity to analyze complex scenarios and work towards a consensus decision.
Akosombo & Kpong Dam Reoperation Study on the Lower Volta River, Ghana –This project was conceived and organized by NHI and officially launched with Ghanaian partners in Accra in August 2012 with funding from the African Water Facility. The Water Resources Commission (WRC) of Ghana served as the project Executing Agency. The purpose of the project was to investigate techniques for reoptimizing the operation of Akosombo and Kpong dams and the electrical grid they supply to enable a more natural flow pattern to be re-established into the Lower Volta River. The construction of Akosombo Dam on the Volta River in 1965 created one of the largest man-made reservoirs in the world. Along with Kpong dam, the flow alteration from dam operations has caused a drastic reduction in floodplain agriculture, an explosion of exotic weeds that have choked off the once lucrative shell fishery, an increase in disease vectors for the debilitating bilharzias, and the formation of a permanent sandbar at the estuary that is depriving the coastline of the sediment replenishment needed to counteract massive erosion. The desired output of the project was a technically and economically feasible reoperation plan for Akosombo and Kpong dams that will reinvigorate the Volta River and local livelihoods. The project also intended to contribute learning on the efficacy of regional grid integration and the efficacy of utilizing floodplain reconnection in conjunction with reservoir reoperation to reduce flood risks and restore aquatic habitats. The NHI Team, which included experts from Purdue Energy Center, University of Stuttgart and Cornell University, was responsible for developing key analytical tools, such as the Purdue University West African Power Pool (WAPP) model. Some of this work was published in an article in Energy and is available on the Publications Page.
Rio Bravo-Rio Grande Physical Assessment – NHI, the University of Texas, Austin, the United States Geological Survey, WWF-Mexico, Universidad Autonoma de Ciudad Juarez, and Instituto Mexicano de Tecnologica del Agua are trying to improve water management in the Rio Grande Basin – from the headwaters of the Rio Conchos in the Mexican state of Chihuahua to the confluence with the Rio Grande. The river is one of the most environmentally degraded rivers in North America, described by former U.S. Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt as a “water system in crisis.” Together, the bi-national team is examining the hydro-physical opportunities for expanding beneficial uses of the fixed and highly variable water supply in the Rio Grande Basin to better address an array of possible water management objectives, including satisfying currently unmet consumptive and environmental water needs. The project is designed to be a comprehensive, outcome-neutral, model-based planning exercise that will illuminate the potential for reducing future conflicts over water throughout the entire basin.
Great Lakes Restoration Opportunities Assessment – NHI worked with local partners Cornell University, the Nature Conservancy, and the Toronto & Region Conservation Authority to develop a process and set of analytical tools to identify the most feasible and ecologically beneficial restoration opportunities in Lake Ontario as the first step toward a basin-wide system to reliably predict ecosystem benefits that will result from restoration investments. In the bi-national Great Lakes Basin, the Great Lakes Charter Annex commits the eight governors of the U.S. States and the two premieres of the Canadian provinces to manage the system as an integral whole, recognizing that development decisions by any one jurisdiction affect the ecological health of the entire watershed. The outcome of this project was a replicable framework, complete with a decision support analytical tool and a process for its utilization, made available throughout the entire Great Lakes region.
Protecting Migratory Songbirds on Bi-National San Pedro River – The Upper San Pedro River watershed, which straddles the United States-Mexico border in Arizona and Sonora, is important aquatic migratory songbird habitat that in 1998 became the first Riparian National Conservation Area in the US. Unfortunately, this region is also an example of the widespread groundwater management crisis affecting arid lands. NHI led a bi-national, multi-disciplinary team of experts in an independent assessment of the biohydrologic problems and solution opportunities for the Commission on Environmental Cooperation, which was created by the environmental side agreement to the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). The resulting expert report and its recommendations are accepted as the platform on which to build a community dialogue that we hope will lead to a basin-generated mix of solution initiatives to address the daunting challenges facing this biologically important bi-national resource.