Optimal water resource allocation modelling in the Lowveld of Zimbabwe

Mhiribidi, Delight; Nobert, Joel; Gumindoga, Webster; Rwasoka, Donald T.

The management and allocation of water from multi-reservoir systems is complex and thus requires dynamic modelling systems to achieve optimality. A multi-reservoir system in the Southern Lowveld of Zimbabwe is used for irrigation of sugarcane estates that produce sugar for both local and export consumption. The system is burdened with water allocation problems, made worse by decommissioning of dams. Thus the aim of this research was to develop an operating policy model for the Lowveld multi-reservoir system.

The Mann Kendall Trend and Wilcoxon Signed-Rank tests were used to assess the variability of historic monthly rainfall and dam inflows for the period 1899–2015. The WEAP model was set up to evaluate the water allocation system of the catchment and come-up with a reference scenario for the 2015/2016 hydrologic year. Stochastic Dynamic Programming approach was used for optimisation of the multi-reservoirs releases.

Results showed no significant trend in the rainfall but a significantly decreasing trend in inflows ( p < 0.05). The water allocation model (WEAP) showed significant deficits ( ∼  40 %) in irrigation water allocation in the reference scenario. The optimal rule curves for all the twelve months for each reservoir were obtained and considered to be a proper guideline for solving multi- reservoir management problems within the catchment. The rule curves are effective tools in guiding decision makers in the release of water without emptying the reservoirs but at the same time satisfying the demands based on the inflow, initial storage and end of month storage.

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Mhiribidi, Delight / Nobert, Joel / Gumindoga, Webster / et al: Optimal water resource allocation modelling in the Lowveld of Zimbabwe. 2018. Copernicus Publications.

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