Scientists To West Africa: Build On Wind, Solar Power

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Written by Dana Sanchez

Six countries sharing West Africa’s Volta River Basin have been warned to broaden their mix of renewable energy including wind and solar and ease off of depending on hydro power or face dire water shortages due to global warming, according to a report in TimesLive.

Ghana, Burkina Faso, Benin, Ivory Coast, Mali and Togo could see water flows fall by 24 percent by 2050 and by 45 percent by 2100, says a report from the International Water Management Institute, Ghana’s Council for Scientific and Industrial Research and the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany.

Scientists commonly assume the West African region will warm by up to 3.6 degrees Celsius (6.5 degrees Fahrenheit) by 2100, , the report said. The area relies on agriculture for 40 percent of its economic output.

A decline in water will impact hydro-electric dams such as the massive Akosombo Dam, which created Lake Volta, the world’s largest man-made lake by surface area and the fourth biggest reservoir by volume.

By 2050, existing and planned hydro schemes will perform at 52 percent of capacity, and by 2100, will run at 28 percent because water flows will be so poor, the report said.

Irrigation would also be affected. By 2050, just 75 percent of annual irrigation water demand will be met. By 2100, this is expected to drop to 32 percent.

The report was released to coincide with a meeting of African agricultural scientists in Ghana, the TimesLive report said.

Scientists suggested ways of storing water to avoid evaporation. One method would be to replenish rural aquifers with water taken from rivers or reservoirs, a recharging technique used increasingly in other arid regions.

“An unreliable supply of water for irrigation will have serious consequences for a region where most people are farmers,” said hydrologist Matthew McCartney, who headed the report. “Beyond that, there is an urgent need to shift more food production away from rain-fed (irrigation) systems that are subject to the vagaries of climate.”