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Volta Basin Integrated Water Resource Management – Academic Work

This academic research project is done in part of CIE4450 Integrated Water Resource Management course. We used the Volta Basin for the case study and the World Bank as our client.

This article is written based on assignment that is submitted.


Figure 1. Overview of the Volta Basin

The Volta Basin, located in West Africa and covering parts of Ghana, Burkina Faso, Togo, Benin, Côte d’Ivoire, and Mali, provides its 14 million inhabitants with an important water source. The water is used for irrigation, domestic and industrial purposes, and energy production. Facing challenges that lead to increased water demand in the future, like expected population growth, combined with strains on resources, such as climate change, The World Bank is looking for efficient investments in the Volta Basin region that lead to societal and economical development.

To this end, the High Voltage research group aimed to answer the following question: what actions could The World Bank take to aid societal and economical development in the Volta Basin from a water management perspective? The World Bank took a special interest in the development of small reservoirs for irrigation and its effect on the other water uses of the Volta River. Moreover, The World Bank aims to eradicate extreme poverty (people that live with $1.90 per day or less) by the year 2030. This is one of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that The World Bank strives for.

Method and Outcomes

Burkina Faso and Ghana who make up approximately 85% of the basin area become the focus in this research. For these countries, predictions regarding population growth and climate change are made for the years up to 2070 with an important milestone on 2030.

A literature review is conducted to retrieve data on hydrology, land use, water demand, climate change, and sociological and economical factors. It is found the main income throughout the basin is provided by the agricultural sector. Water demand is dominated by domestic demand, irrigation, and livestock. Industrial use only makes up a small part of the total demand and assumed negligible.

A water management model is created by WEAP software. Data on climate change and population growth are extrapolated to form four scenarios; limited or exponential population growth is combined with limited (RPC2.6) or more extreme (RPC8.5) climate change. Small reservoirs implementation impact was analyzed under different scenarios.

Figure 2. Total unmet water demand in the Volta basin for population scenarios against small reservoirs implementation (2020-2070)

The WEAP model shows that climate change has a limited effect on water supply, but it does lead to a higher seasonal variability: the dry seasons become dryer and rainy seasons wetter. Exponential population growth is predicted to lead to 3.5 times higher water demand than limited population growth. Small reservoirs aid in coping with seasonal variability and reducing unmet water demand.

A stakeholder analysis is conducted based on the influence and interest of possible involved actors. Demands and wishes of the most important involved actors are listed in order to predict their take on the proposed measures for The World Bank. The stakeholder analysis shows that the most important stakeholders are the Burkinabe and Ghanese central government, The Volta Basin Authority, and The World Bank. It is in the interest of all actors to meet the SDGs.

Figure 3. Influence interest diagram for the stakeholders in the Volta Basin

Predictions for SDGs progress are made for Burkina Faso and Ghana by comparing sociological trends with other countries’ sociological historical development.

The best matching countries for Ghana are Brazil, South Africa, Vietnam, and Chile. For Burkina Faso, those are Comoros, Guatemala, El Salvador, and Algeria. If both countries happened to follow similar trends, then Burkina Faso and Ghana could not meet the goal in 2030 and by 2070, only a few goals will be reached.

Based on the outcomes for both water demand and the extent to which SDGs are met, further research into measures to reduce the strain on water resources is conducted. Lessons are drawn from ‘guiding’ countries that are in a further development phase. Policies that result in economic growth are found to include regional family planning, improvement of education institutes, a shift to an export-based rather than an inward, agricultural-based economy, and innovation and subsidies in agriculture. Policies that should be evaded include a focus on military, extensive governmental control of agriculture, an economy based on one exhaustible resource, and corruption.


We propose possible interventions to reach the SDGs. These interventions will limit water demand, as one of their effects is to control population growth. Among these interventions are the policies that provide economic growth, that were mentioned before. Provided that the economic growth benefits the ones that need it most, the Volta Basin countries should slow down their population growth and translate their youth bulge into a demographic dividend. This will provide, in combination with the controlled development of small reservoirs, a future proof water management system in the Volta Basin.


The research shows unmet water demand will keep growing with even greater seasonal variations. Small reservoirs will help to tackle these problems, but small reservoirs in itself would not fulfill the total demand. A huge development of small reservoirs will also not help to meet the SDGs, which is an important requirement for the World Bank. Therefore, the development of small reservoirs should be controlled and additional measures should be taken. One of the possible interventions is to invest in efficient job creation to benefit from the youth bulge.

Recommendations for future research

Suggestions for future research are given. First, the impact of small reservoirs on the ecosystem of the Volta Basin is not included in this research and should be studied further. Second, essential stakeholders should be physically involved in the plans of The World Bank. Lastly, it would be beneficial to model the proposed measures to quantify their expected impact.

PS: Should have put my reference here but I’m not.