The Media Investigation Report for Juba and Shabelle rivers and their importance to Somalia
More frequent droughts and shifting precipitation patterns lower water levels in rivers, lakes and streams, leaving less water to dilute pollutants. Higher temperatures cause more frequent algal blooms and reduce dissolved oxygen levels, both of which can cause fish kills and do significant harm to ecosystems.
Water security involves the sustainable use and protection of water systems, the protection against water related hazards (floods and droughts), the sustainable development of water resources and the safeguarding of (access to) water functions and services for humans and the environment.
About Somalia Rivers
The Juba and Shabelle rivers are the only perennial rivers in the country, but 90% of their flow originates from a neighbouring country – Ethiopia. The two rivers sustain agricultural production not only by providing much needed irrigation, but also through the very fertile flood plains where a variety of crops are grown for domestic and foreign markets.
The Juba River has three main tributaries in its upper catchment in Ethiopia, namely: the Dawa, the Genale and the Weyb, all of which flow south-eastwards. The Weyb and the Genale unite to form the Juba River just north of Doolow in Ethiopia; while the Dawa tributary joins the Juba River at Doolow Town, just after the Somalia-Ethiopia border (Figure 1). The total length of Juba River is 1,808 Km, with a catchment area of about 210,010 Km2. On average, 186 cubic meters (186,000 litres) of water flow every second down the Juba River at Luuq station.
The Shabelle River emerges on the eastern Ethiopian highlands at an altitude of about 4,230 Meters above Mean Sea Level (m.a.m.s.l). It has two main tributaries in the Ethiopian catchment: the Fanfan and the Shabelle. The flows of the Fanfan tributary are intermittent, and only join the Shabelle during high rainfall seasons. The river is 2,526 Km long, with a catchment area of 283,054 Km2. The average flow of the Shabelle River at Belet Weyne Station is 75 cubic meters (75,000 litres) per second. Figure 2 shows the annual flow of Juba and Shabelle rivers at different stations and in different seasons, based on the historical data.
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The Economic Importance of Juba and Shabelle
The alluvial plains of the Juba and Shabelle have been described as the breadbasket of Somalia. For several decades irrigated agriculture has been practiced along the plains, producing food not only for local consumption but also for export. Available records indicate that before the collapse of the former Somali government in 1990, over 220,000 hectares of land along the flood plains were under either controlled irrigation or recession farming. Maize, sesame, fruits and vegetables were some of the crops grown for local market, while sugarcane and rice were grown for both local and foreign markets.
The story is different now. A recent study by SOMESHA in (2015) in Middle Shabelle identified that the irrigation infrastructure is in poor operational condition, a status which also applies to other regions along the rivers where irrigated agriculture was practiced. This has significantly affected the agricultural production in the region. The potential of the flood plains remains, however, and all that is required for their full exploitation is to restore the dilapidated infrastructure.
Water Resources Management and Monitoring Systems
Water resources management of the Juba and Shabelle Rivers involves the dual imperatives of managing floods and providing a steady supply of irrigation water. According to the traditional Somali custom, the right to use water depends on access to land along the rivers, and no approval was needed for one to extract water. During the former Somali government, water legislation institutionalized water management through laws that regulated the functioning of the institutions involved.
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