Small Multi-purpose Reservoirs Ensemble Planning

Published on 5 August 2010

Research Areas

, , ,


, , ,


Start Date: 15 June 2004 | End Date: 31 December 2008


People living in arid areas with highly variable rainfall, experience droughts and floods and often have insecure livelihoods. Small multi-purpose reservoirs are a widely used form of infrastructure for the provision of water. They supply water for domestic use, livestock watering, small scale irrigation, and other beneficial uses. The reservoirs are hydrologically linked by the streams that have been dammed. Although reservoir ensembles store enough water to have a significant impact on the livelihoods of smallholders who use them, they have rarely been considered as systems, with synergies and tradeoffs resulting from the number and density of their structures. Often reservoirs were constructed in a series of projects funded by different agencies, at different times, with little or no coordination among the implementing partners. That a significant number are functioning sub-optimally and/or are falling into disrepair indicates that there is room for improvement in the planning, operation, and maintenance of small reservoirs.

The water management institutions in Volta, Limpopo, and Sao Francisco Basins are being revamped to better serve their constituencies. The CPWF project used this opportunity to collaborate with government officials, stakeholders, and farmers who are actively looking for ways to improve the planning process. The project had a two paired objectives. The basin/watershed level objective was to promote and support the planning, development, and management of small reservoir ensembles. Planning reservoirs at this scale limits conflicts over water, markets, and other resources and minimizes undesirable environmental interactions among the reservoirs. The local/community level objective was to support use of small multi-purpose reservoirs that are properly located, well designed, operated and maintained in sustainable fashion, and economically viable while assuring they improve the livelihoods of the local residents.

The multi-disciplinary project team worked with planners, decision makers and farmers in an iterative, consultative process to develop tools appropriate for the use of the stakeholders. By harmonizing the interests of individuals served by small multi-purpose reservoirs and other people living in the basin they reached their paired goals: 1) to maintain water related ecosystem services, the long-term sustainability of local water supplies, and adequate downstream flows as we make use of small reservoirs and 2) to improve food security at the household level and increase sustainable livelihoods through the provision of those small multi-purpose reservoirs. The small reservoirs team developed a toolkit with tools that fall into four thematic areas: 1) planning, 2) water storage and hydrology, 3) ecosystems and human health, and 4) institutions and economics.

The tools themselves are project outputs. Some of the tools are already being used by people associated with the project. The toolkit is comprehensive, however, as these first tools are used and improved, it is anticipated that new tools applicable to other social and biophysical environments will be added to the toolkit making it of increasing value to more and more stakeholders.

Research Partners


, , , , , , , , , ,

Ask a Question

You must be logged in to post a comment.