Modeling Earth Systems and Environment

, Volume 4, Issue 1, pp 437–449 | Cite as

Modelling hydrological response under climate change scenarios using SWAT model: the case of Ilala watershed, Northern Ethiopia

  • Henok Shiferaw
  • Amdom Gebremedhin
  • Tesfay Gebretsadkan
  • Amanuel Zenebe
Original Article


This study evaluates surface runoff generation under climate change scenarios for Ilala watershed in Northern highlands of Ethiopia. The climate change scenarios were analyzed using delta based statistical downscaling approach of RCPs 4.5 and 8.5 in R software packages. Hydrological response to climate changes were evaluated using the Soil and Water Assessment Tool model. The Soil Water Analysis Calibration and Uncertainty Program of Sequential Uncertainty fitting version 2 algorithm was also used to compute the uncertainty analysis, calibration and validation process. The results show that the minimum and maximum temperature increases for the future of 1.7 and 4.7 °C respectively. However, the rainfall doesn’t show any significant increase or decrease trend in the study area. The 95% prediction uncertainty brackets the average values of observation by 71 and 74% during the calibration and validation processes, respectively. Similarly, R-factor equals to 0.5 and 0.6 during calibration and validation periods. The simulated and observed hydrographs of the total river yield showed a good agreement during calibration (NSE = 0.51, R2 = 0.54) and validation (NSE = 0.54, R2 = 0.63). From the total rainfall received only 6.2% portion of the rainfall was changed into surface runoff. The rainfall-runoff relationship was strongly correlated with R2 = 0.97. Moreover, there had been also high evapotranspiration (ET) loss in the watershed; almost 75% of the total rainfall was lost as ET and 7.8% as ground water recharge. Due to an increase trend in temperature and evaporation loss for the future, the surface runoff also declined from 1.74% in RCP4.5 near-term to 0.36% in RCP8.5 end-term periods. This implies, proper planning and implementation of appropriate water management strategies is needed for sustainable water resources management in the region.


Evapotranspiration Runoff SWAT SWAT-CUP RCP Watershed 



The research was supported by the Open Society Foundation-Africa Climate Change Adaptation Initiative (OSF-ACCAI) project at  Institute of Climate and Society of Mekelle University (MU-ICS). The authors also would like to thank the Ethiopia National Metrological Agency (NMA), and Ethiopian Ministry of Water, Irrigation and Electricity for providing meteorological and hydrological data of the study area. The authors express sincere appreciation to Agricultural Model Intercomparison and Improvement Project (AgMIP) for their initiation and development of the technical scripts for climate modelling.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Henok Shiferaw
    • 1
  • Amdom Gebremedhin
    • 1
  • Tesfay Gebretsadkan
    • 3
    • 4
  • Amanuel Zenebe
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Institute of Climate and SocietyMekelle UniversityMekelleEthiopia
  2. 2.Department of Land Resources Management and Environmental ProtectionMekelle UniversityMekelleEthiopia
  3. 3.Tigray Agricultural Research Institute (TARI)MekelleEthiopia
  4. 4.UNESCO-IHE Institute for Water EducationDelftThe Netherlands

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