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The drainage systems of Ethiopia

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The drainage systems of Ethiopia can be classified as follows:-

Drainage area A
This is an area which comprises four important river basins, the Mereb, Tekeze, Abay and Baro. Following the general slope of the land westward, all except the Mereb drain to the Nile and thus to the Mediterranean.

The best known Ethiopian river, the Abay (the Blue Nile) together with the Tekeze and Baro is also part of the Nile system. Among the river basins under drainage are A, the Abay has the largest catchment area and the Mereb the smallest.

Drainage area B
This area comprises the eastern and south eastern part of the country, lying east of the rift valley.

The two major river basins in these area the Genale and the Wabi Shebele. The Genale receives a considerable amount of water from its major tributaries, the Dawa and Weyb, and flows through the dry areas of Ethiopia and Somalia to the Indian Ocean.

The Wabi Shebele flows through Ethiopia and Somalia for about 2,000 km, but fails to reach the Indian Ocean.

Drainage area C
This is an area of endoreic drainage. Except for the Gibe, all are contained in the Ethiopian Rift Valley.

The Gibe River (Omo) rises in the central south-western plateaus and flows southward into Lake Rudolf.

The Awash river flows north-east through the Afar Plains within the rift valley towards the Gulf of Tajura but, having lost much water through evaporation and seepage, it finishes in Lake Abe near the Ethio-Djibouti border. The series of small lakes, of which Lake Abe is one, has no outlet.

Considering the area, and length of rivers within the country and outside the country, Wabi Shebele is the largest with a catchment area of 205,407km2 and a length of 1,340km inside Ethiopia, with the further stretch of 660km in Somalia.

Although Ethiopia has been called the water tower of Africa, the benefit derived from the major rivers is at present very small compared to a large potential.

Most of the rivers are still limited to the basic uses of drinking and washing. Nevertheless, the expansion of some cities and towns as well as the need for modern irrigation schemes is calling for more effective utilization.

Of the major rivers, the Awash is the one which is most efficiently utilized. The Awash has three hydro-electric power plants and two modern irrigation systems supporting sugar and cotton plantations. The future prospects are also bright.

Keywords: Mereb, Tekeze, Abay, Baro, Barka, Genale, Wabi Shebele, Dawa, Weyb, Awash river, Gibe River, Omo River,