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Utilization of water resource in Somalia

Translate Available Water Resources to Food Production, Reduce Hunger and Environmental Disasters

7.78x109 m3 of water from Shebelle and Juba can irrigate more than 80, 000 ha of agricultural land annually

by Mohamed Moallin
Thursday, January 08, 2015

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Somali landmass is an arid, semiarid biome with a characteristic of water resources dearth. The landmass experiences low precipitation, and frequent droughts and floods, which causes loss of lives, destruction of environment, and Internal Displaced People (IDPs). The purpose of this article is to underscore available water resources and disasters related to water resources. Furthermore, the article also enlightens approaches of available water resources development and reduction of water related disasters to curtail recurrent floods, droughts, hunger and IDPs and achieve sustainable livelihood framework.

In Quran, God tells us that “He made all living things from water” or “and from water we made all living things (21:30)”. As the Qur’an verse imply, we ought to recognize for the fact that water cherishes and revives life of every living thing (biotic). Qur’an also reveals to us that, without water resources there is no life, and, as a result, droughts and environmental disasters abound, diminishing economic growth for a country.

Water resources development is very critical for the recovery of the country and the available volume varies temporally and spatially in terms of quantity and quality with no minimal improvement attempted (moallin, 1993). Nevertheless, while it is highly notable that the Government concentrates on the stabilization of the security of the country, it could adopt multi-task approaches, especially at the ministerial level, to take tangible services to and improve the livelihood of the society.  One of the crucial service to embark and focus on is the development of available water resources by building a consensus bridge with the private sector, which controls currently water supply system with no relevant participation of its development, to increase clean, safe drinking water supply to the public and reduce shortages and outbreaks of waterborne diseases that occur in some parts of the country.  Furthermore, even though there is a financial and political challenges, the Government can be both innovative and aggressive in resolving the problem of water resources tribulations by planning and developing existing major aquifers (Baidoa, Jessoma, Aurado, Taleh, and Merca-Mogadishu), geologically found in most of the country, coupled with surface waters (Rivers, major Valleys and Weirs) that flood and destroy living environment. The volume of groundwater available presently in the major aquifers is estimated as 636.X109m3 with the annual recharge of 1.25X109m3 while the major rivers hold a total volume of 7.78x109 m3 (moallin, 1993, GTZ, 1989, Faillace, 1983) in addition to unaccounted volume of water from lakes and valleys that flood in an open plains, evaporate or end up into the Indian Ocean. With this volume of water resources being available, UNICEF estimated that 65% of the Somali population has little access to clean, safe drinking water (UNICEF Report, 2012). Chemical and microbiological contamination of drinking water is a growing concern throughout Somalia; therefore, it is crucial to set up a proactive plan to prevent the re-occurrence of known contagions.

Method: To achieve efficient and effective socio-economic growth, human security and reduce poverty through equitable approach, Somalia needs to commence a comprehensive strategy of water resources development and management for the country by applying Integrated Water Resources Management Model; a revolving Model (IWRM). This model can be helpful to decode the national water master plan, within national policy, and to respond rapidly the current situation and help develop socio-economic infrastructure for all sectors as well as water and land use, environment and water sanitation. The employment of this approach permits participation of Regional States, Private Sector and Government for improvement of water resource development standard for the country. 

Implementation of the IWRM: building collaboration between the groups (Government, regional States, private sector and community) must be set as a priority to establish a cohesive force. This unified potency with the same rigor vision might institute a framework to safeguard water resources planning and development and natural resources conservation. With this dynamic strategy and inclusive vision could increase chances for implementing of the IWRM Model, which consequently could reduce scarcity of water that causes tension between the Somali society and even political conflict in border sharing countries – due to trans-boundary waters, as water is a source of conflicts.

Flood Water for Food: Seasonal flood waters that occur in different parts of the country are not managed properly and if it is not managed duly, these unpredictable seasonal floods can become destructive forces, leading into degraded, eroded and depleted soils with loss of pasture and farm lands. The consequences of these destructive forces could be reduced by harvesting it and transforming it into sources of livelihood for the community through flood based farming/spate irrigation to increase food production.  For example, 7.78x109 m3 of water from Shebelle and Juba can irrigate more than 80, 000 ha of agricultural land annually if it is managed to produce perennial and seasonal crops (Moallin, 1993).  The volume of water that floods annually in the Somali plains or sometimes ends up into the Indian Ocean is more than the above quantities, so, visualize the number of quintals of perennial grain produced if the wasted flood water is harvested for irrigation. This process demands a comprehensive understanding of integrated watershed planning and management policy coupled with financial investment (private & government), technology and skilled manpower.

Somali Hydrologists/Agronomists might adopt flood water harvesting strategy to convert the destructive forces to a community benefits in crop yield increase, rangeland and agro-forest production, domestic and livestock water supply, and recharge of shallow groundwater to raise water table of aquifers and reduce the vulnerability of the country’s environment (example - episodes of Nugal, Bari, Jowhar, Balad and Beletweyne destructive floods). 

In conclusion, water maintains the integrity of the environment and is a key driver of socio-economic development.  Thus, according to a number of studies, enough water resources are available in the country, and yet water shortages and poor quality problems transpire due to deficiency of integrated approach for the development and management of the nation’s water resources. This hindrance is intensified by a lack of skilled manpower, proper infrastructure, and budget allotment challenges. The Government and the private sector together ought to recognize the essence of the matter and undertake a comprehensive plan to evaluate the available surface water and groundwater, counting trans-boundary waters, and develop it to alleviate the hardship from the various sectors of water consumers, reduce disasters related to water resources, improve water quality (eliminate outbreak of waterborne diseases) and inhibit environment relapses. Remember, according to the Qur’an verse – no life without water - human security and economic growth cannot be realized without developing and establishing an equitable distribution of water resources to the society.


·         Faillace, C. (1983): “A brief review of Surface Water and Groundwater Resources of Northern Regions of Somalia”, Qauderno di Geologia della Somalia, V. 7, Pp. 171-187.

·         Moallin, M. (1993): “Management of Groundwater Resources in Somalia” A thesis presented to the faculty of Graduate Studies, King Fahad University of Petroleum and Minerals, Dhahran, S. A.

·         Pozzi, R. et Al. (1983): “Groundwater Resources in Central Somalia”, V.6, Pp257-279.

·         UNICEF Report (2012): Water Well and Sanitation.

Mohamed Moallin,
Water Resource Specialist,
Columbus, OH
[email protected]

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