Strengthening the Capacity of the Water Resources Department

WaterAccess to clean drinking water in rural and urban communities in Eritrea has improved to a total of 85%, according to the Ministry of Land, Water and Environment. (Photo: MoLWE)

Eritrea as part of the arid and semi-arid Sahelian region of Africa is not adequately endowed with water resources. Its rainfall patterns are generally low in extent and erratic in nature. Besides, the country has been also prone to cyclic/recurrent droughts affecting the water resource bases of the country. On top of the prevailing natural obstructions, existing water use and management practices are not efficient often characterized by poor institutional and sectoral capacity, inadequate societal awareness, uncoordinated land use systems, etc.

Despite Eritrea’s heavy reliance on surface and ground water resources for most socioeconomic sectors, knowledge base of water resources is limited to serve as inputs for sustainable management of the water resources. Apart from the 1998 limited scope sector study on ‘National Water Resources and Irrigation potential Project’ no large scale water resources potential related assessment has ever been undertaken at a national level. Besides the lack of full information on ground water and surface water potentials, the risk of mismanagement is further magnified with the lack of any institutionalized regular quantitative/qualitative monitoring system in place.

As outlined under the list of the national IWRM plan priorities, the envisaged ‘Capacity Building Project’ will address some of the key human and institutional capacity limitations of the Water Resources Department thus improve the DOW’s capacity to plan, develop, monitor and sustainably manage the water resources. The project will contribute in transforming the human and institutional capacities of the Department to enhance its knowledge base on existing water resources.

At the same time, with the existing low level of quality assurance facilities, rapid urbanization, discharge of hazardous wastes and fast growing population, efforts will be made to upgrade the DOW’s laboratory to ensure safe water supply to the general public at national and local levels. In summary, under the boarder objective of capacity development therefore, the project will deliver the intended results under the three outcomes of: (i.) Knowledge base of existing water resources improved and efficiency, effectiveness and sustainable water resources management fostered; (ii.) National capacity to collect, store, process, monitor and disseminate hydro meteorological and hydrological information strengthened; and (iii.) National capacity to test hazardous pollutants and to ensure sector based safe water quality is enhanced.


The overall objective of the project will be to enhance to the capacity of the Water Resources Department Capacity to plan, develop and sustainably manage the water resources of the country, and its ability to characterize and assure water quality for multi-use purposes.

Outcome 1: Knowledge base of existing water resource improved and efficiency, effectiveness and sustainable water resource management fostered. The project will contribute to enhancing the knowledge base of the Department of Water on available ground/surface water resources by upgrading its human and institutional capacities to carry out necessary resource base related investigations and researches along key water basins through out the country. To this effect, the Department of Water resources will be equipped with useful scientific geophysics equipment to conduct quantitative and qualitative assessments of ground water reserves during resource planning and monitoring activities.

In addition, necessary geo-explorative instruments such as GPS, GIS and satellite images of high resolution will also be acquired to substitute the existing obsolete equipment, with more efficient and cutting edge technologies. Along with the equipping activities, the project will also impart experts (national/international) to train the DOW staff at national and regional levels, on the installation, operationalization and basic maintenance of the scientific equipment.

Output 1.1: The capacity of the Department of Water enhanced (staff adequately trained and necessary equipment provided) to augment, update and prepare new hydrological maps and conduct geophysical investigations in key water basins.

Outcome 2: National capacity to collect, store, process, monitor and disseminate hydro meteorological and hydrological information strengthened.

Despite Eritrea’s location in the semi-arid Sahelian region of the Sub-Saharan Africa often characterized by regimes of high climate variability, existing hydro-metrological data collection equipment is insufficient to spatially represent the diversified agro-ecological zones and pockets of fragmented microclimates. In sequel, the intervention will realize the installment of new/rehabilitation of XX-Class hydromet stations in areas of critical significance with optimal temporal and spatial coverage, as would be identified by the DOW (and if necessary in consultation with the National Metrological Authority the Regional Administration Offices).

This will lead to improving the availability of quantitative/qualitative hydro-metrological data that would be valuable for water resources management. To systematize the non standardized and fragmented data collection system and the lack of a unified information management scheme, a national level water resources information management system will be developed, interlinked through Wide Area Networking (WAN) and connected to central integrated database full capacity to store, analyze hydro-metrological data and disseminate ready to use information to different sector ministries.

Output 2.1: Operational, monitoring, coordination and decision making capacity of the DOW enhanced by developing efficient water resource information management system & networking.

Output 2.2: Coverage and status of stream gauging stations for major drainage basins of the country improved.

Output 2.3: Coverage and status of hydro-meteorological stations of the country expanded and improved.

Outcome 3: National capacity to test hazardous pollutants and to ensure sector based safe water quality is enhanced.

As part of the effort to ensure safe water supply and minimize the risk of contamination by water-borne diseases, the DOW’s capacity to perform a competent water quality assurance functions will be strengthened. On top of the limited rudimentary bacteriological (fecal/coliforms) and chemical (common elements) tests being supported, the envisaged capacity building project will equip 0the Department with Atomic Absorption spectrometer to enable it to conduct tests of toxic heavy metals which are common in wastes of industrial and mining sectors and polluting water points.

In addition, necessary equipment and supplies will also be supplemented to carry out efficient soil and sediment analyses, applicable in feasibility studies, Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) exercises and water quality monitoring activities. Noting the staffing of the laboratory unit by new graduates of less practical experiences, international expertise will be consulted through South-South Cooperation to provide short term on the job trainings on the operationalization of new technologies, and assist in the preparation of step-by-step laboratory guide manuals.

Output 3.1: Regulatory instruments for wastewater and solid waste discharge developed, and capacity to carry out waste water quality testing and soil analysis improved.

Outcome 4: Pre-feasibility assessment study to establish a national water technology institute conducted.

In light of the limited (quality/quantity) human resources availability and the huge national demand for qualified experts in hydrology and management of water resources in the country, the need for more trained personnel is imperative, and the project will assist the WRD to carry out pre-feasibility assessment study to establish a water resources technology institute that will enable to train young water scientists in mass.

Output 4.1: Pre-feasibility assessment conducted and report for decision making prepared.

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