Climate Change Impacts on Snowmelt-Dependent Agricultural Systems Near Mount Kenya

EPA Grant Number: F13B20423
Title: Climate Change Impacts on Snowmelt-Dependent Agricultural Systems Near Mount Kenya
Investigators: Gower, Drew Budd
Institution: Princeton University
EPA Project Officer: Lee, Sonja
Project Period: September 10, 2014 through September 10, 2016
Project Amount: $84,000
RFA: STAR Graduate Fellowships (2013) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Academic Fellowships , Fellowship - Environmental Engineering


The objective of this project is to address the following questions: What is the extent and spatial distribution of river water abstractions in the Nanyuki Catchment? How might climate change affect water availability and livelihoods in the area? What factors will affect the resilience of dryland agricultural systems generally?


A socio-hydrologic model of the Nanyuki Catchment will be constructed by joining together three separate components: a hydrologic model of the catchment, an agent-based model of agricultural water use and a crop growth model. The combined model will then be calibrated using available rainfall and river flow records, dry season evapo-transpirative fluxes estimated from satellite imagery and agricultural yield data. Once calibrated, the model will be used to investigate the results of changes to climate and water demand on agricultural yields. Finally, the agentbased model will be coupled to a conceptual hydrologic model and used to evaluate the yields that could be expected in a general irrigated dryland catchment under a range of geographic, administrative and land use conditions.

Expected Results:

The catchment-specific modeling efforts will produce management strategies to balance water availability for upstream and downstream users. Such strategies may take the form of recommendations for river withdrawal limits based on the time of year or recent climate history. These also could include recommendations for such infrastructure investments as wells, rainfall-harvesting systems and irrigation canals at different locations along the river system that would allow users to optimize the available resources unique to that area. The results of the generalized modeling efforts, though not relevant to a specific location, will take the form of recommendations on the appropriate structure of community irrigation systems in different types of dryland environments.

Potential to Further Environmental/Human Health Protection

On a larger scale, this project will be of interest to water resource managers in other dryland regions that are currently dependent on local “water towers” like Mount Kenya. As climate change begins to affect these areas, they, too, will need to reconsider longstanding water-sharing agreements that no longer provide an equitable partitioning of resources. Disseminating the results to interested parties around the world will help advance sustainable solutions to water management problems and protect the environment and agricultural communities in the face of a changing climate.

Supplemental Keywords:

ecohydrology, food security, water resources

Progress and Final Reports:

  • 2015
  • Final