Climate variability affects water-energy-food infrastructure performance in East Africa

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

  • External authors:
  • Christian Siderius
  • Seshagiri R. Kolusu
  • Martin C. Todd
  • Ajay Bhave
  • Andy J. Dougill
  • Chris J.C. Reason
  • David D. Mkwambisi
  • Japhet J. Kashaigili
  • Joanna Pardoe
  • Katharine Vincent
  • Neil C.G. Hart
  • Rachel James
  • Richard Washington
  • Robel T. Geressu
  • Declan Conway


The need to assess major infrastructure performance under a changing climate is widely recognized yet rarely practiced, particularly in rapidly growing African economies. Here, we consider high-stakes investments across the water, energy, and food sectors for two major river basins in a climate transition zone in Africa. We integrate detailed interpretation of observed and modeled climate-system behavior with hydrological modeling and decision-relevant performance metrics. For the Rufiji River in Tanzania, projected risks for the mid-21st century are similar to those of the present day, but for the Lake Malawi-Shire River, future risk exceeds that experienced during the 20th century. In both basins a repeat of an early-20th century multi-year drought would challenge the viability of proposed infrastructure. A long view, which emphasizes past and future changes in variability, set within a broader context of climate-information interpretation and decision making, is crucial for screening the risk to infrastructure.

Bibliographical metadata

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)397-410
Number of pages14
JournalOne Earth
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 19 Mar 2021