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  • Author: Dessalegn C. Dagnew x
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Drainage of paved and unpaved roads has been implicated as a major contributor of overland flow and erosion in mountainous landscapes. Despite this, few watershed models include or have tested for the effect roads have on discharge and sediment loads. Though having a model is an important step, its proper application and attention to distinct landscape features is even more important. This study focuses on developing a module for drainage from a road and tests it on a nested watershed (Shanko Bahir) within a larger previously studied site (Debre Mawi) that receives overland flow contributions from a highly compacted layer of soil on an unpaved road surface. Shanko Bahir experiences a sub-humid monsoonal climate and was assessed for the rainy seasons of 2010, 2011, and 2012. The model chosen is the Parameter Efficient Distributed (PED) model, previously used where saturation-excess overland flow heavily influences discharge and sediment concentration variation, though infiltration-excess occasionally occurs. Since overland flow on unpaved surfaces emulates Hortonian flow, an adjustment to the PED model (the developed module) advances possible incorporation of both flow regimes. The modification resulted in similar modeling performance as previous studies in the Blue Nile Basin on a daily basis (NSE = 0.67 for discharge and 0.71 for sediment concentrations). Furthermore, the road while occupying a small proportion of the sub-watershed (11%) contributed importantly to the early discharge and sediment transport events demonstrating the effect of roads especially on sediment concentrations. Considerations for the dynamic erodibility of the road improved sediment concentration simulation further (NSE = 0.75). The results show that this PED modeling framework can be adjusted to include unpaved compacted surfaces to give reasonable results, but more work is needed to account for contributions from gullies, which can cause high influxes of sediment.


In response to the continually increasing sediment concentrations in rivers and lakes, the Ethiopian government is leading an effort where farmers are installing soil and water conservation measures to increase infiltration and reduce erosion. This paper reports on findings from a four year study in the 95 ha Debre Mawi watershed where under the government led conservation works, mainly terraces with infiltration furrows were installed halfway in the period of observation. The results show that runoff volume decreased significantly after installation of the soil and water conservation practices but sediment concentration decreased only marginally. Sediment loads were reduced mainly because of the reduced runoff. Infiltration furrows were effective on the hillsides where rain water could infiltrate, but on the flat bottom lands that become saturated with the progress of the monsoon rain, infiltration was restricted and conservation practices became conduits for carrying excess rainfall. This caused the initiation of gullies in several occasions in the saturated bottomlands. Sediment concentration at the outlet barely decreased due to entrainment of loose soil from unstable banks of gullies in the periodically saturated bottom areas. Since most uphill drainage were already half filled up with sediments after two years, long term benefits of reducing runoff can only be sustained with continuous maintenance of uphill infiltration furrows.