Evaluating sediment storage dams: structural off-site sediment trapping measures in northwest Ethiopia

Mekonnen, M.M.; Keesstra, S.D.; Baartman, J.E.M.; Ritsema, C.J.; Melesse, A.M.


Reservoir and lake sedimentation is a vital problem in Ethiopia. Constructing small and medium size dams at the outlets of sub-catchments within larger catchment helps to reduce the transport of sediment downstream to reservoirs or lakes. This study assessed the sediment trapping efficacy (STE) of sediment storage dams (SSDs) built at the outlets of eight small sub-catchments in northwest Ethiopia, as an off-site sediment trapping measure. Satellite imagery and topographic maps were used to assess land use/land cover and delineate the boundaries of sub-catchments. In the field, trapped sediment by SSDs was measured directly, as well as in- and outflow of suspended sediment with which the STE of each SSD was estimated. Sediment yield of each sub-catchment was calculated from the measured trapped sediment and estimated suspended sediment loss. Results show that SSDs trapped an average of 1584 t yr-1 of the inflow sediment and catchment specific sediment yield ranged from 8.6-55 t ha-1 yr-1. Two representative SSDs constructed from gabion and stone were evaluated with regard to their STE. Results showed that their efficacy was 74% and 67% for the gabion and stone SSD, respectively. In general, although SSDs might be costly for small scale farmers and have a relatively short life span depending on their size, they are promising off-site structural measures to trap significant amounts of sediment at the outlets of sub-catchments and subsequently reducing sediment movement to downstream water bodies.