Ethiopia’s Water Challenges

Ethiopia has an apparent abundance of water, but it is unevenly distributed among seasons, years, river basins, and highland and lowland regions. As a consequence, there is localized scarcity at points in space and time.

While Ethiopia is a low-income country with the ambition to achieve middle-income status by 2025, water scarcity will affect sectors of the economy in several ways. Agricultural output is highly sensitive to variations in water availability. Reports show that accounting for knock-on impacts in other sectors, drought could cause GDP to decline by 20% in the Awash Basin, which hosts a large concentration of industrial and agricultural production compared with the other eleven basins. On the other hand, industrial production in Ethiopia, which is almost exclusively reliant on groundwater, is less susceptible to fluctuations in availability, but also subject to limits on sustainable withdrawals over the long run.

Approach and Results

Since April 2018, 2030 WRG Ethiopia has held three stakeholder workshops with the Public Sector Advisory Group and Private Sector and Civil Society Organizations Advisory Group. Participants gathered input on the development of a Multi-Stakeholder Platform in Ethiopia and also initiated a hydro-economic analysis, detailing the country’s water challenges through the lens of economic and social development.

In addition, 2030 WRG actively engaged with the Ministry of Water, Irrigation and Energy (MoWIE) and other stakeholders to develop a common national platform addressing selected WRM issues in Ethiopia. In June 2018, 2030 WRG conducted national meetings with the MoWIE to refine the issues and develop implementable programs. We continue to support the government in reviewing a draft water policy and bringing in private partners to do the same.

Drawing on previous experience from work in Bangladesh, 2030 WRG is supporting central wastewater treatment plants servicing 11 Ethiopian industrial parks to develop more viable financial models. The team is exploring management- and policy-related solutions to secure the financial sustainability of the treatment plants, starting with a flagship industrial park in southern Ethiopia that has yet to cover its operating costs.

The proposed solution will ideally be scalable to the other 10 plants.


The MoWIE and the two advisory groups -- the Public Sector Advisory Group and the Private Sector and Civil Society Organizations Advisory Group -- have been steadfast in their commitment to collaboration with 2030 WRG.

The Public Sector  Advisory Group, chaired by the PDC and co-chaired by the MoWIE, is comprised of other federal ministries and commissions such as the Ministry of Agriculture; Environment, Forest and Climate Change Commission; Ministry of Industry and Trade; and Ministry of Urban Development and Construction.
The Private Sector and Civil Society Organizations Advisory Group, under the co-chairmanship of Nestlé Waters Ethiopia and co-chaired by civil society organization Solidaridad, is made up of other development partners such as USAID, Italian Cooperation, Dutch Water Authorities, IWaSP/GIZ, and SIWI; private sector partners such as H&M, Nestlé Waters, Coca-Cola, Luna Exports, Dow Chemicals, Diageo, Yirgalem Addis Textiles Factory, and Heineken; and cotton, textile, and horticulture associations.