Scientific Water Studies of The Volta Lake

Among major rivers in the north tropical zone of Africa, the Volta presents several peculiar characteristics. 

While the upper Niger, the Logone and the Chari, for example, flow from South to North from the humid tropical zones towards the borders of the Sahara, the Volta presents a different aspect altogether: several small streams spring up in the Sahelian area below 1 000 mm of annual rainfall and move slowly towards the more humid South where they swell up considerably.

The river’s length is over 1 850 Km with a basin of 400 000 km² and flows into the Atlantic Ocean. 

It covers almost the whole Southern part of Burkina Faso and almost the whole northern part of Togo as well as the greater part of Ghana. Some minor portions also cover the fringes of Benin, Côte d’Ivoire and Mali.

The discharge of the Volta becomes considerable only in its lower reach in central Ghana after receiving significant inflow from its Oti tributary. It is here that the Akosombo dam, created in 1964, with more than 60 billion m3 of usable reserve and a storage capacity of 148 billion m3, accumulates more than one and half times the module.

The Volta Lake has become the hub of Ghana’s development. Families use it as a source of drinking water as well as a weekend getaway. It’s quite common to see kids playing water games in the lake while the parents look on.

Further north, the increasing needs of populations of the pre-Sahelian zone have led to intense research for means of optimal use of water despite its scarcity. The Bagré, Kompienga and Ziga dams have been built in this framework. The total storage volume in Burkina Faso is less than 4 billion m3.

The 400 000 km² of the Volta basin are drained by a hydrographical network formed around three main branches, namely:  the Mouhoun (Black Volta), the Nakambé (White Volta) and its tributary the Nazinon (Red Volta).  The main tributary of the Volta is the Oti, which flows from Togo and Benin.

Volta-HYCOS is being developed as a basin oriented follow-up of the AOC-HYCOS project.

A project document for Volta-HYCOS was prepared by WMO in cooperation with L’Institut de recherche pour le développement (IRD) and in September 2002 made available to the National Hydrological Services (NHSs) of major stakeholders of the river basin (Ghana and Burkina Faso) for first comments.

Heads and experts of the major stakeholders met in Accra in October 2002 and suggested amendments to the draft project document to be incorporated in the proposal, which has also been subsequently circulated to all countries in the basin.

The project document has been reviewed and endorsed by NHSs of the six riparian countries (Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Mali, Togo).

The Volta-HYCOS aims to develop necessary regional framework, and underlying technical infrastructure of data collection and management, for exchange of information on the status of water resources, which is necessary for development.

To ensure that the project is demand-driven and to obtain commitments from countries, WMO in collaboration with IRD organized a preparatory meeting in Ouagadougou in March 2004 to present and discuss the draft project document among country representatives. The meeting reviewed the project proposal and made recommendations on its implementation.

The fiscal cost of the project is € 2.2 million with a total in-kind contribution of € 1.2 million by the six participating countries (€ 200,000), IRD (€ 870,000) and International Institute for Water and Environmental Engineering (€ 150,000).

The project was initially funded by the Fonds Français pour l’Environnement Mondial (FFEM) with € 1.0M, 2006-2009 through the Agence Française de Développement (AFD) and subsequently by the African Ministerial Council for Water (AMCOW) through the African Water Facility (AWF) with a grant of € 1.2 million.

The initial project duration of 22 months has been extended. WMO is the Executing agency of the project and provides technical supervision for its implementation. 

The Project Regional Centre (PRC) was initially hosted by the International Institute for Water and Environmental Engineering (2iE, previously Groupe d’Ecoles Inter-Etats EIER-ETSHER – GEE) located in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. The French institute of Research for Development (IRD) provided scientific and technical support to the project.

The preparatory phase started in January 2006 by appointing Mr Jacob Tumbulto (Ghana) as project manager (December 2005) and field activities began in early 2006. The Project Management Unit became operational in January 2006.

A project team carried out a series of country visits to discuss needs, identify networks and finalize a detailed project document.

A six-month preparatory phase of the project, with a detailed implementation plan and relevant budget, was completed by organizing the first Steering Committee meeting in Ouagadougou, in September 2006, where the project document, budget and work plan were approved.

The implementation phase of the project started in October 2006. Member countries have since recommended expanding project activities and budget to support the newly established Volta Basin Authority (VBA).

Four training courses were organized on a regional level including one jointly organized with the Niger Basin Authority (NBA) to strengthen cooperation between Niger-HYCOS and Volta-HYCOS. Further, four regional courses took place in 2007 and 2008. Similar National training courses are planned to be conducted by trained personnel in the countries.

A project document has been finalized and is now available in English and French.  Training material can be found at the bottom of this page. 

The Volta Basin Authority

In the framework of strengthened basin-wide cooperation promoted by Volta-HYCOS, the Volta Basin Authority (VBA) was established.

In January 2007 during the Economic Community of the West African Sates (ECOWAS) Summit, Heads of State of the six riparian countries signed a convention establishing the statute of the Volta River and establishing the VBA.  

The VBA is responsible for promoting sustainable and integrated management of resources of the Volta basin and protecting the environment and ecosystem of the River. The VBA is based in Ougadougou, Burkina Faso, and is currently the host of the Volta-HYCOS Project as well as the executing agency.

The overall development objective of the project is to:

  • support the implementation of the VBA Convention
  • reinforce the technical and institutional capacities of the NHSs (National Hydrological Services) of the Volta Basin member countries
  • strengthen the hydrological observing networks, especially by using the various remote measuring technology options
  • promote the development of national and regional databases.

Further Information on Volta-HYCOS