Sensitivity of Water-Energy Nexus to dam operation: A Water-Energy Productivity concept

Mohammed Basheer, Nadir Ahmed Elagib

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Understanding and modelling the complex nature of interlinkages between water and energy are essential for efficient use of the two resources. Hydropower storage dams represent an interesting example of the water-energy interdependencies since they are often multipurpose. The concept of Water-Energy Productivity (WEP), defined as the amount of energy produced per unit of water lost in the process, is introduced in this study to illustrate the relationship between energy generation and water losses by examining the sensitivity of the Water-Energy Nexus (WEN) to changing dam operation policy. This concept is demonstrated by developing a water allocation model of the White Nile in Sudan, including Jebel Aulia Dam (JAD), using a general river and reservoir simulation software called RiverWare. A number of 77 operation scenarios of JAD are examined for 30 hydrologic years (1980–2009), considering reducing the Full Supply Level (FSL) gradually from its current value to the minimum possible value, increasing the Minimum Operating Level (MOL) gradually to the maximum possible level, and operating the dam at a Constant Operating Level (COL). The results show that raising the operating level does not necessarily increase the WEP. In comparison to the current policy, the analysis shows that a maximum WEP of 32.6 GWh/BCM (GWh/Billion Cubic Meters) would be reached by raising the MOL to 375 masl (meters above sea level), resulting in an increase in average annual energy generation to 164.6 GWh (+ 18.1%) at the expense of an annual water loss of 5.05 BCM (+ 12.7%). Even though this operation policy results in a more efficient water use compared to the original operation policy, a basin-wide assessment that includes all hydropower storage dams in the Nile basin should be conducted to decide on where and how much energy should be generated. The present analysis and future examination of the multi-dimensions of the WEN in the context of dam operation are imperative to improve the decision making in the quest for efficient resource use and management.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)918-926
Number of pages9
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Early online date9 Nov 2017
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2018


  • Global Precipitation Climatology Centre (GPCC)
  • Jebel Aulia Dam
  • Nexus
  • RiverWare
  • Sudan
  • White Nile


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