Blue Nile Water Abstractions HACKING FOR DIPLOMACY FALL 2020


In conjunction with Stanford University, Hacking for Diplomacy pushes students to apply innovative research methods to solve, or "hack", real-world problems posed by various government sponsors. H4D at James Madison University is the only undergraduate program in the nation.

Team CrocoNile's challenge problem was sponsored by the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA). The team was tasked with visualizing current and projected water abstractions – any structure that extracts water from surface or underground sources – along the Blue Nile River and analyzing their impacts on the Nile Basin region.

Our team is using the Environmental Protection Agency's definition of a water abstraction.

Water is life on the Nile River and any abstraction can impact several facets of life for the 11 riparian countries. Abstractions possess both positive and negative impacts on the Blue Nile region. Generally, abstractions increase soil erosion, salinization, moving populations, unpredictable flooding, and population pressure. The current domestic conflict in the Tigray region of Ethiopia posits Ethiopia in a dangerous position to effectively manage its water resources. Construction and funding towards the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, projected to be Africa's largest dam and 7th largest in the world, will significantly decrease. Opponents of the GERD, Egypt and Sudan, may use this an opportunity for intervention or further negotiation. Only time will tell how water resources will be managed in the Blue Nile region.

Team "Croconile"

Caili Downs is a senior International Affairs major with a concentration in International Conflict and Security and a minor in Economics. Her main interests include international policy, cybersecurity, and socio-economic research.
Fiona Turner is a senior Intelligence Analysis major with minors in Honors Studies, Political Science, and Pre-Law. Her academic interests include analyzing transnational security issues and studying how the environment can impact socio-political stability
Sydney Verhine is a senior International Affairs major with a concentration in Foreign Policy and Global Governance with a French minor. She is also an Air Force ROTC Cadet at James Madison University.
Katelyn Stotzky is a junior International Affairs major with a concentration in Foreign Policy and Global Governance. Her interests include multicultural relations and economic development. She took this class to apply knowledge learned to create to real world solutions.

The Deliverables

The team approached this challenge by creating two specific products: an interactive map via Tableau to show broader abstraction impacts and projected impacts based on resource availability, precipitation variability, and ecological disturbance, as well as an ArcGIS StoryMap to show more detailed analysis of the primary, secondary, and tertiary effects on the riparian counties of the Blue Nile region. More details are available by following the links below.*

The interactive map through Tableau allowed our team to analyze and project agricultural productivity, ground water access, and resources stress from 2010-2030. This aspect of our two-pronged approach addresses the macro-level of water scarcity in the Blue Nile Region. The map's interactivity also permits users to easily navigate between specific visualizations for the distribution of trends. Users can choose to observe solely one factor or simultaneously observe multiple.

In order to provide a nuanced analysis of the impacts of water abstractions on the Blue Nile region, our Story Map serves as a more in-depth account. Impacts of current and projected water abstractions in three riparian countries, Ethiopia, Egypt, and Sudan, are observed. The ways current events may be affecting the future of said abstractions are included in our analysis. Other details such as past policy, current social and poltiical context, and a closer look the way riparian countries interact with one another on the Blue Nile supplement our findings.

The Process