By Anthony Hurford

On 8 May I travelled to Embu in Kenya to conduct training for Water Resources Authority (WRA) staff on the benefits of water resources system simulation modelling within a browser-based interface.

Partners from Jomo Kenyatta University of Agricultural Technology also joined me to showcase the hydrological modelling with the Soil and Water Assessment Tool (SWAT) which they have undertaken to feed river flow data into a training model of Kenya’s Tana Basin. A range of 24 technical, regulatory and community engagement staff were involved from WRA’s central and Tana regional offices and we started off slowly to make sure everyone understood the basics of how the simulator works, before gradually increasing the complexity of the models and the tool’s functionality.

WRA have a mandate to regulate river flows and maintain environmental minimum reserve flows, so they were particularly interested in the ability to import their own abstraction license data to view in a geographical user interface and simulate the potential impacts of new abstraction licenses on downstream reserve flows under different conditions.

One of the latest features of the interface is the ability to define performance metrics, such as the number of events where flows drop below a defined level during a simulation period. WRA requested further training using their own data rather than the hypothetical data currently in the model so the next step is to work towards another workshop in which participants are supported in conducting their own analyses of relevance to their various roles in the organisation.

This workshop was very enjoyable, as it always is when people are enthusiastically embracing a much-needed new tool, but the highlight for me came at the beginning of the second day when the workshop facilitator suggested singing a few verses of a local song to warm everyone up for the day. My Swahili wasn’t up to the task of joining in, but clapping along with everyone else is a universal language and a great way to start the day.

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