Senegal boasts relatively large water reserves of approximately 35 billion cubic meters. However, low human development levels in Senegal have greatly contributed to deteriorated water quality in many parts of the country and forced its inhabitants to pursue unsustainable water-use practices. All National Development strategies now include a focus on improving storage infrastructure and protecting Senegal’s finite water resources. The water resources sector is expected to be among the sectors most sensitive to the impacts of climate change. The Senegal River basin is particularly vulnerable, with around 3,500,000 inhabitants, of which 85% live near the river. Improved irrigation technology, as well as cultivation of a broad spectrum of produce—including rice, onions, tomatoes, potatoes, and sweet potatoes—drives development in the basin. Dams have played an important role in building socio-ecological resilience in the Senegal River basin. The largest of these is the Manantali Dam, built on the Bafing River. This dam regulates extreme floods, generates electric power, and stores water for irrigation in the wet season to compensate for dry-season flow. The Diama dam, near the mouth of the Senegal River in the delta, blocks seawater intrusion and protects irrigation wells. These “services” also support higher water levels in bodies upstream, which promote irrigation and double cropping. Dam construction has been instrumental in the provision of freshwater resources throughout the year, and irrigated agriculture in the valley has flourished. In addition, local populations enjoy access to improved drinking water. Yet the negative effects of these dams on human populations and ecosystems are not to be overlooked; the flood-plain ecology of the basin has changed remarkably, from a salty and brackish aquatic environment with marked seasonal changes to a low-flow perennial freshwater ecology. The dams have also displaced populations due to the widespread impacts of water-borne diseases, and vital ecosystem services have been lost.
This section provides insights into projected climate change impacts on various hydrological indicators.