Assessing potential land suitable for surface irrigation using groundwater in Ethiopia Academic Article uri icon


  • 2017 Although Ethiopia has abundant land for irrigation, only a fraction of its potential land is being utilized. This study evaluates suitability of lands for irrigation using groundwater in Ethiopia using GIS-based Multi-Criteria Evaluation (MCE) techniques in order to enhance the country's agricultural industry. Key factors that significantly affect irrigation suitability evaluated in this study include physical land features (land use, soil, and slope), climate (rainfall and evapotranspiration), and market access (proximity to roads and access to market). These factors were weighted using a pair-wise comparison matrix, then reclassified and overlaid to identify suitable areas for groundwater irrigation using a 1-km grid. Groundwater data from the British Geological Survey were used to estimate the groundwater potential, which indicates the corresponding irrigation potential for major crops. Results indicated that more than 6 million ha of land are suitable for irrigation in Ethiopia. A large portion of the irrigable land is located in the Abbay, Rift Valley, Omo Ghibe, and Awash River basins. These basins have access to shallow groundwater (i.e., depth of groundwater less than 20 m from the surface) making it easier to extract. The comparison between available groundwater and total crop water requirements indicate that groundwater alone may not be sufficient to supply all suitable land. The study estimates that only 8% of the suitable land can be irrigated with the available shallow groundwater. However, groundwater is a viable option for supplementing surface water resources for irrigation in several basins in the country.

published proceedings


altmetric score

  • 9.08

author list (cited authors)

  • Worqlul, A. W., Jeong, J., Dile, Y. T., Osorio, J., Schmitter, P., Gerik, T., Srinivasan, R., & Clark, N.

citation count

  • 72

complete list of authors

  • Worqlul, Abeyou W||Jeong, Jaehak||Dile, Yihun T||Osorio, Javier||Schmitter, Petra||Gerik, Thomas||Srinivasan, R||Clark, Neville

publication date

  • August 2017