Articles | Volume 16, issue 9
Research article
06 Sep 2012
Research article |  | 06 Sep 2012

An elusive search for regional flood frequency estimates in the River Nile basin

P. Nyeko-Ogiramoi, P. Willems, F. M. Mutua, and S. A. Moges

Abstract. Estimation of peak flow quantiles in ungauged catchments is a challenge often faced by water professionals in many parts of the world. Approaches to address such problem exist, but widely used techniques such as flood frequency regionalisation is often not subjected to performance evaluation. In this study, the jack-knifing principle is used to assess the performance of the flood frequency regionalisation in the complex and data-scarce River Nile basin by examining the error (regionalisation error) between locally and regionally estimated peak flow quantiles for different return periods (QT). Agglomerative hierarchical clustering based algorithms were used to search for regions with similar hydrological characteristics. Hydrological data employed were from 180 gauged catchments and several physical characteristics in order to regionalise 365 identified catchments. The Generalised Extreme Value (GEV) distribution, selected using L-moment based approach, was used to construct regional growth curves from which peak flow growth factors could be derived and mapped through interpolation. Inside each region, variations in at-site flood frequency distribution were modelled by regression of the mean annual maximum peak flow (MAF) versus catchment area. The results showed that the performance of the regionalisation is heavily dependent on the historical flow record length and the similarity of the hydrological characteristics inside the regions. The flood frequency regionalisation of the River Nile basin can be improved if sufficient flow data of longer record length of at least 40 yr become available.