Suspended sediment concentration–discharge relationships in the (sub-) humid Ethiopian highlands
Abstract. Loss of top soil and subsequent filling up of reservoirs in much of the lands with variable relief in developing countries degrades environmental resources necessary for subsistence. In the Ethiopia highlands, sediment mobilization from rain-fed agricultural fields is one of the leading factors causing land degradation. Sediment rating curves, produced from long-term sediment concentration and discharge data, attempt to predict suspended sediment concentration variations, which exhibit a distinct shift with the progression of the rainy season. In this paper, we calculate sediment rating curves and examine this shift in concentration for three watersheds in which rain-fed agriculture is practiced to differing extents. High sediment concentrations with low flows are found at the beginning of the rainy season of the semi-monsoonal climate, while high flows and low sediment concentrations occur at the end of the rainy season. Results show that a reasonably unique set of rating curves were obtained by separating biweekly data into early, mid, and late rainfall periods and by making adjustments for the ratio of plowed cropland. The shift from high to low concentrations suggests that diminishing sediment supply and dilution from greater base flow during the end of the rainfall period play important roles in characterizing changing sediment concentrations during the rainy season.