Burkina Faso: Water resources

Over the last decades, Burkina Faso has experienced strong seasonal and annual variations in precipitation, which present a major constraint to agricultural production. According to the International Water Association, drought has affected a cumulative number of about 12.4 million people between 1969 and 2014 in Burkina Faso [15]. While transhumance used to be an effective way to deal with variations in precipitation and droughts in Burkina Faso, people’s reliance on this type of pastoralism has been challenged by increasingly unpredictable precipitation patterns and, consequently, a lack of good pastures and water, leading to increasing competition for limited natural resources. Other factors include population growth, conflicts between farmers and herders and terrorist activities in the region, making this mode of living less profitable and sometimes even dangerous [16]. Extreme droughts tend to have a cascading effect for farmers: First, lack of water reduces crop yields, which increases the risk of food insecurity for people and their livestock, which in turn limits their capacity to cope with future droughts [16]. Not only rural but also urban areas experience the consequences of droughts: Especially Ouagadougou suffers from recurring water shortages, intensified by rapid urban growth and poor infrastructure. During a severe drought in 2016, the local government had to ration the city’s water supply to 12 hours a day, affecting more than two million people [17].

Per capita water availability

Figure 8: Projections of water availability from rainfall per capita and year with national population held constant at year 2000 level (A) and changing according to SSP2 projections (B) for different GHG emissions scenarios, relative to the year 2000.

Current projections of water availability in Burkina Faso display high uncertainty under both GHG emissions scenarios. Assuming a constant population level, multi-model median projections suggest only a minor decrease in per capita water availability over Burkina Faso by the end of the century under RCP2.6 and a decrease of 20 % under RCP6.0 (Figure 8A). Yet, when accounting for population growth according to SSP2 projections5, per capita water availability for Burkina Faso is projected to decline by 80 % by 2080 relative to the year 2000 under both scenarios (Figure 8B). While this decline is driven primarily by population growth rather than climate change, it highlights the urgency to invest in water saving measures and technologies for future water consumption.

Spatial distribution of water availability

Figure 9: Water availability from precipitation (runoff) projections for Burkina Faso for different GHG emissions scenarios.

Projections of future water availability from precipitation vary depending on the region and scenario (Figure 9). However, common to all regions is the high modelling uncertainty of the projected changes. This modelling uncertainty, along with the high natural variability of precipitation, in particular in the north of the country, contribute to uncertain regional future precipitation trends all over Burkina Faso.


[15] B. Ampomah-Ankrah, “The Impact of Climate Change on Water Supply in the Sahel Region: The Case of Burkina Faso,” International Water Association, 2019. Online available: https://iwa-network.org/the-impact-of-climate-change-on-water-supply-in-the-sahel-region [Accessed: 31-Oct-2019].
[16] S. Traore and T. Owiyo, “Dirty Droughts Causing Loss and Damage in Northern Burkina Faso,” Int. J. Glob. Warm., vol. 5, no. 4, pp. 498–513, 2013.
[17] M. Winsor, “Drought-Hit Burkina Faso Rations Water Supply in Ouagadougou Amid Severe Shortage,” International Business Times, 2016. Online available: https://www.ibtimes.com/droughthit-burkina-faso-rations-water-supply-ouagadougou-amid-severeshortages-2363145 [Accessed: 02-Mar-2020].