Niger: Water resources

Over the last decades, Niger has experienced strong seasonal and annual variation in precipitation as well as recurring droughts, all of which present major constraints to agricultural production. The country was hit by recurring droughts between 1950 and 1980 as precipitation amounts decreased during that time [18]. Although annual precipitation sums recovered afterwards, they remain below the national average of the past century [18]. Further droughts were registered in 2005, 2008, 2010 and 2012 [19]. The 2012 drought affected a total of 5.4 million people in Niger, 1.3 million of whom faced serious food insecurity and depended on humanitarian aid [20]. Extreme droughts tend to have a cascading effect: First, lack of water reduces crop yields, which increases the risk of food insecurity for people and their livestock and in turn limits their capacity to cope with future droughts [21]. Transhumance used to be an effective way to deal with variations in precipitation amounts and droughts in Niger, but 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 [22]. Additional stressors include increasing competition for natural resources (partly due to population growth), depletion of livestock, and intercommunal and cross-border conflicts, making this mode of living less profitable and sometimes even dangerous [22].

Per capita water availability

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

Current projections of water availability in Niger display high uncertainty under both GHG emissions scenarios. Assuming a constant population level, multi-model median projections suggest almost no change in per capita water availability over Niger by the end of the century under either RCP (Figure 8A). Yet, when accounting for population growth according to SSP2 projections4, per capita water availability for Niger is projected to decline by 85 % by 2080 relative to the year 2000 under both scenarios (Figure 8B). While this decline is primarily driven 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 Niger for different GHG emissions scenarios.

Projections of future water availability from precipitation vary depending on the region and scenario (Figure 9). In line with precipitation projections, water availability is projected to increase in most parts of the country under both RCPs. However, in most cases, model agreement on these increases is low towards the end of the century.

4 Shared Socio-economic Pathways (SSPs) outline a narrative of potential global futures, including estimates of broad characteristics such as country level population, GDP or rate of urbanisation. Five different SSPs outline future realities according to a combination of high and low future socio-economic challenges for mitigation and adaptation. SSP2 represents the “middle of the road”-pathway.


[18] USAID, “A Climate Trend Analysis of Niger,” Washington, D.C., 2012.
[19] USAID, “Climate Change Risk Profile: West Africa Sahel,” Washington, D.C., 2017.
[20] OCHA, “Niger: 5.4 Million People Are Food Insecure,” Niamey, Niger, 2012.
[21] 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.
[22] UNOWAS, “Pastoralism and Security in West Africa and the Sahel,” n.p., 2018.