In Ethiopia , Water Resources Development started as a mere sporadic activity during the early years of the 20th century as introduction of new technology into the country through the good will of some of the early European Ambassadors.

As the implementation of modern Government structure and creation of modern institutions, continues, the importance of the sector was understood and a small department was created in 1956 under the Ministry of Public Works and Communications to handle a multi-purpose investigation of the Blue Nile Basin .

It was the evolution of this Department that resulted in the emergence of several institutions over the last five decades. The Awash valley authority (AVA) in 1962, assumed responsibility for all water resources activities In the Awash valley. Its mandate included all aspect of water planning, development and operation, and water rights administration. In 1971, the establishment of the National Water Resources Commission (NWRC), reporting to the Council of Ministers, recognized the growing importance of water elsewhere in the country.

The commission's powers were broad. However, they were not fully exercised because of financial constraints, unwillingness of public authorities to accept national authority over water use and, particularly in the water sector, a serious lack of trained manpower. There was a general lack of coordination and duplication of effort between the Commission and the AVA. To overcome some of these problems, the Valleys Agricultural Development Authority (VADA) was proclaimed in 1977. It had similar powers and duties as AVA except that its jurisdiction was limited to water resources. (AVA responsibilities included all resources); but, its authority covered the whole country. To avoid conflict with AVA, the Awash Valley Development Agency (AVDA) a creature of the VADA was formed. The AVDA had diminished powers as compared to those AVA had enjoyed.

Also in 1977, the Ministry of Agriculture was empowered to investigate, use, control, protect and administer the water resources of Ethiopia not only for irrigated agriculture, but also for other uses. Its programs deal mainly with small-scale irrigation (less than 200 ha) and soil and water conservations.

In a further attempt to strengthen coordination and avoid duplication, the National Water Resources Commission (NWRC) was reconstituted in the early 80's so as to absorb all the functions of VADA and others. The NWRC included a new Water Resources Development Authority (WRDA), the Water Supply and Sewerage Authority (EWWCA) and the National Meteorological Services Agency (NMSA). WRDA was given the objectives of conducting studies to utilize, administer, regulate, protect and allocate inland waters and to supervise government water policies and plans.

Problems of rampant drought overtaxed the ability of the NWRC to move quickly with the construction of Irrigation projects to alleviate food shortage and to increase agricultural output. Because of the emergency, some projects were undertaken without sufficient investigation and construction proceeded more slowly than anticipated, it became clear that, in spite of the urgent need for development, it was essential to ensure that future projects were technically feasible, in harmony with other needs in each basin, and further, that there would be firm quality control over design and construction.

In partial response to this need, the Ethiopian Valleys Development Studies Authority (EVDSA) was proclaimed in July 1987. The mandate of the EVDSA was to prepare country-wide and basin-wide Master Plans for the use of water and related resources and to investigate water projects to the feasibility level. To get the new organization started the personnel from the irrigation studies section as well as equipment, from WRDA were transferred to EVDSA. Responsibility for design and implementation of water projects and various functions related thereto remained with WRDA.

After EPRDF Government came to Power in 1991 many reshuffling of institutions took place in the country. In the Water Sector a transitional institution which brought together most of the fragmented institutions was created as the Ministry of Natural Resources Development and Environmental Protection. Thereafter, the new Ministry of Water Resources was created in 1995.

The Ministry of Water Resources was given the powers and duties unprecedented in the past by any institution in the sector, which included: determination of conditions and methods for optimum allocation and utilization of water; drafting laws for protection and utilization of water resources; issue permits; collecting water charges; undertake studies and utilization of Transboundary waters; prepare plans for utilization of transboundary water; prescribe quality standards for water for various purposes; and supervise proper rendering of meteorological services.

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Web site last updated on: March 18, 2014
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Ministry of Water, Irrigation and Energy, Haile G/Silassie Avenue,Tel. 251-1-6611111, P.O.Box 5744 and 5673, email: info@mowr.gov.et ,
Addis Ababa - Ethiopia