Water surface elevation timeseries reveals the rising water levels in Lake Tanganyika

Water levels in Lake Tanganyika, a source of life and livelihoods in adjacent countries across Eastern Africa, has been slowly rising since the beginning of 2021. Over the last few months, the water levels have reached record highs, severely exposing communities, and people along the coastlines to major flooding’s.

Water levels in Lake Tanganyika, a source of life and livelihoods in adjacent countries across Eastern Africa, has been slowly rising since the beginning of 2021. Over the last few months, the water levels have reached record highs, severely exposing communities, and people along the coastlines to major flooding’s. The flooding’s have hit particularly hard in Burundi, a nation bordering the north-eastern part of the lake, where thousands of people have been displaced by the flooding’s. With water levels continuing the rise, tipping points are being reached in lakeside communities across the region, causing further displacement of people and destruction of property.

Under the umbrella of WorldWater, we have monitored the situation using water surface elevation (WSE) time-series based on altimetry data from ESA’s Sentinel 3- and NASA’s Jason satellites. The illustration below indicates the severity of the situation, as current water levels as observed over the last few months have reached peak levels in the last 30 years, now reaching 2 m. above median levels. The data illustrates the value of satellite-based WSE observations, as a synoptic and objective means to track and monitor surface water dynamics and document long term trends. This data provides valuable insight and information which can be used as early warning for future flood events as well as evidence to inform flood mitigation activities.

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