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The River Basin
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The River Basin  

The Kunene River basin is located in southwest Africa. The river rises about 32 km northeast of Huambo in the Sierra Encoco Mountains in Angola and flows southwards from the Angolan highlands to the border with Namibia, then turns west forming the border between the two countries until it reaches the Atlantic Ocean. The lower reach of the river cuts through a deep gorge which starts at the Ruacana Falls. The Kunene River basin covers an area of 106 500 km², with 14 700 km² (13.3 %) in Namibia and 95 300 km² in Angola. The Kunene River is 1 050 km long and is one of the few perennial rivers in this region with a mean annual discharge of 5.5 km³ at its mouth.

The River Basin theme includes overview material on each of the following subjects, followed by descriptions of each subject in the context of the Kunene River basin:

The Kunene River basin.
Source: AHT GROUP AG 2010
( click to enlarge )

Rainfall in the Kunene catchment is unreliable and variable. It varies from 1 300 mm in the upper reaches to less than 100 mm per year in the lower reaches. Gross open water surface evaporation ranges from 1 700 mm in the upper catchment to 2 300 mm in the lower parts of the river close to the Atlantic Ocean. The seasonal variation of rainfall leads to droughts (as at the end of 2007 and beginning of 2008 that left many parts of the land overgrazed) and flooding. In early 2008, wide parts of northern Namibia and Angola were then flooded due to extreme rains.

The relatively small catchment area and the steep slope of the river bed in the Upper and Lower Kunene means that flows run relatively quickly to the coast, leaving the river almost empty at the end of the dry season. With the inception and implementation of the Kunene River Scheme and its associated storage dams, the flow of the river should have been regulated, however for various reasons the scheme was never fully operational and is only today beginning to fulfil its role. In addition to being used to generate hydropower for both Angola and Namibia, the Kunene also supplies a significant amount of water to the four northern regions of Namibia via the Calueque-Oshakati Canal. These regions lie outside of the basin and are home to around 700 000 people (over one third of the total Namibian population live). Water demand in these areas peaks in October, when flows in the Kunene are at their lowest.

The Epupa Falls on the border between Angola and Namibia.
Source: Wagner 2006
( click to enlarge )
The Kunene River near Caconda in the Upper Kunene.
Source: AHT GROUP AG 2009
( click to enlarge )




Explore the sub-basins of the Kunene River

Video Interviews about the integrated and transboundary management of the Kunene River basin

Explore the interactions of living organisms in aquatic environments

Examine how the hydrologic cycle moves water through and around the earth