Document Type


Publication Date



The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), formerly known as the Millennium Dam, has been filling at a fast rate. This project has created issues for the Nile Basin countries of Egypt, Sudan, and Ethiopia. The filling of GERD has an impact on the Nile Basin hydrology and specifically the water storages (lakes/reservoirs) and flow downstream. In this study, through the analysis of multi-source satellite imagery, we study the filling of the GERD reservoir. The time-series generated using Sentinel-1 SAR imagery displays the number of classified water pixels in the dam from early June 2017 to September 2020, indicating a contrasting trend in August and September 2020 for the upstream/downstream water bodies: upstream of the dam rises steeply, while downstream decreases. Our time-series analysis also shows the average monthly precipitation (derived using IMERG) in the Blue Nile Basin in Ethiopia has received an abnormally high amount of rainfall as well as a high amount of runoff (analyzed using GLDAS output). Simultaneously, the study also demonstrates the drying trend downstream at Lake Nasser in Southern Egypt before December 2020. From our results, we estimate that the volume of water at GERD has already increased by 3.584 billion cubic meters, which accounts for about 5.3% of its planned capacity (67.37 billion cubic meters) from 9 July–30 November 2020. Finally, we observed an increasing trend in GRACE anomalies for GERD, whereas, for the Lake Nasser, we observed a decreasing trend. In addition, our study discusses potential interactions between GERD and the rainfall and resulting flood in Sudan. Our study suggests that attention should be drawn to the connection between the GERD filling and potential drought in the downstream countries during the upcoming dry spells in the Blue Nile River Basin. This study provides an open-source technique using Google Earth Engine (GEE) to monitor the changes in water level during the filling of the GERD reservoir. GEE proves to be a powerful as well as an efficient way of analyzing computationally intensive SAR images.


This article was originally published in Remote Sensing, volume 13, in 2021.

Peer Reviewed



The authors

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.



To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.