Atbara River is one of the tributaries of the Nile River. It is the most northerly tributary of the Nile flowing from the Ethiopian Highlands. It has two branches Setit River (called in Ethiopia Tekeze) and Upper Atbara River. The total catchment area of Setit and Upper Atbara rivers is about 97,000 km2 (68,000 km2 and 29,000 km2 respectively).

Atbara is a seasonal river with annual average flow amounts to 12 billion m3 (bcm). Khashm ElGirba Dam (KED) was constructed on Atbara River in 1964 with a storage capacity of 1.3 bcm. Since then the KED lost about 65% of its storage capacity due to sedimentation. Currently there are two dams (DCUA) under construction, each on one of the two branches (Setit, Upper Atbara) with total storage capacity about 3.700 bcm (2.52 bcm for Burdana reservoir on Setit River and 1.18 bcm for Rumela one on Upper Atbara River). The two reservoirs are linked by a channel flowing from Burdana to Rumela. Several recommendations are provided by a Consultant to operate the Atbara Dam Complex (ADC) − (the two reservoirs plus KED). The main objective of the project is irrigation, drinking water supply and hydropower generation.

In this paper the experience gained from the reservoirs management in Sudan, in particular KED will be reviewed and discussed. Sediment management will be the core of the operation rules which will govern ADC. This means that the sustainability of the reservoir to serve its purposes, on which the feasibility study is conducted, mainly depends on how ADC will be operated.

The impact of the upstream development on the ADC operation (i.e. Ethiopia Tekeze Dam − called TK5) will be examined. The paper concludes with several recommendations to maximize the benefits out of ADC reservoir.