We use the soil and water assessment tool (SWAT) to simulate potential impacts on smallholder maize yields, river flow regimes, plant transpiration, and soil and canopy evaporation during 1997—2006. Based on the results, the impacts on maize yields are likely to be small with in situ WH (median change: 0%) but significant with Ecosan (median increase: 30%).
The primary causes for these effects are high nitrogen stress on crop growth, and low or untimed soil moisture enhancement with in situ WH. However, the impacts vary significantly in time and space, occasionally resulting in yield increases of up to 40% with in situ WH.
Soil fertility improvements primarily increase yield magnitudes, whereas soil moisture enhancements reduce spatial yield variability. Ecosan significantly improves the productivity of the evaporative fluxes by increasing transpiration (median: 2.8%, 4.7 mm season?1) and reducing soil and canopy evaporation (median: ?1.7%, ?4.5 mm season?1).
In situ WH does not generally affect the river flow regimes. Occasionally, significant regime changes occur due to enhanced lateral and shallow aquifer return flows. This leads to higher risks of flooding in some areas, but also to enhanced low flows, which help sustain aquatic ecosystems in the basin.