For sustainable water resource management within dam catchments, accurate knowledge of land-use and land-cover change (LULCC) and the relationships with dam water variability is necessary. To improve LULCC prediction, this study proposes the use of a random forest regression (RFR) model, in comparison with logistic regression–cellular automata (LR-CA) and artificial neural network–cellular automata (ANN-CA), for the prediction of LULCC (2019–2030) in the Gaborone dam catchment (Botswana). RFR is proposed as it is able to capture the existing and potential interactions between the LULC intensity and their nonlinear interactions with the change-driving factors. For LULCC forecasting, the driving factors comprised physiographic variables (elevation, slope and aspect) and proximity-neighborhood factors (distances to water bodies, roads and urban areas). In simulating the historical LULC (1986–2019) at 5-year time steps, RFR outperformed ANN-CA and LR-CA models with respective percentage accuracies of 84.9%, 62.1% and 60.7%. Using the RFR model, the predicted LULCCs were determined as vegetation (−8.9%), bare soil (+8.9%), built-up (+2.49%) and cropland (−2.8%), with water bodies exhibiting insignificant change. The correlation between land use (built-up areas) and water depicted an increasing population against decreasing dam water capacity. The study approach has the potential for deriving the catchment land–water nexus, which can aid in the formulation of sustainable catchment monitoring and development strategies.

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