Where’s the water?

While most of the topography of the Middle East is dry, barren, and filled with vast deserts, Egypt however, has the famous Nile river running through it thus providing for a varying landscape that differs quite greatly from most of its neighbors. Egypt definitely is a desert which sets a backdrop for the pyramids, but the areas bordering the river are green and lush providing for a diverse landscape.

nile river
Courtesy of Africa-facts.org

Even though Egypt has the Nile river which provides a huge amount of water and irrigation to the region, there has been political mishandling of water sources causing water scarcity in recent years. Poor and uneven water distribution and inefficient irrigation techniques are major key factors that affect water security in Egypt presently. The Nile River serves the country’s industrial and agricultural demand as well as serves as the primary source of drinking water for the citizens. How can one river provide so much without having some negative effects or drawbacks?

Along with the increasing population, which was talked about in a previous blog, as well as rapid economic development, and constant changing politics there has been an increase in pollution and environmental degradation which is threatening Egypt’s accessibility to water which in turns threatens Egypt’s future.

egypt nile

Major Factors Affecting Water Security


There are a variety of factors that affects Egypt’s’ Water security but one of the biggest ones is the rising regional political conflicts and battles over water resources. According to the Japan Times, “Egypt stands out as having the largest population at risk and being the country, other than Iraq and Yemen, with the most existential hydrologic problem.As every schoolchild learns, Egypt is the gift of the Nile and the Nile is by far the globe’s longest river. Less well known is that most of the Nile’s volume, 90 percent, comes from the highlands of Ethiopia and that the river passes through 11 countries. For uncounted eons, its water flowed to Egypt in uncounted quantities.” (2)

Why is this a problem you may be thinking? Well, Ethiopia realized that much of their water leaves their land, therefore they want to constrict the water supply downstream and build a dam called the Grand Ethiopian Resistance Damn or (GERD). This is a problem because “86 percent of Egypt’s water originates in Ethiopia” (2) meaning that if the supply is stifled, not cut off, just lessened, it can put Egypt’s entire population at risk. Both Burundi and Ethiopia which share the Nile have been taking advantage of Egypt’s unstable politics and have been working to guarantee their share of the Nile as each country in the region is facing some kind of water scarcity and environmental degradation because of it.

Ethoipia dam

Mismanaged Resources

As their political government has been changing from almost year to year, there has been a huge impact on the river due to lack of laws and environmental regulation. For example, pollution from agricultural runoffs, industrial effluents, and municipal sewage are being recklessly dumped into the Nile River, gradually making its water unfit for human consumption. (1) Sewage water from slums and many other areas in Cairo is discharged into the river untreated due to lack of water treatment plants which can affect the crops that the water is eventually used for irrigation thus polluting crops as well.

As long as Egypt’s population continues to grow and government stays mostly unstable, there will be huge effects down the line for Egypt and it’s future existence. Currently, there needs to be long-term planning and regional agreements with nearby countries so that all of the region can continue to share these limited resources in a way that can enable all of their survival, rather than just ensure a temporary survival for the one or few.


5 thoughts on “Where’s the water?

  1. The water crisis in Egypt in the recent years is alarming mostly due to less rains in the region. The water scarcity if not dealt with promptly could endanger Egypt’s regional dominance and stability. It is imperative for the Egyptian government to act and mitigate water scarcity and deal with the water pollution. Also the rapid rise in Egypt’s population has put a lot of pressure on the water supply because more water is required for domestic consumption and irrigation to meet high demands. Countries in this region are all faced by the same problems and it is high time for the governments to wake up and act to avoid future crisis. For example the water pollution is a big problem, take Lake Victoria the second largest fresh water lake globally faces the same nightmare.


  2. It is unfortunate to hear that pollution, population rise, mismanagement or resources, and international politics have had such a marked effect on Egypt’s water security. It is alarming to hear that despite having the Nile some analysts would say it has the worst “existential hydrologic problems” with the exception of Iraq and Yemen. It is very sad to think of the Nile, this incredible source of life for Egypt since ancient times, becoming an unusable, degraded source because of sewage water, overuse, and conflict. In so many cases, humanity has bite the hand that feeds it with our disrespect for the planet. This will have its due effect which, unless we change very much very soon, will likely be devastating, as it already is.
    I know that Egypt has reworked its agricultural ideology somewhat in recent years, steering away from its past ambition of food self-sufficiency, which will probably have a positive effect on water use to some degree.


  3. Wow i believe this is the only place in MENA that had plenty of water, however it is sad that the government doesn’t know how to take care of it; therefore now Egypt is facing water scarcity. Moreover, i believe that the government should work on environmental issues which may have a big impact in the Egypt’s’ Future. If the government do not take of the water it may become more scarce which may cause conflicts and instability. Additionally, I found fascinating that the Nile River can change the landscape of a dry region.


  4. You mentioned the Nile runs through 8 countries. I wonder how much pollution and debris gets dumped into the nile by the time it reaches the Mediterranean. If Egypt has sanitation problems, them we can only assume the less developed countries have sewage and waste that gets dumped into the river. I wonder what kind of technology, helps with this clean up, or if the shear volume of water nullifies the major effects of pollution.


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