Hend El-Behary

The ongoing reduction in Egypt’s Nile fresh water may subject the country to fresh water and energy shortages by 2025, according to a report published in the Geological Society of America’s (GSA) March issue.

It explained that any further decrease in Nile fresh water would be ‘grave’ because at best, the river barely supplies 97 percent of Egypt’s water needs, and now provides only 660 cubic meters per capita, which is one of the world’s lowest water shares.

“With a population expected to double in the next 50 years, Egypt is projected to reach a state of serious country-wide fresh water and energy shortage by 2025,” the report said.

Since 2005, Egypt has been classified as a country that suffers water scarcity because water resources provide less than 1,000 cubic meters of fresh water annually per capita, while the population is expected to reach 95 million in 2025, which means the annual indivdual share will drop to 600 cubic meters per capita.
While in August 2015, the Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics (CAPMAS) said that the fresh water per capita consumption declined dramatically, as the average per capita consumption of fresh water in 2013-2014 was 103.4 cubic meters, compared to 116.3 cubic meters in 2012-2013, a decline of 11.1 percent due to the population increase.

Moreover the report pointed out that Egypt’s Nile delta which is 1 meter above mean sea level at the Mediterranean coast is subjected to high rates of submergence due to three factors including the neotectonic lowering, compaction of Holocene sequences, and diminished sediment replenishment.

“Among present critical challenges are marked reduction of Nile water and sediment below the High Aswan Dam that can now reach the delta coast. It is expected that problems of fresh water and energy poverty in the lower Nile Basin are likely to be seriously exacerbated in years ahead by construction of Ethiopia’s Grand Renaissance Dam (GERD),” the report said.

While on another side, the GSA report predicted a minimal relative sea-level rise of approximately 100 cm between now and 2100 at the Nile delta’s coast; “Total relative sea-level rise by year 2100 could be further increased locally by neotectonic lowering as has occurred sporadically and affected the delta’s margin in the recent past”.

Due to higher rates of polar ice melt that in years ahead, may possibly accompany global warming, the study envisioned increase in the rates of eustatic rise in sea level.

The report believes that land subsidence along with the rise of the sea level led to intrusion of the saline water into the delta’s aquifer which raised the researchers’ concerns that the growing salinity levels and shortage of Nile delta freshwater may threaten the country of becoming uninhabitable by 2100.
In January 2017 the Bank Information Center released a report saying that rising sea-levels have already begun to impact the Nile Delta and in the near future could displace over 2 million people and destroy significant agricultural production.

Given that Egypt cosumes 85 percent of water on agriculture, the study pointed out that the high salinity levels in the delta plain weighed badly on the ability of the fertile soils to produce fresh water and food . “Most of the now-limited volume of Nile water that reaches the delta is diverted and channelized into the complex water distribution system, most utilized for agricultural, municipal, and industrial needs. Egypt now releases less than 10 percent of its water supply, a mostly saline and highly polluted aqueous mix, to the sea, with little sediment available for coastal replenishment,” it said.

The researchers believed that the country presently needs much more fresh water than can be provided by the Main Nile. “Without it, the delta’s coastal margin, for the most part depleted of its former sediment supply for replenishment, continues to erode locally and subside,” the report said.

To ameliorate these salinization and coastal erosion problems, the report propsed that the country should construct “laterally extensive, continuous, and deeply emplaced protection structures along the delta’s coastal perimeter” which onclude protection structures such as jetties, seawalls and breakwaters.