Management of Egypt’s Surface and Groundwater Resources: Present and Future

Thursday, 18 December 2014
Mohamed Sultan1, Mohamed Ahmed1,2, Eugene Yan3, Adam Milewski4, Lamees Mohamed1 and Abotalib Zaki Abotalib Farag1, (1)Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo, MI, United States, (2)Suez Canal University, Ismailia, Egypt, (3)Argonne Natl Lab-Bldg 203, Argonne, IL, United States, (4)University of Georgia, Athens, GA, United States
The River Nile is the main source of fresh water in Egypt. Most of Egypt’s River Nile water (>85%) originates as precipitation over the Ethiopian highlands and is channeled by the Blue Nile. The construction (years: 2011 to 2017) of the Renaissance Dam (reservoir capacity: 70 x 109m3) on the Blue Nile poses an extreme threat to Egypt’s population. If the reservoir was to be filled in 7 years, Egypt will lose (during each of 7 years following dam completion) a minimum of 15 x 109m3 of its annual allocation (55 x 109m3) to reservoir filling (10 x 109m3), evaporation (3.5 x 109m3), and infiltration (1.5 x 109m3). Three solutions are proposed: Solution I takes advantage of the cyclicity of Nile floods and is based on findings from a calibrated (against temporal head data) unconfined 2-dimensional transient groundwater flow model for Lake Nasser and surroundings and a calibrated (against lake levels) surface water model. Models show with time: (1) losses to infiltration will decrease (1975-193: 58.4 109m3; 1993-2001: 43.6 x 109m3) due to silting of Lake bottom and encroachment of excess Lake Nasser water will increase (e.g., 1975-1993: none; 1993-2001: 17 x 109m3). We propose to develop sustainable agricultural in the Western Desert: (1) In high flood years, excess Lake Nasser water (e.g., 1993-2001: 17 x 109m3) is channeled across the plateau bounding (from west) the River Nile valley to artificially recharge the Nubian Sandstone Aquifer System (NSAS) that crops out west of the plateau and, (2) in low flood years, we extract the recharged groundwater. Solution II calls on mining the NSAS at reasonable rates. Using temporal (January 2003 – September 2012) Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) data we estimate the annual depletion rates at 2 x 109m3 due to artificial extraction (1.5 x 109m3) and natural discharge (0.5 x 109m3). Assuming current GRACE depletion rates, the recoverable groundwater (5,180 x 109m3) will last for 2500 years; if we were to quadruple the artificial extraction rates (6 x 109m3), the reservoir will last for some 800 years. Solution III calls on the sustainable utilization of the NSAS groundwater in Sinai that receives an estimated minimum annual modern recharge of 13 x 106m3. Currently, these waters are lost as discharge in water bodies and/or diverted across political boundaries by major NE trending fault systems.