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Published by Mohamed Marghany
Egypty tours is a well established, dynamic and reputable company fully specialized in incoming tourism services in Egypt. With over 25 years experience in the tourism industry, our management guarantees the highest quality professional travel services in the country. With a variety of standard travel packages and the ability to customize trips to meet all your clients' needs, our company will make your millionth trip to Egypt as interesting and intriguing as the first.
Egypty tours is a well established, dynamic and reputable company fully specialized in incoming tourism services in Egypt. With over 25 years experience in the tourism industry, our management guarantees the highest quality professional travel services in the country. With a variety of standard travel packages and the ability to customize trips to meet all your clients' needs, our company will make your millionth trip to Egypt as interesting and intriguing as the first.

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Published by: Mohamed Marghany on May 31, 2011
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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Aswan High Dam impacts; fossil groundwaters in NorthAfrica
Professor Jim Simpson
Download Powerpoint to view figures.
List of Figures: 
Motivation for construction of Aswan High Dam.2.
Short-term impacts of Aswan High Dam construction.3.
Long-term impacts of Aswan High Dam construction.4.
Map of Lake Nasser.5.
(a)Zone of sediment deposition in Lake Nasser. (b) Volume of water storage in Lake Nasser (1968-1990).6.
Water demands per capita - I: drinking & domestic (NYC).7.
Water demands per capita - II: irrigation (Egypt).8.
Water demands per capita - III: summary of main use categories.9.
Land area required for per capita food production (Egypt).10.
Groundwaters in North Africa - fossil water from glacial period.
Irrigation water demand (Egypt) per unit of land - duration of fossil groundwater resourceif withdrawn for irrigation.
Key Concepts.
Long-term problems resulting from current surface water management practices, such asreservoir siltation, present major difficulties for future generations, but are generallyignored.2.
Irrigation demand for water is more than an order of magnitude greater than domestic usedemand in arid climates.3.
Fossil groundwaters in N Africa and elsewhere are being withdrawn to supply irrigationdemands in amounts far in excess of recharge rates.
With rapid increase of population in Egypt and very limited supplies of water and agriculturalland, the pressure to manage river water to the maximum extent feasible is very strong. When apopulation is faced with the serious food-supply problems confronted by Egypt, and a number of other countries, it is not likely that long-term environmental issues will have high priority.However, those issues do not go away just because they are not currently factored into planningdecisions. Some of the positive reasons for construction of the High Dam at Aswan are quiteclear (Figure #1).
The most central argument for building a large reservoir on the Nile was to permit moreintensive irrigation in the Nile Delta and upstream along the main stem of the river in Egypt.Storage of a total volume equivalent to two or three years of average discharge eliminated the"loss" of fresh water to the Mediterranean Sea during annual flooding, permitting all to be usedfor irrigation (except for evaporation losses from Lake Nasser). Secondly, in drought years of low Nile discharge to Egypt stored irrigation water could be used to sustain food production,assuming a limited number of low Q years. During the major drought in Africa of the mid to late'80s, many countries in the Nile River basin, including Ethiopia and Sudan, experienced majorfamine while Egypt did not, at least in part because of its ability to draw on irrigation waterstored in Lake Nasser.
Another argument for construction of the High Dam was for generation of electricity. In the firstdecade after construction, there was sufficient supply of electricity to meet demands of urbancitizens in Cairo and also some rural populations, with a surplus for smelting of aluminum ore.By the early 1980's, the demand for electricity had overtaken available supply, which wasdominated by High Dam hydroelectricity, and construction of new fossil fuel burning generatingstations began. Operation of these new generating stations will significantly shorten the lifetimeof petroleum resources in Egypt, the sale of which currently provides a major component of theforeign currency for purchase of food imports.Construction of the High Dam provided more options for location of homes and other buildings,as well as other infrastructure that would not have been feasible due to the elimination of theannual flooding cycle throughout the country. Thus it permitted many of the kinds of investments that are assumed to be necessary in our modern world.Some immediate negative impacts of the High Dam construction included (Figure #2): loss of the coastal fishery for sardines and anchovies that were important food sources caught near themouths of the two branches of the Nile. The Mediterranean Sea can be generally considered as a"desert" in terms of fish production, due to its very low supply of nutrients such as phosphorusand nitrogen that are required for the microscopic marine green plants to accomplish photosynthesis. As a result, marine fishing in Egypt had been important only in the immediatevicinity of the Nile outflow, especially in the months following annual flooding. Immediatelyafter the High Dam was completed and the last Nile flood had occurred, the fishery of coastalEgypt collapsed, and has never recovered.The most important building material in rural Egypt has always been bricks made from NileRiver sediments, mostly obtained by dredging of the canal network following annual floods.After the floods ceased in the mid 1960's, there was no new supply of sediments to be clearedfrom the canals, and some farmers began to sell their top soil to small-scale brick manufacturing plants. Although this gave an immediate return of cash to the farmer who mined his fields for soil, it then took the land involved out of agricultural production, or made it much more difficultto use because of the need for very careful land-level controls for flood irrigation practices. Thisloss of land has been mostly arrested in the last two decades by mining clay deposits fromsurrounding desert lands that are not feasible to use for agriculture and building much larger  brick factories that do not use Nile Delta soils as a raw material. However, this latter 
development had the negative consequence of eliminating a major source of income to the small-scale brick manufacturers, and transferring the income to large central government enterprises.Much of the fertility of the agricultural soil in Egypt resulted from the continuous resupply of rich volcanic sediments from the Ethiopian highlands during annual flooding. Since this nolonger occurs, it has become necessary to use much greater amounts of commercial fertilizers,such as mineral phosphates and fixed nitrogen. The latter of these nutrient sources is very energyintensive in terms of production so it represents another drain on Egypt's limited fossil fuelreserves and on foreign currency sources. Total annual commercial fertilizer use per hectare of agricultural land in Egypt during the early 1990's was about 340 kg, one of the highest in theworld for any country of appreciable population. The comparable values during the same yearsfor the USA and Japan were 100 kg and 390 kg, respectively. It appears unlikely that higher application rates of commercial fertilizer would significantly improve crop yields in Egypt
Long-term impacts of the construction of the Aswan High Dam include gradual inundation of land areas near the Mediterranean Sea as the Delta slowly subsides (Figure #3). All river deltaareas are slowly sinking due to the weight of deposited sediments, and they remain in balanceonly from delivery of new fluxes of sediments to offset subsidence. In the case of the Nile sincecompletion of the High Dam, subsidence has already been measurable, leading towarddestruction of the narrow land strips that form borders of large brackish lakes adjacent to thecoast. These are currently the most important remaining fishery resource in Egypt and areincreasingly at risk due to breaching of their seaward margins during winter storms. Despite thelack of new sediments reaching the Delta, that area will continue to subside for many thousandsof years in the future.Lake Nasser is now steadily filling with sediments (Figure #4) that formerly reached the Deltaand the coastal Mediterranean The current locus of deposition is far upstream of the High Damand does not immediately threaten operation of the power station (Figure #5A). However, thereservoir will be sufficiently filled within less than a millennium to no longer be useful for storage of irrigation water. Order of magnitude estimates suggest that within about 600 years,about half of the current irrigation water storage value of Lake Nasser will have been lost. Interms of the history of civilization in the Nile Valley, this is not very long. The quantities of sediment filling up Lake Nasser are so huge (about 100 million tons per year) as to defycurrently feasible attempts at removal. No one currently has a plausible solution to this problem,which has effectively been postponed for later generations to confront, as is true for many major environmental issues in other countries. The largest sediment dredging operations in the world tomaintain some of the most valuable harbors, such as that for New York City, are one-two ordersof magnitude smaller than would be required to remove the annual influx of sediment to Lake Nasser.The record of monthly water volumes in Lake Nasser between 1968 and 1990 illustrate quitedramatically the years of rapid filling which occurred during the 1970's, followed by the major decline in storage volume associated with the drought of the 1980's (Figure #5B). By the time of the large flood runoff from Ethiopia in the summer of 1988, the active storage volume in Lake

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