File Photo: An aerial view of the River Nile valley pictured through the window of an airplane on a flight between Cairo and Luxor, Egypt taken on April 11, 2021. REUTERS
Due to the increasing rainfall at the River Nile’s headwaters, the pool elevation of the Aswan High Dam Lake is expected to rise in early August, which marks the beginning of the water year, Egypt’s Minister of Irrigation and Water Resources Mohamed Abdel-Ati said on Wednesday.
During a meeting of the Permanent Committee for Regulating the Nile Revenue, Abdel-Ati said that bodies affiliated to his ministry “are monitoring the rainfall rates at the River Nile’s headwaters and the hydrological condition of the river to determine the quantities of water reaching the High Dam Lake and to examine the different scenarios of flooding.”
According to a statement by the ministry, Abdel-Ati noted that the committee “is in permanent session” to follow up on the Nile's revenue, the mechanisms of water management and distribution, and the measures taken by the ministry to achieve the optimal management of water resources while maintaining the safe level of the Nile and its two branches.
Egypt relies on the Blue Nile – which originates in Ethiopia and is one of the two main tributaries of the world's longest river – and the White Nile, which converge in Khartoum, before flowing north through Egypt and into the Mediterranean Sea.
On Monday, Ethiopian Minister of Water and Irrigation Seleshi Bekele expected a possible flood
in downstream countries Egypt and Sudan since highlands have witnessed heavy rainfall.
In a tweet, Bekele said that rain over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) is pouring at a rate of 6,000 cubic metres per second, leading the water in the dam’s reservoir to surcharge by five metres due to the downpour.
The annual Nile flood, which takes place in August, September, and October, is caused by heavy rain in the Ethiopian highlands.
In 2020, Ethiopia’s unilateral first-year filling of the GERD resulted in a double crisis for Sudan. Lands in Sudan saw drought due to the sudden filling of the 6,000-megawatt dam before witnessing catastrophic floods for concluding the GERD filling without notification and also because of the heavy rainfall the Ethiopian highlands witnessed.
The Sudanese Roseires dam’s reservoir, the capacity of which is only a billion cubic metres (bcm), is located 15km away from the GERD, which Addis Ababa has been building since 2011 with a storage capacity of 74 bcm.
According to the Sudanese irrigation ministry, the Blue Nile’s levels in Sudan rose in late August and September 2020 to 17.57 metres (57 feet), breaking all records since measurements began more than a century ago and leaving more than 100 people dead and damaging tens of thousands of houses.
In Egypt, the level of the River Nile rose dramatically and caused the sinking of some lands in the Delta at the time.
During Wednesday's meeting, Abdel-Ati instructed the ministry’s bodies to up their readiness to meet the country’s water demands, and to continue monitoring water levels and the condition of canals and drains countrywide.
Egypt, which is considered one of the most water-scarce countries in the world, receives around 60 bcm annually, mainly from the Nile. However, its needs stand at around 114 bcm, placing the 100-million-plus country well below the international threshold for water scarcity, at 560 cubic metres per person annually.
The large gap in water resources in Egypt is overcome by importing 54 percent of its virtual water and reusing 42 percent of its renewable, Abdel-Ati said in an earlier statement.
Virtual water – which is the embedded water required to produce commodities – is measured as a percentage of the already existing water resources and is increasingly recommended as a good policy for water-scarce areas.