African Water Project Gets Million Dollar Backing
The Nubian aquifer is the only source of freshwater in Egypt's western district, which covers about 68% of the country's total land area. (Photo credit: R. Quevenco/IAEA)
An IAEA initiative to help African countries study and manage shared groundwater supplies has received a matching grant of $1 million from the Global Environment Facility (GEF), based in Washington, DC. The GEF approved the grant 20 June 2005.
This grant is provided from the GEF via the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in New York. UNDP and the IAEA will jointly manage implementation of the new activities which supplement the IAEA´s technical cooperation project in Africa for managing the Nubian Aquifer, one of world's largest underground sources of water.
The IAEA entered into a partnership with GEF in 2003 to develop a framework for sustainable management of the Nubian Aquifer system, using isotope hydrology. This will enable the countries that use the aquifer - Chad, Egypt, the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, and Sudan - to develop an effective groundwater management plan. The ancient waters of the Nubian stretch approximately two million square kilometers beneath these four countries of northeast Africa. The aquifer is of significant importance as a source of drinking water and for irrigation. It is the only source of freshwater in Egypt´s western desert, which covers about 68% of the country´s total land area.
Fact Finding with Isotopes
Since 2003, the IAEA has been helping the four Nubian countries to use isotope techniques, which are key analytical tools of nuclear science for understanding and mapping water resources. What is known so far is that under present climatic conditions, the Nubian´s groundwater is sparsely recharged by Nile water seepage in a few areas, by precipitation in some mountain regions, and by groundwater influx from the Blue Nile/Main Nile Rift system.
Under the IAEA project, the aim is to expand and consolidate the scientific knowledge and database on the Nubian and to develop a groundwater management plan based on a monitoring network for the aquifer. Setting up a framework for the management of the aquifer will be an important contribution to the region´s development. It eventually will lead to a sustainable production of drinking water and improved agricultural production. Additional benefits are a reduction of the population pressure on urban areas, and improved control of desertification.
A Framework for Water Sharing
The GEF funding will extend the scope of the IAEA-supported cooperative programme. Specifically, it will help to:
- prepare and agree on a Shared Aquifer Diagnostic Analysis (SADA) to jointly identify, understand and reach agreement on the priority issues, threats and root causes of the Nubian Aquifer;
- address and fill key methodological, data and capacity gaps needed for strategic planning decisions, using appropriate technical approaches with a focus on isotope techniques and applications under the supervision of the IAEA;
- prepare a Strategic Action Programme to outline the necessary legal, policy and institutional reforms needed to address the priority threats and their root causes as identified in the SADA for the Nubian Aquifer;
- establish an agreed legal and institutional mechanism towards a Nubian Aquifer convention for joint four-partite management and rational use of the shared aquifer system.