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Regional Setting of the Nile (redirected from Scope of the Problem)

Page history last edited by mulforel@dukes.jmu.edu 12 years ago

The root of the water problem in the Nile resides in the country of Sudan. Sudan has around 200 million ha (hectares) of surface water the most important of which is a 4000 km stretch of the Nile and its tributaries.  Rainfall ranges between almost nothing in the barren deserts of the north to about 1400mm in the southern sub-humid parts of the country.  The climate is tropical and is one of the hottest in the world with vast daily and seasonal variations in temperature. According to the 1993 census, Sudan is inhabited by almost 25 million people of whom 25% live in the capital, Khartoum.  The rate of growth is around 2.9%. On paper Sudan seems to have enough water resources flowing through their country to sustain their population. However, factors like outdated treaties with Egypt, disease, and poor water infrastructure, which are described further in this analysis, cause Sudan to be in a desperate water situation. Over the last two decades the Nile has decreased in annual discharges and these discharges are predicted to keep decreasing from the main sources like the rainfall in the Ethiopian Highlands.  Even though southern Sudan has the highest water levels in the country, most of it is contaminated by bacteria such as cholera. These bacteria cause Sudanese people to die everyday from pneumonia and other illnesses.  These diseases are intensified by Sudan's population only having 40% have access to clean drinking water. The Nile water crisis in Sudan needs to be solved before existing issues get worse and further problems arise. 


The Nile is the world’s longest river. It spans 4,184 miles, is home to an estimated 216,017,135 people, and connects nine countries: Tanzania, Burundi, Rwanda, Uganda, Kenya, Ethiopia, Sudan, Democratic Republic of Congo, and Egypt. The river originates in Burundi and flows north through Egypt to the Mediterranean Sea (Figure 1). The Nile has three tributaries, the Blue Nile, the White Nile, and the River Atbara. Of the total water in the Nile, the Blue Nile contributes over 50% of its flow.   

 Figure: 1 The Nile River Basin and its tributaries


Due to its length, the Nile flows through many different climates. In the south, near Ethiopia, there is heavy rainfall each year, which often causes flooding. In the north, around Egypt and Sudan, rainfall is scarce and the terrain is mostly desert (Figure 2). Ethiopia has average annual rainfalls of 1,500 mm whereas Egypt receives about 75 mm annually. Human water withdrawals increase as the water flows downstream—this is largely due to the arid climate in the north and more developed countries. For example, Egypt and Sudan both withdrawal over 30 km3 of water annually, and Burundi and Uganda withdraw under 3 km3 annually.




                Figure 2. Average annual rainfall levels along the Nile. As the Nile flows north, rainfall levels decrease.



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