Skip to comments.Making the desert bloom--or making the wells go dry
Posted on 03/01/2006 8:29:01 AM PST by SunkenCiv
...Egypt already uses all the Nile water it is allocated by international treaty, mostly for irrigating crops. Yet it still imports more than half of its food, including about 10 million tons of grain annually. Since it takes 1,000 tons of water to grow a single ton of grain, that means Egypt already brings in about 10 billion tons of "virtual water" per year, according to Prof. Tony Allan, a water expert at the University of London's School of Oriental and African Studies.
Seen as a whole, the Middle East is the world's largest exporter of oil--no surprise there--but also the largest importer of virtual water, a fact that many of its people and governments do not seem to realize. "More water flows into the Middle East each year embedded in grain than flows down the Nile to Egyptian farmers," Allan says. He calculates that the Mideast "ran out of water"--became unable to feed its expanding population with its limited water supplies--around 1972 and has been supplementing its needs with imported virtual water ever since.
This has been relatively painless for Egypt and its neighbors because the United States, Canada, and the European Union have long subsidized grain exports. During the 1980s, the big grain producers sold wheat, on average, for $100 a ton when it would have cost $200 a ton to produce without direct export subsidies, Allan says.
(Excerpt) Read more at oranim.ac.il ...
Mediterranean-Qattara solar-hydroEgypt's power supply is heavily dependent on the Nile River, including 9,801 GWh from Aswan high dam power station, 53.2% of the total power production of 18,430 GWh in 1980. After the Nile hydroelectric development, a series of steam power stations have been constructed in northern Egypt such as Ismailia, Abu Qir, Kafr el-Dawar, El-Suezu, Shoubra el-Kheima, Damanhour, and Al-Kuraimat in the 1980s (fig. 2.52). A number of gasturbine power stations have been installed at El-Suif, El-Mahmodia, and Damanhour to cover the deficit in peak generation capacity. In the long term, Egypt's power development is expected to be based on nuclear power generation, of which the installed capacity is scheduled to be extended up to 8,400 MW by the year 2000.
and pumped-storage development
by Masahiro Murakami
United Nations University, 1995
The southeastern Mediterranean ecosystem revisited: Thirty years after the construction of the Aswan High DamIn marked contrast to more fertile, nutrient-rich seas such as the North Sea and the Arabian Sea, the Mediterranean Sea is noted for its nutrient-poor waters which contribute to its low level of primary productivity. Primary productivity is the synthesis of organic matter from inorganic substances through photosynthesis by unicellular organisms called phytoplankton. In the Mediterranean Sea low primary productivity is due to several unique physical features. The general circulation of the sea is lagoonal in character. A west to east surface current brings relatively nutrient-depleted water from the North Atlantic through the Strait of Gibraltar and allows nutrient-rich bottom water to exit the sea through the same opening. The arid climate of the region and the low levels of nutrient-rich river runoff also contribute to the low productivity of the Mediterranean...
by Sayed El-Sayed
and Gert L. van Dijken
Before the High Dam was built, fifty percent of the Nile flow drained into the Mediterranean. During an average flood, the total discharge of nutrient salts was estimated to be approximately 5,500 tons of phosphate and 280,000 tons of silicate. The nutrient-rich flood water, or Nile Stream, was approximately fifteen kilometers wide and had sharp boundaries. It extended along the Egyptian coast and was detected off the Israeli coast and sometimes off southern Turkey.
Although the construction of the High Dam has been an unquestionably tremendous boon to Egyptian agriculture and has benefited industry by providing cheap electric power, it has also had far-reaching effects on the transport of fertile silt and sediments. These sediments are now trapped behind the dam, a situation which has led to severe erosion along the Egyptian coast. The dam also had great impact on the fertility of the coastal waters. The fertilizing effect of the inflow of the nutrient-rich water during the flood season once resulted in exceptionally dense blooms of phytoplankton off the Nile Delta. This "Nile bloom" provided sustenance to sardines and other pelagic fishes. It also constituted a large source of detrital material, the products of organic decay, which forms a vital source of food for commercially valuable organisms such as shrimp.
The decrease in fertility of the southeastern Mediterranean waters caused by the High Dam has had a catastrophic effect on marine fisheries. The average fish catch declined from nearly 35,000 tons in 1962 and 1963 to less than one-fourth of this catch in 1969. Hardest hit was the sardine fishery, primarily composed of Sardinella aurita, which is heavily dependent on increased phytoplankton during the flood season. Thus, from a total of 18,000 tons in 1962, a mere 460 and 600 tons of sardine were landed in 1968 and 1969, respectively. The shrimp fishery also took a heavy toll as the catch decreased from 8,300 tons in 1963 to 1,128 tons in 1969.
Mega Projects...These mega projects will help create new urban communities outside the valley in the depth of the Egyptian desert. The new communities will absorb the ever increasing population; thus alleviating population intensity in the valley, increasing the percentage of populated areas from 5.3 percent to 25 percent of Egypts total area.
(Egyptian gov't website)
You can't eat oil, but you can burn wheat.
Another online article (or maybe it was one of those quoted and linked above) had a cogent objection by someone over in the Massacreria East that new housing and industry should be built in the desert, and leave the valley for agriculture. The main problem of course is that much of the water goes straight up, and doesn't get used for anything at all. :') Best solution for that *isn't* to build another open to the sky irrigation canal (or four). :')
Egypt launches controversial Peace Canal projectgeologist Rushdi Said... "The valley and the Delta are a godsend -- there's no better land in the world. The best plan is to move industry and housing into the desert and make the most of the valley for farming."
by Gayle Young
January 9, 1997
The Exporters sold it to them. The American Producers took what they could get on the market on ANY given day or year.
One other thing about the Aswan High Dam -- there's a problem downstream (i.e., in the cultivated Nile Valley) with rising brackish groundwater, and a loss of soil fertility as a result of that. The Russkies did the same thing to the Aral Basin, and that's an awful place now.
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