The Nile Basin
Date: 09th November 2018
The Nile River, with its estimated length of over 6,800 km the world’s longest river, covers an area of around 3 million km2. The Nile flows through ten countries, four of which are already water scarce. The Nile basin is currently home to approximately 160 million people, but it is estimated that in 25 years, the population in the basin will be 600 million.
Adding to the potential water stress, many large dams for hydropower and irrigation are being built or considered in countries upstream with consequences for countries downstream that are highly dependent on the Nile for their water supply. These competing demands, combined with the potential impacts of climate change leading to changes in timing and availability of water and sea level rise, could send the region’s water resources into crisis.
This meeting explored the threats, challenges and opportunities facing the management of this major transboundary basin. We heard from a range of experts working at a national and multi-country level on the current state of the basin, its future development and the crucial need for cooperation among the riparian states.
Speakers and Topics
“Transboundary Water Management in the Nile Basin” Eelco van Beek (Deltares)
Prof. Van Beek is a water resources specialist who graduated in 1972 from Delft University of Technology in Civil Engineering in the Netherlands. He first worked in Iran as hydrologist for the United Nations. After joining Delft Hydraulics in 1976 (now Deltares), he became involved in projects on integrated water resources management (IWRM). He has carried out projects in the Netherlands but also in many countries all over the world in particular in Asia. His primary focus is on the use of quantitative tools (models) in IWRM about which he has written a book together with prof. Pete Loucks of Cornell University. In Egypt he has been involved in the preparation of the National Water Resources Plan of Egypt and carried out several studies on Lake Nasser and the Nile. He combined his work at Deltares with teaching positions at the Delft University of Technology, the University of Twente and IHE Delft. Prof. Van Beek was also for 6 years a member of the Technical Committee of the Global Water Partnership (GWP).
“Lake Victoria – Water Levels and Release Policies” Helen Houghton-Car (Centre for Ecology & Hydrology)
The significant drop in Lake Victoria water levels, beginning in 2000 and reaching the lowest recorded level since the 1940s six years later, inconvenienced those who depend on the lake for their livelihoods and generated a regional debate regarding the cause of the decline. The basin, in the headwaters of the Nile in East Africa, is home to over 40M people who depend on the water of the lake, its tributaries and its outflow for domestic and industrial supply, irrigation, hydropower, transportation and fisheries. The Lake Victoria region is characterised by high intra- and inter annual climatic variability, the consequence of which is significant uncertainty in future rainfall on, and inflows to, the lake. The East African climate paradox, in which the East African long rains are observed to be decreasing, whilst climate models predict an increase, illustrates the current lack of capacity to predict the impacts of climate variability and change on water resources.
Helen Houghton-Carr is a Senior Hydrologist and Project Manager at the NERC Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, and current Chair of the Irrigation & Water Forum. She works primarily on overseas water resources projects, in sub-Saharan Africa, in India and across Europe. She has particular interests in regional approaches to problem-solving and in expanding technical capabilities in the water sector to monitor, plan and manage resources more effectively and sustainably.
“Sudan – Evolving Approaches to Water Policy and Projects, and the Impact on Conflict in Rural Sudan” Brendan Bromwich (King’s College London) & Eiman Karar
The massive humanitarian response to Darfur put considerable pressure on the region’s water resources. A new effort to adapt and implement IWRM approaches grew out of this need and fed into a national policy agenda to manage Sudan’s non Nile water resources. The response included practical initiatives and a policy discourse based around an exchange programme between Sudan and South Africa. In both countries IWRM, although by no means a silver bullet for the water sector, has had a convening power in the aftermath of social upheaval. We review the impact of a UKAID and EU funded initiative on IWRM over a 10-year period within the context of policy and political change in Sudan. We also consider the critique of IWRM and the role of adaptive management for water security.
Brendan Bromwich coordinated the UN’s environmental response to the Darfur conflict. The work included practical initiatives to explore how environmental governance could be restored in the aftermath of widespread social upheaval. He currently works with food and water group at King’s College London and is co-editor of the forthcoming Oxford Handbook on Food water and society.
“Blue Nile – Ethiopia and The Grand Renaissance Dam” Kevin Wheeler (University of Oxford)
Dr. Kevin Wheeler is a research associate with the Environmental Change Institute at the University of Oxford, principal of Water Balance Consulting, and recent Research Fellow in Sustainability Science at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. His work focuses on trans-boundary rivers and increasing water security through cooperation, specifically through collaborative risk-based modelling within negotiation contexts. His work supports the development process of coordinated management strategies for multi-objective reservoir systems. With over 15 years of consulting experience, Dr. Wheeler has worked on a variety of water-related issues ranging from community-based development projects to international trans boundary disputes, including the successful negotiations between the USA and Mexico over the Colorado River. For the last 6 years, he has focused on the Nile River by exploring potential cooperative strategies between Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt.
“East Africa Climate” John Marsham (University of Leeds)
Dr. Kevin Wheeler is a research associate with the Environmental Change Institute at the University of Oxford, principal of Water Balance Consulting, and recent Research Fellow in Sustainability Science at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. His work focuses on trans-boundary rivers and increasing water security through cooperation, specifically through collaborative risk-based modelling within negotiation contexts. His work supports the development process of coordinated management strategies for multi-objective reservoir systems. With over 15 years of consulting experience, Dr. Wheeler has worked on a variety of water-related issues ranging from community-based development projects to international trans- boundary disputes, including the successful negotiations between the USA and Mexico over the Colorado River. For the last 6 years, he has focused on the Nile River by exploring potential cooperative strategies between Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt.
Dr John Marsham is an Associate Professor with water@leeds at the University of Leeds and the National Centre for Atmospheric Science. He is a meteorologist specialising in moist convection and tropical meteorology, especially in Africa. He is PI of the Future Climate for Africa (FCFA) HyCRISTAL project (Intergrating Hydro-Climate Science into Policy Decisions for Climate-Resilient Infrastructure and Livelihoods in East Africa), and Co-I on the FCFA pan-African IMPALA and West African AMMA2050 projects., as well as GCRF Africa SWIFT, which addresses weather prediction.
“Egypt – National Water Resources Plan” Caroline Bäcker (Mott MacDonald)
Introduction of integrated water resources planning and management in the Delta of Egypt, involving enhanced co-operation between government agencies to improve solid waste management, wastewater treatment, water quality in waterways, more efficient irrigation practices and strengthened end-user participation in water management.
Caroline Bäcker is an experienced institutional development expert in the water sector achieving sustainable results in project management and implementation in Asia, Africa and Europe working with international financing agencies including the World Bank, KfW German Development Bank and the European Union. Caroline managed multidisciplinary teams to engage end-users in water management, enhance capacity and cooperation between institutions to practise integrated water resource management, improve water resources planning, and strengthen the capacity of institutions and their contexts for efficient delivery of public sector services.