Egypt’s water woes

The Blue Nile in Guba, Ethiopia, during its diversion ceremony on
May 28.

Despite the mighty River Nile flowing through their country, Egypt is a desert nation which suffers from water shortage problems. These might very well be exacerbated because, as reported last week, Ethiopia is planning to build a dam over the Nile which could affect the flow of the river into Egypt:

Ethiopia’s parliament on Thursday ratified an accord that replaces colonial-era deals that awarded Egypt and Sudan the majority of the world’s longest river.

The vote comes amid a bout of verbal jousting between Ethiopia and Egypt after Ethiopia last month started to divert Nile waters for a massive $4.2 billion hydro-electric dam dubbed the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam.

Ethiopia’s growing economy frequently suffers from power cuts and needs more electrical capacity. But Egypt fears the dam will mean a diminished share of the Nile, which provides almost all of the desert nation’s water needs.

Egyptian politicians have suggested attacks against Ethiopia to sabotage the dam, and Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi on Monday warned that “all options are open” to challenge Ethiopia’s Nile project.

Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn responded Tuesday, forcefully vowing “nothing” and “no one” will stop the dam’s construction. He downplayed the prospect of conflict, saying Egypt leaders won’t go to war unless they “go mad.”

African Union head Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma on Wednesday urged dialogue and cooperation between Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan.

Elder of Ziyon reports that Egypt is starting to talk about war with Ethiopia over the dam issue:

The rhetoric level has been increasing.

Last week:

The head of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) Mohamed El-Katatni told Al-Ahram’s Arabic-language news website on Wednesday that a military response to Ethiopia’s Nile dam project “cannot be taken without the consent and support of the Egyptian people.”


Followed by:

Egypt does not want war with Ethiopia but will keep “all options open,” President Mohamed Morsy said on Monday, piling pressure to an ongoing dispute over the giant dam Addis Ababa is building across the Nile.

In a televised speech to cheering Islamist supporters, Morsy voiced his understanding for the development needs of poorer nations upstream in the Nile basin, but deployed emotive language to claim Egyptians would not tolerate any reduction in water supplies.

Hot-headed rhetoric, including whispers of military action, by Egyptian politicians last week has raised concerns of a so-called “water war” between Africa’s second and third most populous states.

But Morsy, for whom the dispute provides ample opportunity to rally Egyptians behind him after a divisive first year in power, also seemed to leave room for compromise.

Despite the incendiary rhetoric, Stratfor is of the opinion that Egypt has limited military options to stop an Ethiopian dam:

To avoid the hassle of hitting a standing dam and creating major flooding downstream in Sudan and even potentially Egypt, Cairo would probably prefer to hit it while it is under construction. But it also has to be careful not to hit the dam too early, because then Ethiopia may not be fully deterred from restarting the project.

Distance is a major obstacle for the Egyptian military option. Ethiopia is simply too far from Egypt, and since Egypt has not invested in any sort of aerial refueling capability, it is beyond the combat radius of all Egyptian aircraft staging from Egyptian airfields. The only consolation for Egypt is that the dam is very close to the Sudanese border. Access to Sudanese airfields would place some of Egypt’s air force within range. However, operating from Sudanese territory could be politically complicated and would have international repercussions for Sudan along with Egypt. Sudan’s proximity to Ethiopia would also leave it vulnerable to direct military retaliation.


Special operations forces teams would face their own series of obstacles in trying to destroy the dam. Dams are critical infrastructure and routinely protected relatively well in most countries by dedicated military units. Ethiopia would be no exception,…


Egypt does have military options, but distance will heavily constrain its ability to project the full force of its military. Any option Cairo chooses to exercise will be risky at best and will also come with severe international consequences.


Business Investors Daily comes up with a solution for Egypt from an unlikely source – unlikely, that is, unless you follow the news out of Israel.


It’s fairly shocking to think that with all the turmoil going on in the Middle East, a new — and surprisingly dangerous — problem has emerged in the water dispute between Egypt and Ethiopia.But senior Egyptian officials have literally threatened war over Ethiopia’s $4.7 billion Great Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, which Egypt believes will significantly cut its water supply as the giant reservoir is filled.


But there is a solution — right from a neighbor that’s the world’s leader for efficient use and generation of water: Israel.Ten years ago, Israel and its neighbors had water shortages that were seen as likely to lead to inevitable conflict. Today, there’s no water crisis, because Israel has solved its shortages through free-market innovation. It now exports its expertise across the globe — from China to the U.S. Rocky Mountain states.

Politics aside, Egypt and Ethiopia should be pounding down the doors of Israel’s companies for a solution that will permanently secure their nations’ water needs.

Israel could show Egypt and Ethiopia two things: how to make water use efficient so that very little is wasted, and how to turn waste water into potable water, both of which would mean enough water for everyone.


The country recycles 83% of its own water, buys sewage from the Palestinians to turn into usable water, invented drip irrigation and is the world leader in desalinization. These have made Israel close to self-sufficient in water ever since it freed its economy in 1995.

Israeli Consul General David Siegel, speaking at the Israel Conference in May, noted that even U.S. governors from states such as Arizona, Nevada, Utah and California have shown interest in Israel’s water technologies.


Politics might suggest it would be impossible for someone like the Muslim Brotherhood’s Morsi to seek Israel’s help in resolving Egypt’s water problem.


Gilder noted in his book, “The Israel Test,” that every nation faces the dilemma of reacting to Israel’s success, either through jealousy or by learning from its ways. If Morsi can break with his foolish fundamentalist past, an existential threat will evaporate — and Egypt will have no issue with Ethiopia.

Will Egypt – and Ethiopia – have enough maturity and political will to consult with Israel rather than confront each other over water supply? Time will tell, but we had better hope so for the sake of the stability of the entire region.


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6 Responses to Egypt’s water woes

  1. Elliott Alhadeff says:

    Oh, yeah. Solving the Egypt/Ethiopia water problem will bring stability to the entire region? A nice little war between the two, coupled with the wars they are now inviting upon themselves resulting in the desirable state of mutual military impotence and diminishing their ability to conduct future wars on themselves and others is the preferred barbarian method of international relations. Keep in mind in all of these regionally unstable areas – we are referring to modern day savages who welcome death if they can kill innocent women and children for their religious beliefs. Reason and rational judgment is not an option.

    • anneinpt says:

      You misunderstand me Elliot. I don’t think solving the water problem will bring stability to the region, but it will prevent more instability. I didn’t make myself very clear there.

      Even though wars between Israel’s enemies and their other enemies is to the benefit of Israel in the short term, we have seen many times how these wars eventually spill over into the Israeli-Arab conflict, if only because the enemies’ leaders choose to do so in order to deflect domestic attention away from their failures elsewhere. Israel is a sure-fire guarantee of uniting domestic opposition to any military adventure, economic failure etc.

      So although it’s tempting to hope for Egypt and Ethiopia go to war, it’s a bad idea in the long run.

      • Let’s try to focus on the relevant. There is the “forest” and there are the “trees.” First, the “trees” include, but are not limited to Sunni v. Shiite, v. Hezbollah v. Hamas v. Syria v. Turkey v. US v. Russia v. Israel v. EU v. Anti-Semitism v. BDS v. etc., etc., etc. The “forest is genocidal Islam v. western culture. Translation: A religion-motivated movement seeking genocide of its critics will not negotiate its own demise. Therefore, negotiations with such a religion-motivated movement is self-destructive. However, any uncompromising movement sows the seeds of its own destruction, e.g., Sunni v. Shiite v. Hezbollah v. Hamas v. Secular v. Muslim Brotherhood, etc. Moreover, it may be the best policy of the civilized merely to maintain itheir defenses to prevent any cross-over of the barbarians into their realm as the savages cannibalize each others resources into mutual impotence.

  2. NormanF says:

    I see no reason for Israel to save the lives of Jew-hating Egyptians – the same Egyptians who want to see Israel wiped off the map! Let them all die and as the Hebrew Prophets warned us millenia ago, put not your trust in the princes of Zoan and Tanis. I regard Egypt’s plight as Divine punishment for its hatred of the Jewish people and Israel. Egypt’s priority is to run a genocidal TV series called “Khaybar” that depicts Jews as treacherous and blood-thirsty people fit to be wiped out! This is who we are dealing with in Morsi’s Egypt today.

  3. Pingback: Syria and Egypt can’t be fixed by the West | Anne's Opinions

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