When Finding 200,000 Year Old Water is a Blessing

Egypt water supply, nile river

It's surprising to hear that after hundreds of years, most of the water used by Egyptians still comes from the Nile River. 

As of 2019, only about seven percent of the water used in the country comes from aquifers or underground water sources.  However, government officials realize they will need to access underground water in years to come, necessary to address the needs of the country's growing population.

This is why they called in researchers from the University of Delaware. Government officials wanted to know how much underground water can be found in Egypt, and based on that amount, how much can be pumped out for irrigation and human consumption. 

In the process, they discovered something unexpected.  Using technologies that can evaluate the age of underground water, they found that much of the underground water in Egypt is as much as 200,000 years old.  This was a surprise because the scientists were expecting to see, what was termed, “younger water,” dating back only 50 to 100 years at the most.  

They also found that, rainfall and water drawn from the Nile used for irrigation is still replenishing the aquifers.  However, these developments were viewed as both a blessing and a warning.

The blessing: Egypt has large amounts of underground water, which can be tapped when needed, to meet immediate and future needs.

The warning: They must use it very carefully.  Many parts of the Middle East, as with many parts of the United States, have been pumping out underground water much faster than it can be replenished.

This all points to the ongoing need to use water wisely.  If water from rivers and waterways is not available, and only limited amounts of water remain in underground aquifers, how will countries like the U.S. and in other parts of the world meet the water-related needs of growing populations?

The key to this predicament is water efficiency.  Whereas water conservation is a short-term reduction in water consumption, water efficiency refers to long-term ways to reduce water consumption. 

Water efficiency has not been a big concern in the world for centuries, even in the driest countries.  However, it is today.  Fortunately, new technologies are being introduced, so that everything from agriculture and HVAC systems to toilets and urinals use far less water than ever before, and some cases, no water at all. 

This tells us reducing water consumption is a challenge that can be addressed.  What Egyptian officials discovered is that they currently have some breathing room.  They do not need to begin accessing their underground water resources at this time.  However, they do need to take advantage of this situation and make sure future water needs are addressed as wisely and efficiently as possible.

For more information on using water more efficiently, contact a Waterless Co Specialist.