As Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia gather in Washington to discuss the Grand Renaissance Dam Ethiopia is building on the Blue Nile, it’s important to bear some points in mind.

  1. Despite relying almost entirely on the Nile, Egypt has allowed its population to increase exponentially. The Egyptian population grew seven fold in the twentieth century, from 10 million in 1900 to nearly 80 million in 2000. Today it is nearly 100 million.
  2.   Egypt does not only irrigate its traditional agricultural areas along the Nile. It has extended its farming in two directions. Firstly, it has irrigated vast areas around the Aswan High Dam, completed in 1970. Secondly, it has piped water under the Suez canal to water the Sinai. Both these projects were undertaken without regard for where the water came from.
  3. Egypt’s poor irrigation system is wasting a majority of the nation’s water sources. Thirty-five percent of underground water leaks through, as caused by the deteriorating infrastructures that haven’t been replaced in the decades since they were first put in place.

If Egypt is concerned about the waters flowing from Ethiopia, then it needs to find a means of putting its own house in order: control its population, stop extending its agriculture without having a domestic source of water and end the waste of water.