The water yield of the River Nile is becoming increasingly erratic as a result of climate change, which may have very grave consequences for Egypt.
To this day, the country of 98 million people is highly dependent on the river: 95 percent of the population lives along its banks, and 90 percent of the country’s water is also supplied by the Nile.
In recent years, however, the river’s water yield has undergone a number of changes due to global warming and human activities. Although in the region of the source of the Nile there is actually more rain than before, the distribution has become more irregular, and the torrential rains wash out fertile soil and block up the water channels of dams. In the near future, it is expected that there will be fewer years with near average water yields, while extremes (floods and droughts) will come to dominate.
Yet the country’s water demand exceeds what the river is able to supply year after year: reserves are running out, and the annual water deficit is as much as 20 billion cubic metres.
In Cairo, the water supply already fails regularly. In some districts, the taps are only turned on for three hours a day during the warmest months, but even then, a significant portion of the water is wasted due to the poor quality of the water network.
Up to 180 thousand people may be left without drinking water due to the severe drought.
Extreme drought is putting one of the world’s most important trade routes at risk.
The characteristic sand banks of the river have grown larger, some branches have dried out completely.
Zimbabwe’s capital city, Harare, shut down its main water works on 23 September citing shortages of foreign currency to import chemicals required for water treatment. The situation may not only lead to a severe water shortage for the population, but also increases the risks of diseases carried by contaminated water, such as cholera.
A comprehensive report by the European Environment Agency claims that over the next 30 years, agricultural yields could drop by up to 16 percent in Europe due to the phenomena accompanying climate change.
This year’s was the third hottest summer in Germany since the beginning of regular meteorological records in 1881, according to preliminary data from the Federal Meteorological Service.
In 2011, Laguna de Aculeo, one of the country’s favourite bathing resorts, still covered 12 square kilometres, and the lake was 6 metres deep – but since then, it has completely dried out.
The problem of the water shortages caused by global warming is much more complex than we have thought. In some parts of Africa, people not only need to face thirst but also the fact that the regions impacted by drought emit a quantity of carbon dioxide equivalent to the emissions of two hundred million cars each year.
According to a new report by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that focuses on the interaction between climate change, desertification and food security, if present land use habits are maintained, the planet’s capacity to produce food will drop drastically.
The EU is contributing a further 50 million euro to alleviate drought damage in a number of Eastern and Central African countries. According to estimates, more than 4 million children and about 3 million pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers are undernourished in the region.