Climate Change

Why the Nile Delta isn't ready for climate change

Rising temperatures and falling rainfall mean crops, which consume 86% of Egypt’s water supply, will require more irrigation to survive. Image: REUTERS/Nasser Nuri

Tim McDonnell

Reporter, Quartz

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A branch of the most northern part of the Delta, with pollution
Some farms in the northern part of the Delta source most of their water from the polluted Kitchener Drain, a branch of which is shown here. Image: Quartz.

Concrete barriers are being used to defend Egypt's coast against rising sea levels.
Concrete barriers are being used to defend Egypt's coast against rising sea levels. Image: Quartz.
Cotton farmers near the town of El-Hamoul
Cotton farmers near the town of El-Hamoul said they only had access to low-quality seeds and water, and that fertilizer had become almost unaffordable. Image: Quartz.

A tap releasing water
Egypt’s 200-year-old irrigation network is long enough to wrap around the globe. Image: Quartz.
A graph showing water availability in Egypt from 1900-2020
A graph showing water availability in Egypt from 1900-2020. Image: Quartz.
A bar chart showing projected change in climate conditions in Egypt during 2040-2070, compared to 1970-2000 baseline.
By 2100, climate change-related heat waves upstream could reduce the Nile’s flow by 75%. Image: Quartz.
A bar chart showing projected yield change for key crops in Egypt because of climate change impacts by 2050.
Crop yields in Egypt could fall 10% on average by 2050. Image: Quartz.

Fruit cultivation consultant Marius Bouwman demonstrates how sunlight reaches the inside of a mango tree, which can burn it.
Fruit cultivation consultant Marius Bouwman demonstrates how sunlight reaches the inside of a mango tree, which can burn it. Image: Quartz.
Erratic weather decimated about 20% of Rehim Salah’s crop this year, most of which was mangoes.
Erratic weather decimated about 20% of Rehim Salah’s crop this year, most of which was mangoes. Image: Quartz.
Rehim Salah, right, operates a mango and citrus farm in the desert just outside the Delta with her husband Amer.
Rehim Salah, right, operates a mango and citrus farm in the desert just outside the Delta with her husband Amer. Image: Quartz.

Many farms in the Delta are bordered by similar red-brick apartment buildings, some of which were built on farmland illegally.
Many farms in the Delta are bordered by similar red-brick apartment buildings, some of which were built on farmland illegally. Image: Quartz.
Many of the Delta’s irrigation and drainage canals are clogged by waste and weeds, which farmers say are expensive and sometimes dangerous to clear out.
Many of the Delta’s irrigation and drainage canals are clogged by waste and weeds, which farmers say are expensive and sometimes dangerous to clear out. Image: Quartz.
Around 40% of Egypt’s soils are affected by high concentrations of salt, visible in a crust on the surface here, either because of sea level rise or the low quality and quantity of irrigation water.
Around 40% of Egypt’s soils are affected by high concentrations of salt, visible in a crust on the surface here, either because of sea level rise or the low quality and quantity of irrigation water. Image: Quartz.

A major part of Egypt’s water strategy is to renovate thousands of miles of irrigation canals.
A major part of Egypt’s water strategy is to renovate thousands of miles of irrigation canals. Image: Quartz.
Adel Abdullah has no intention to quit farming, even though some of his neighbors have.
Adel Abdullah has no intention to quit farming, even though some of his neighbors have. Image: Quartz.
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