Groundwater and Agriculture in the Nile Delta

  • M. A. MahmoudEmail author
Part of the The Handbook of Environmental Chemistry book series (HEC, volume 73)


Egypt is located in the arid and semiarid region, where the limited availability of renewable freshwater is the main challenge in future agriculture and urban development. The main water resource in Egypt is the River Nile; Nile water alone is no longer sufficient for the increasing water requirements for the different developmental activities in Egypt due to a rapid increase in population and expected impacts of climate change especially on the agriculture sector. The agriculture sector in Egypt is the main consumption of freshwater; it consumes more than 80% of the total water resources in Egypt. The role of groundwater is steadily increasing especially in the newly reclaimed areas along the desert fringes of the Nile Delta and Valley. Abstraction from groundwater in Egypt is dynamic in nature as it grows rapidly with the expansion of irrigation activities, industrialization and urbanization.

The quality of the groundwater in this area may be strongly affected by the impact of the sea level rise combined with changes of Nile River flows, leading to an increase in the salinity levels of groundwater. In addition, the current and future human activities, especially extensive and unplanned groundwater abstraction, are resulting in deterioration of the available groundwater resources. Serious negative socioeconomic impacts can follow as a consequence. In the Nile Delta, extensive groundwater abstraction is also a very significant factor that increases seawater intrusion. Groundwater wells which were beyond salinization zones in the past are consequently showing upconing of saline or brackish water.

There are many efforts from researchers to control groundwater level on farm via controlled drainage which contributes to water requirements for some crops like rice. On the other hand, shallow groundwater may cause soil salinization, waterlogging and damage to crop roots. Agriculture activity may cause pollution of groundwater with fertilizers and pesticides through seepage so integrated management for sustainable use of groundwater is a very important issue in the Nile Delta, so in this chapter the author will provide an overview of the exchangeable relationships between groundwater and agriculture in the Nile Delta region.


Agriculture Contamination Groundwater Nile Delta Salinization 


  1. 1.
    Dawoud MA, Darwish MM, El-kady MM (2005) GIS-based groundwater management model for western Nile Delta. Water Resour Manag 19:585–604. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. 2.
    MWRI (2005) National water resources plan for Egypt 2017. Ministry of Water Resources and Irrigation, GizaGoogle Scholar
  3. 3.
    Kumar CP (2012) Climate change and its impact on groundwater resources. Int J Eng Sci 1:43–60Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Geirnaert W, Laeven MP (1992) Composition and history of groundwater in the western Nile Delta. J Hydrol 138:169–189CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. 5.
    Sefelnasr A, Sherif M (2013) Impacts of seawater intrusion in the Nile Delta aquifer, Egypt. Natl Groundwater Assoc 52:264–276CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. 6.
    Abd-Elhamid H, Javadi A, Abdelaty I, Sherif M (2016) Simulation of seawater intrusion in the Nile Delta aquifer under the conditions of climate change. Hydrol Res 47:1198–1210. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. 7.
    Kashef AI (1983) Harmonizing Ghyben-Herzberg interface with rigorous solutions. Groundwater 21:153–159CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. 8.
    El-gamal H, Dahab K, Aeschbach-hertig W (2004) A multi-tracer study of groundwater in reclamation areas south-west of the Nile Delta, Egypt. In: International workshop on the application of isotope techniques in hydrological and environmental studies UNESCO, Paris, France, 6–8 Sept 2004Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    Al-Agha DE, Closas A, Molle F (2015) Survey of groundwater use in the central part of the Nile Delta. In: Water and salt management in the Nile Delta: Report No. 6Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    Sefelnasr A, Sherif M (2014) Impacts of seawater rise on seawater intrusion in the Nile Delta aquifer, Egypt. Groundwater 52:264–276. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. 11.
    Sharaky A, Atta SA, El Hassanein AS, Khallaf KMA (2007) Hydrogeochemistry of groundwater in the Western Nile Delta Aquifers, Egypt. In: 2nd international conference on the geology of the Tethys, Cairo University, 19–21 Mar 2007, pp 19–21Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    RIGW/IWACO (1988/1993) Hydrogeological map of Egypt, scale 1:2,000,000. Research Institute for Groundwater, CairoGoogle Scholar
  13. 13.
    MWRI (2012) Strategy of water resources of Egypt till 2050. Ministry of Water Resources and Irrigation, GizaGoogle Scholar
  14. 14.
    Christen EW, Ayars JE (2001) Subsurface drainage system design and management in irrigated agriculture: best management practices for reducing drainage volume and salt load. CSIRO Land and Water, Clayton SouthGoogle Scholar
  15. 15.
    Kahlown MA, Ashraf M, Zia-ul-Haq (2005) Effect of shallow groundwater table on crop water requirements and crop yields. Agric Water Manag 76:24–35. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. 16.
    Rose DA, Ghamarnia HM, Gowing JW (2010) Development and performance of wheat roots above shallow saline groundwater. Aust J Soil Res 48:659–667CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. 17.
    Khalil BM, Abdel-Gawad T, Millette JA (2004) Impact of controlled drainage on rice production, irrigation water requirement and soil salinity in Egypt. In: Drainage VIII proceedings of the eighth international symposium, Sacramento, CA, USA, 21–24 Mar 2004, p 1Google Scholar
  18. 18.
    Ng HYF, Tan CS, Drury CF, Gaynor JD (2002) Controlled drainage and subirrigation influences tile nitrate loss and corn yields in a sandy loam soil in Southwestern Ontario. Agric Ecosyst Environ 90:81–88CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. 19.
    Skaggs RW, Youssef MA (2008) Effect of drainage water management on water conservation and nitrogen losses to surface waters. In: 16th national nonpoint source monitoring workshop, Columbus, OH, pp 14–18Google Scholar
  20. 20.
    Bonaiti G, Borin M (2010) Efficiency of controlled drainage and subirrigation in reducing nitrogen losses from agricultural fields. Agric Water Manag 98:343–352CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. 21.
    Wahba MS, El-Ganainy MA, Amer MH (2008) Water table management strategies for irrigation water saving. In: Twelfth international water technology conference, IWTC12 2008, Alexandria, EgyptGoogle Scholar
  22. 22.
    Prathapar SA, Qureshi AS (1999) Modelling the effects of deficit irrigation on soil salinity, depth to water table and transpiration in semi-arid zones with monsoonal rains. Int J Water Resour Dev 15:141–159CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. 23.
    DRI (2001) Drainage criteria study at Mashtul pilot areas part 3: fluctuation in the groundwater table. Technical Report No. 59, pilot area and drainage technology project. Advisory Panel on Land drainage in Egypt, GizaGoogle Scholar
  24. 24.
    Ballantine DJ, Tanner CC (2013) Controlled drainage systems to reduce contaminant losses and optimize productivity from New Zealand pastoral systems. N Z J Agric Res 56:171–185. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. 25.
    Ayars JE, Christen EW, Hornbuckle JW (2006) Controlled drainage for improved water management in arid regions irrigated agriculture. Agric Water Manag 86:128–139. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. 26.
    Cary L, Trolard F (2006) Effects of irrigation on geochemical processes in a paddy soil and in groundwaters in Camargue (France). J Geochem Explor 88:177–180CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. 27.
    Mohamed ES, Morgun EG, Bothina SMG (2011) Assessment of soil salinity in the Eastern Nile Delta (Egypt) using geoinformation techniques. Moscow Univ Soil Sci Bull 66:11–14. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. 28.
    Houk E, Frasier M, Schuck E (2006) The agricultural impacts of irrigation induced waterlogging and soil salinity in the Arkansas Basin. Agric Water Manag 85:175–183CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. 29.
    Corwin DL, Rhoades JD, ŠimYuunek J (2007) Leaching requirement for soil salinity control: steady-state versus transient models. Agric Water Manag 90:165–180CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. 30.
    Herrero J, Pérez-Coveta O (2005) Soil salinity changes over 24 years in a Mediterranean irrigated district. Geoderma 125:287–308CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. 31.
    Zhou D, Lin Z, Liu L, Zimmermann D (2013) Assessing secondary soil salinization risk based on the PSR sustainability framework. J Environ Manag 128:642–654. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. 32.
    Houk E, Frasier M, Schuck E (2006) The agricultural impacts of irrigation induced waterlogging and soil salinity in the Arkansas Basin. Agric Cult Water Manag 85:175–183. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. 33.
    Jolly ID, Mcewan KL, Holland KL (2008) A review of groundwater – surface water interactions in arid/semi-arid wetlands and the consequences of salinity for wetland ecology. Ecohydrology 1:43–58. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. 34.
    Rengasamy P (2006) World salinization with emphasis on Australia. J Exp Bot 57:1017–1023. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. 35.
    Rengasamy P (2002) Transient salinity and subsoil constraints to dryland farming in Australian sodic soils: an overview. Aust J Exp Agric 42:351–361CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. 36.
    Fernández-Cirelli A, Arumí JL, Rivera D, Boochs PW (2009) Environmental effects of irrigation in arid and semi-arid regions. Chilean J Agric Res 69:27–40CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. 37.
    De Wrachien D, Feddes R (2003) Drainage development in a changing environment: overview and challenges. In: 9th international drainage workshop – drainage for a secure environment and food supply, pp 1–17Google Scholar
  38. 38.
    Ibrahim SM (1999) Wheat cultivation under limited irrigation and high water table conditions. Egypt J Soil Sci 39:361–372Google Scholar
  39. 39.
    Nosetto MD, Jobbágy EG, Jackson RB, Sznaider GA (2009) Reciprocal influence of crops and shallow groundwater in sandy landscapes of the Inland Pampas. Field Crop Res 113:138–148CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. 40.
    Brisson N, Rebiere B, Zimmer D, Renault P (2002) Response of the root system of a winter wheat crop to waterlogging. Plant Soil 243:43–55CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. 41.
    Schultz B, Zimmer D, Vlotman WF (2007) Drainage under increasing and changing requirements. Irrig Drain 56:S1CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. 42.
    Bhutta MN, van der Sluis TA, Wolters W (1995) Review of pipe drainage projects in Pakistan. In: Proceedings of the national workshop on drainage systems performance in plain and future strategies, pp 10–18Google Scholar
  43. 43.
    Ali AM, Van Leeuwen HM, Koopmans RK (2001) Benefits of draining agricultural land in Egypt: results of five years’ monitoring of drainage effects and impacts. Int J Water Resour Dev 17:633–646CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. 44.
    Nijland H, Croon FW, Ritzema HP (2005) Subsurface drainage practices: guidelines for the implementation, operation and maintenance of subsurface pipe drainage systems. ILRI, WageningenGoogle Scholar
  45. 45.
    Ritzema HP, Satyanarayana TV, Raman S, Boonstra J (2008) Subsurface drainage to combat waterlogging and salinity in irrigated lands in India: lessons learned in farmers’ fields. Agric Water Manag 95:179–189CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. 46.
    Ritzema H (2009) Drain for gain – making water management worth its salt. Subsurface drainage practices in irrigated agriculture in semi-arid and arid regions. PhD thesis, Wageningen University and UNESCO-IHE, DelftGoogle Scholar
  47. 47.
    Ritzema H, Schultz B (2011) Optimizing subsurface drainage practices in irrigated agriculture in the semi-arid and arid regions: experiences from Egypt, India and Pakistan. Irrig Drain 60:360–369CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. 48.
    Valipour M (2014) Drainage, waterlogging, and salinity. Arch Agron Soil Sci 60:1625–1640. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. 49.
    Fang H-Y, Daniels J (1997) Introduction to environmental geotechnology. CRC press, Boca RatonGoogle Scholar
  50. 50.
    Ciaran H (2002) The effect of basement on heterogeneity on saltwater wedge a physical and numerical modelling approach. The University of Western Australasia, Crawley. Text BookGoogle Scholar
  51. 51.
    Freeze RA, Cherry JA (1979) Groundwater. Prentice Hall, Englewood Cliffs, pp 375–379Google Scholar
  52. 52.
    Abdelaty IM, Abd-Elhamid HF, Fahmy MR, Abdelaal GM (2014) Investigation of some potential parameters and its impacts on saltwater intrusion in Nile Delta aquifer. J Eng Sci Assiut Univ Fac Eng 42:931–955Google Scholar
  53. 53.
    El Raey M (2009) Vulnerability assessment of the coastal zone of the Nile Delta, Egypt, to the impacts of sea level rise. Ocean Coast Manag 37:29–40CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. 54.
    Dawoud MA (2004) Design of national groundwater quality monitoring network in Egypt. Environ Monit Assess 96:99–118CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. 55.
    Mabrouk MB, Jonoski A, Solomatine D, Uhlenbrook S (2013) A review of seawater intrusion in solid the Nile Delta groundwater system – the basis for assessing impacts due to climate changes and water resources development. Hydrol Earth Syst Sci Discuss 10:10873–10911. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. 56.
    Faried MS (1985) Management of groundwater system in the Nile Delta. PhD thesis, Faculty of Engineering, Cairo University, EgyptGoogle Scholar
  57. 57.
    Sherif M, Sefelnasr A, Javadi A (2012) Incorporating the concept of equivalent freshwater head in successive horizontal simulations of seawater intrusion in the Nile Delta aquifer, Egypt. J Hydrol 464:186–198CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. 58.
    Frihy OE (2003) The Nile Delta-Alexandria: vulnerability to sea-level rise, consequences and adaptation. Mitig Adapt Strateg Glob Chang 8:115–138CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. 59.
    Sherif MM, Singh VP (1999) E ect of climate change on sea water intrusion in coastal aquifers. Hydrol Process 13:1277–1287CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. 60.
    Sherif M (1999) Nile delta aquifer in Egypt. Seawater intrusion coast. Aquifers? Concepts, methods and practices. Kluwer, Dordrecht, pp 559–590CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. 61.
    Wassef R, Schüttrumpf H (2016) Groundwater for sustainable development impact of sea-level rise on groundwater salinity at the development area western delta, Egypt. Groundwater Sustain Dev 2–3:85–103. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. 62.
    Atta SA, Sharaky AM, EL Hassanein AS, Khallaf KMA (2007) Salinization of the groundwater in the coastal shallow aquifer, Northwestern Nile Delta, Egypt. ISESCO Sci Technol Vis 3:112–123Google Scholar
  63. 63.
    Taha AA (2004) Pollution sources and related environmental impacts in the new communities Southeast Nile Delta, Egypt. Hydrol Earth Syst Sci 9:35–49Google Scholar
  64. 64.
    El Tahlawi MR, Farrag AA, Ahmed SS (2008) Groundwater of Egypt: an environmental overview. Environ Geol 55:639–652. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. 65.
    Ebraheem A-AM, Senosy MM, Dahab KA (1997) Geoelectrical and hydrogeochemical studies for delineating ground-water contamination due to salt-water intrusion in Northern part of the Nile Delta, Egypt. Groundwater 35:216–222CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. 66.
    Hussien MM (2007) Environmental impacts of new settlements on the groundwater in a region in Delta. MSc thesis, Zagazig University, Faculty of Engineering, EgyptGoogle Scholar
  67. 67.
    Masoud AA (2014) Groundwater quality assessment of the shallow aquifers west of the Nile Delta (Egypt) using multivariate statistical and geostatistical techniques. J African Earth Sci 95:123–137. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. 68.
    El Alfy M, Merkel B (2004) Assessment of human impact on quaternary aquifers of Rafah area, NE Sinai, Egypt. Int J Econ Environ Geol 1:1–9Google Scholar
  69. 69.
    Dahab KA (2003) Influence of hydrogeologic flow pattern and aquifer material on water quality and mineral contents: case study, Nile Delta Egypt. Sci J Fac Sci Menoufia Univ 17:65–86Google Scholar
  70. 70.
    Cruz JV, Silva MO (2000) Groundwater salinization in Pico Island (Azores, Portugal): origin and mechanisms. Environ Geol 39:1181–1189CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  71. 71.
    Cartwright I, Weaver TR, Fulton S, Nichol C, Reid M, Cheng X (2004) Hydrogeochemical and isotopic constraints on the origins of dryland salinity, Murray Basin, Victoria, Australia. Appl Geochem 19:1233–1254CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  72. 72.
    Morsy WS (2009) Environmental management to groundwater resources for Nile Delta region. PhD thesis, Faculty of Engineering, Cairo University, EgyptGoogle Scholar
  73. 73.
    Abo-El-Fadl M (2013) Possibilities of groundwater pollution in some areas, East of Nile Delta, Egypt. Int J Environ 1:1–21CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  74. 74.
    Grwp (2004) Parys Underground Group.
  75. 75.
    Nasr P, Sewilam H (2015) The potential of groundwater desalination using forward osmosis for irrigation in Egypt. Clean Technol Environ Policy 17:1883–1895. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  76. 76.
    Nashed A, Sproul AB, Leslie G (2014) Water resources and the potential of brackish groundwater extraction in Egypt: a review. J Water Supply Res Technol 63:399–428CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  77. 77.
    Pandian RS, Nair IS, Lakshmanan E (2016) Finite element modelling of a heavily exploited coastal aquifer for assessing the response of groundwater level to the changes in pumping and rainfall variation due to climate change. Hydrol Res 47:42–60Google Scholar
  78. 78.
    Gleeson T, Alley WM, Allen DM, Sophocleous MA, Zhou Y, Taniguchi M, VanderSteen J (2012) Towards sustainable groundwater use: setting long-term goals, backcasting, and managing adaptively. Groundwater 50:19–26CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Water Requirements and Field Irrigation Research DepartmentSoils, Water and Environment Research Institute, Agricultural Research CenterGizaEgypt

Personalised recommendations