At the moment, Egyptian horticultural growers are afraid that a dam Ethiopia is building on the Blue Nile, the Nile's main tributary, could add to the severe water shortages already hitting their crops.
The exact impact of the dam on downstream countries Egypt and Sudan remains unknown. For Egyptian farmers, the daunting prospect adds a new worry on top of the other causes of mounting water scarcity.
Egypt is already spreading its water resources thin. Its booming population, now over 100 million, has one of the lowest per capita shares of water in the world, at around 550 m3 per year, -the global average is 1,000 m3.
Ethiopia says the electricity that will be generated by its Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam is a crucial lifeline to bring its nearly 110 million citizens out of poverty. However, Egypt, relying on the Nile for more than 90% of its water supplies, including drinking water, industrial use and irrigation, fears a devastating impact if the dam is operated without taking its needs into account.
According to startribune.com, it wants to guarantee a minimum annual release of 40 billion m3 of water from the Blue Nile while Ethiopia fills the dam's giant reservoir, according to an irrigation official. That would be less than the 55 billion m3 Egypt usually gets from the Nile, mostly from the Blue Nile. The shortage would be filled by water stored behind Egypt's Aswan High Dam in Lake Nasser, which has a gross capacity of 169 billion m3 of water.