Cairo, Egypt: The Egyptian government initiated work on experimental wells in the desert following the discovery of new access points to a huge underground water oasis, known as the Nubian Sandstone Aquifer System (NSAS), spanning Chad, Egypt, Libya and Sudan.
Khaled Abd El-Kader Ouda, professor emeritus of Stratigraphy and Paleontology at Assiut University, used satellite images of the Great Sand Sea, an area in Western Desert of Egypt, and findings from a field trip to the area, to conclude that there may be access to the aquifer. The field trip, headed by Ouda and a team from Assiut University and Desert Research Centre, found unexpected sandstone deposits which suggest the presence of geological formations containing water.
Responding on the Ouda’s findings, the Ministry of Water Resources and Irrigation issued a statement endorsing the discovery of Ouda’s team, and launching government-funded work on two experimental wells.
“Our team discovered a water-bearing geological layer that needs to be studied to specify the thickness of water saturation and water-bearing layer, so we can study the economic feasibility of digging this water out,” Mohamed Gad, professor of hydrology at the Desert Research Centre said.
If water is accessible from these new locations, Ouda said, “it would be the core of a huge developmental project in Egypt that the government should invest in”.
The underwater aquifer, known as the Nubian Sandstone Aquifer System (NSAS), contains an estimated 150,000 cubic kilometres of water, and Libya is already tapping into it for around 70 per cent of its water needs. But Egypt’s access has so far been limited to only three main access points in the desert oases.
Egyptian geologist are now claiming they have found 20 new access points to this aquifer in the heart of the Egyptian desert, which could help reclaim about 3.7 million acres of desert in Egypt, boosting the economy and livelihoods in the region.
The significance of the NSAS as a potential water resource for future development programmes has also been recognised by the IAEA-UNDP-GEF Nubian Project, a research initiative launched in 2006 by the International Atomic Energy Agency with an aim to fill the knowledge gap on the aquifer and establish its equitable management for sustainable development, while protecting biodiversity and land resources.