Egyptian Signing of Nile CFA Would Guarantee No Drop of Water Lost

Egyptian Signing of Nile CFA Would Guarantee No Drop of Water Lost

Egypt and Ethiopia’s discussions over sharing of the Nile hit a stumbling block in 2007 over a disagreement on Article 14 of the Nile Comprehensive Framework Agreement (CFA). The next and more significant stumbling block is not made of words, but of concrete, in the form of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, now nearly 40 percent complete.

Ethiopia and other upstream countries insisted that Article 14 of the CFA stipulate that each signatory agree to “not to significantly affect the water security of any other Nile Basin State”, while Egypt insisted that the article should stipulate that each signatory agree “not to adversely affect the water security and current uses and rights of any other Nile Basin State.”[i] This slight difference in wording, hinging on “current uses and rights” pointed to prior Nile agreements that guaranteed 55.5 billion cubic meters of water per year to Egypt and 18.5 billion cubic meters of water to Sudan, leaving no specified allotment for other upstream countries which were not party to the agreements.

The upstream countries have long and rightly viewed the application of these agreements on them as unfair and unjust and hoped that the Nile Basin Initiative and CFA would right these wrongs. Egypt, however, depends on the Nile for 97 percent of its water supply and is rightly remained concerned that, without guarantees, their country could face an existential threat. In many other examples around the world, dams and the development that accompanies them have led to significant decline of downstream river flows. Even with the best of intentions from the upstream countries, how could any reasonable country accept this situation without some form of guarantee? How can we get past both of these stumbling blocks?

We argue that it is time for discussions to move away from the historical agreements and toward what is equitable and reasonable as stipulated in Article 3 of the CFA.[ii] Egypt has a very strong argument for maintaining every drop of water provided under the prior agreements and more based on this principle in the CFA. Agreeing to how this principle should be implemented would provide Egypt with the guarantees it needs and allow them to finally join the CFA. To do that, we should carefully examine where the people of the Nile Basin live and how they use the water. The table below lists each of the countries in the Nile Basin with their estimated populations living within the basin, their gross domestic product (GDP) per capita as an estimation of how effectively they use the water available to them, and a corresponding equitable water allocation based on these figures.

Country Population in Basin (millions) GDP/capita Equitable Water Allocation(Population x GDP/cap as Percent of Total) Equivalent Flow (billion cubic meters)
Egypt 84.3 $6,600 67.1% 56.4
Sudan 29.7 $2,600 9.3% 7.8
Uganda 34.7 $1,500 6.2% 5.2
Ethiopia 36.5 $1,300 5.7% 4.8
Kenya 16.7 $1,800 3.6% 3.0
South Sudan 11.0 $2,600 3.4% 2.9
Tanzania 10.2 $1,700 2.1% 1.8
Rwanda 10.0 $1,500 1.8% 1.5
Burundi 6.1 $600 0.4% 0.3
Democratic Republic of the Congo 3.0 $400 0.1% 0.1
Eritrea 0.2 $1,200 0.03% 0.03
Basin Total 242.4 100.0% 84.0

Based on these figures, we find the CFA consistent with the allocations provided in the prior Nile agreements. Importantly, we do not take into account environmental flows which are also a necessary requirement for each country, but would potentially further increase Egypt’s fair allocation.

To implement this agreement at the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam in particular, from which approximately 60 percent of Nile flows originate, Ethiopia should guarantee a yearly average of 1,221 cubic meters per second of flow at the dam, 1,073 cubic meters per second of which would be allocated to Egypt and 148 cubic meters per second which would be allocated to Sudan.

As the upstream countries develop Nile resources and increase their overall economic output, we can envision these allocations slowly shifting upstream. This could be a source of tension. However, the relatively slow incremental rate of change coupled with a drive toward economic competitiveness and diversification would decrease tensions and direct them in a positive direction. With these guarantees, downstream countries may even choose to keep their allocations stored upstream where evaporation rates are lower and protections against drought can be increased. All of this would serve the populations of all the basin countries well while setting a positive example for the power of cooperation in shared international river basins around the world.

About The Water Fulcrum

The Water Fulcrum seeks to better inform everyone who may be affected by water and other resource related challenges and help equip them to better manage the often unavoidable conflicts around water. More than that, we seek to show how water issues can be used to leverage results. This mission is not about water, but the water aspects of security at every level–security through the water lens. Follow us on twitter @waterfulcrum or contact us at




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