Hydrogeology of Egypt

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Egypt’s geography and history have been shaped by the Sahara desert and the Nile River. Irrigated agriculture on fertile flood plains supported the great ancient civilisations that flourished for three millennia until the 1st century CE. After this, Egypt was ruled by successive waves of incomers: Romans, Byzantines, Arabs, Ottomans, French and finally British. French investment supported the construction of the strategic Suez Canal, completed in 1869. Egypt was a British protectorate from 1882 to 1953, when after a revolution in 1952 it became an independent republic. Since then, Egypt has seen a number of periods of military, civil and political unrest, including internal conflict and external war. The Arab Spring of 2011 saw a popular uprising followed by further unrest, culminating in the 2014 election of a new president who had initially claimed control as the head of the Egyptian Armed Forces. The military continues to play a large role in political and economic sectors.

Egypt’s population is concentrated along the Nile valley, with very low concentrations in the Sahara. The economy is fairly diverse, depending in large part on agriculture (including the export of cotton and citrus fruit), hydrocarbons, and tourism, although tourism has declined since 2011. Remittances from Egyptians working abroad are also an important contributor. There is an expanding information technology sector, and revenue from the Suez Canal bolsters income. Built between 1960 and 1970, the Aswan dam on the Nile provides water for irrigation, allowing the expansion of irrigated areas, as well as hydroelectric power potential, and regulates floodwater flows.

Egypt is an arid country. The only perennial surface water resource is the major transboundary River Nile, which is the main source of irrigation water, on which nearly all agriculture in the country relies. There is a dense network of canals branching from the Nile. Away from the Nile valley, the rural population depends on groundwater.


Dr Kirsty Upton and Brighid Ó Dochartaigh, British Geological Survey, UK

Dr Imogen Bellwood-Howard', Institute of Development Studies, UK

Please cite this page as: Upton, Ó Dochartaigh and Bellwood-Howard, 2018.

Bibliographic reference: Upton K, Ó Dochartaigh BÉ and Bellwood-Howard, I. 2018. Africa Groundwater Atlas: Hydrogeology of Egypt. British Geological Survey. Accessed [date you accessed the information]. http://earthwise.bgs.ac.uk/index.php/Hydrogeology_of_Egypt

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Geographical Setting

Egypt. Map developed from USGS GTOPOPO30; GADM global administrative areas; and UN Revision of World Urbanization Prospects. For more information on the map development and datasets see the geography resource page


Estimated Population in 2013* 82,056,378
Rural Population (% of total) (2013)* 57.0%
Total Surface Area* 995,450 sq km
Agricultural Land (% of total area) (2012)* 3.6%
Capital City Cairo
Region Northern Africa
Border Countries Libya, Sudan, Israel, Gaza Strip
Annual Freshwater Withdrawal (2013)* 68,300 Million cubic metres
Annual Freshwater Withdrawal for Agriculture (2013)* 86.4%
Annual Freshwater Withdrawal for Domestic Use (2013)* 7.8%
Annual Freshwater Withdrawal for Industry (2013)* 5.9%
Rural Population with Access to Improved Water Source (2012)* 98.8%
Urban Population with Access to Improved Water Source (2012)* 100%

* Source: World Bank


Koppen Geiger Climate ZonesAverage Annual PrecipitationAverage Temperature

Average monthly precipitation for Egypt showing minimum and maximum (light blue), 25th and 75th percentile (blue), and median (dark blue) rainfall Average monthly temperature for Egypt showing minimum and maximum (orange), 25th and 75th percentile (red), and median (black) temperature Quarterly precipitation over the period 1950-2012 Monthly precipitation (blue) over the period 2000-2012 compared with the long term monthly average (red)

More information on average rainfall and temperature for each of the climate zones in Egypt can be seen at the Egypt climate page.

These maps and graphs were developed from the CRU TS 3.21 dataset produced by the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia, UK. For more information see the climate resource page.

Surface water

Major surface water features of Egypt. Map developed from World Wildlife Fund HydroSHEDS; Digital Chart of the World drainage; and FAO Inland Water Bodies. For more information on the map development and datasets see the surface water resource page


Soil Map of Egypt, from the European Commission Joint Research Centre: European Soil Portal. For more information on the map see the soil resource page

Land cover

Land Cover Map of Egypt, from the European Space Agency GlobCover 2.3, 2009. For more information on the map see the land cover resource page


The geology map shows a simplified version of the geology at a national scale. More information is available in the report UN (1988) (see References section, below).

Geology of Egypt at 1:5 million scale. Developed from USGS map (Persits et al. 2002). For more information on the map development and datasets see the geology resource page


The hydrogeology map below shows a simplified version of the type and productivity of the main aquifers at a national scale (see the hydrogeology Map resource page for more details).

More information on the hydrogeology of Egypt is available in the report United Nations (1988) (see References section, below).

The major groundwater systems in Egypt are (from Aquastat:

- Nile aquifer: mostly recharged by infiltration of excess irrigation water originally from the Nile river, so it is not an additional primary source of water but a secondary source of freshwater available for use. In term of abstractions, it provides about 85 percent of the total groundwater abstractions in the country (AfDB 2015).
- Nubian sandstone aquifer: fossil groundwater in the south west part of the country shared with Libya, Chad and Sudan
- Fissured carbonate aquifer: widely spread over more than half of the country’s area, on top of the Nubian aquifer
-Moghra aquifer: towards the Qattara depression, recharged both by rainfall and lateral inflow from the Nile, but containing also saline water in the north west
- Coastal aquifer: on northern and western coasts, recharged by rainfall, but presence of saline water underneath limits the abstracted quantities
- Basement aquifer: mostly in eastern deserts and southern Sinai.
Hydrogeology of Egypt at 1:5million scale. For more information on how the map was developed see the hydrogeology map resource page
Hydrogeology Key.png

Transboundary aquifers

For further information about transboundary aquifers, please see the Transboundary aquifers resources page.


References with more information on the geology and hydrogeology of Egyptcan be accessed through the Africa Groundwater Literature Archive.

United Nations. 1988. Groundwater in North and West Africa: Egypt. United Nations Department of Technical Cooperation for Development and Economic Commission for Africa.

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Africa Groundwater Atlas >> Hydrogeology by country >> Hydrogeology of Egypt