Few countries in the world are as dependent on water from a single source as Egypt. The natural Nile cycle of flow and sediment discharge has been disrupted by human intervention, including closure of the High Aswan Dam; this intervention has resulted in a series of responses that now threaten the northern Nile delta. Erosion, salinization, and pollution are inducing a marked decline in agricultural productivity and loss of land and coastal lagoons at a time when the population is expanding exponentially. Geological analyses of radiocarbon-dated cores across the northern delta are used to interpret the interaction of sea-level changes, climatic oscillations, subsidence, and transport processes during the past 35,000 years. Recognition of long-term trends of these natural factors provides a basis to evaluate the profound impact of human activity and to assess future changes in the Nile delta ecosystem.