Feature

Power play on the Nile

Science  26 Feb 2016:
Vol. 351, Issue 6276, pp. 904-907
DOI: 10.1126/science.351.6276.904

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Summary

Planned in secrecy, the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam will have the largest generating capacity of any in Africa. When completed next year, it will regulate the flow of 60% of Nile water that originates in the Blue Nile's highland watersheds. Many Egyptians have seen the dam as a provocation, because its vast reservoir could retain nearly the annual average flow into Egypt. An immediate concern is that Egypt could face a water shortfall if the reservoir is filled during years of low rainfall. Supporters say the dam will be a boon for Ethiopia, one of the least developed countries in the world. The dam will also benefit Sudan, the next country downstream, by preventing floods and ensuring water supply during the dry season. In the long term—if all goes well—it could lead to regional cooperation and economic growth in all three countries.