International Waters learning Exchange & Resource Network

Nubian Sandstone Aquifer System (NSAS)

The NSAS is one of the largest aquifers in the world and spans approximately 2 million square kilometers across Libya, Egypt, Chad and Sudan



The primary documents that provide a framework for the Nubian Sandstone Aquifer System (“NSAS” or “Aquifer”) are:

  • Constitution of the Joint Authority for the Study and Development of the Nubian Sandstone Aquifer (“Joint Authority Agreement”), entered into in 1992;
  • Agreement #1: Terms of Reference for the Monitoring and Exchange of Groundwater Information of the Nubian Sandstone Aquifer System, entered into in October 2000; and
  • Agreement #2: Terms of Reference for Monitoring and Data Sharing, entered into in October 2000.


The Member States of the Joint Authority are Egypt, Libya, Sudan (since 1996), and Chad (since 1999).


The NSAS is one of the largest aquifers in the world and spans approximately 2 million square kilometers across Libya, Egypt, Chad and Sudan.


The Joint Authority Agreement created a Joint Authority for the Study and Development of the Nubian Sandstone Aquifer Waters (“Joint Authority”), with its headquarters located in Tripoli, Libya. The Joint Authority Agreement, under Article 24, also provides that the Joint Authority shall have a corporate body with the relevant rights, and that internal administrative and financial regulations shall be created and issued by a Board of Directors.


Article 3 of the Joint Authority Agreement calls upon the Joint Authority to perform the following tasks:

  • Collecting, classifying and analyzing information, data and study results gathered by the Member States;
  • Preparing and executing studies in order to determine the quantity and quality of the water in the Aquifer;
  • Developing and executing common policies and programs, both nationally and regionally, for the development and utilization of the groundwater;
  • Pursuing a scientific basis for water management in the Aquifer;
  • Establishing cooperation in the field of training and habitation activities concerning water resources;
  • Undertaking to ration the consumption of the Aquifer waters in the Member States;
  • Studying the environmental aspects of developing the Aquifer, desertification control, and renewable energy applications; and
  • Disseminating information regarding the Aquifer and fostering relationships with relevant international and regional organizations.

A Regional Technical Review Committee, among other roles, monitors the status and reviews the utilization of the Aquifer, evaluates the progress and activities enacted on the regional and national levels, identifies capacity building needs, and works on data collecting and monitoring activities.

The Joint Authority works through focal point institutions and national coordinators in each of the Member States, who are appointed by the relevant ministries in each country. The focal points are: the Research Institute for Groundwater (Egypt), the General Water Authority (Libya), the Non-Nile Waters Directorate (Sudan), and the Directorate de l’Hudraulique, le Ministère de l’Environement et de l’Eau (Chad). The heads of these institutions function as the national coordinators.


According to the Joint Authority Agreement, a Board of Directors, consisting of three directors from each Member State that appointed by the relevant ministries in the countries, manages the Joint Authority. The Chairmanship of the Board of Director rotates on an annual basis. The Chairman represents the Joint Authority in its relationships with third parties and before courts, and, upon the recommendations of the Board of Directors, can sign contracts on behalf of the Joint Authority. Meetings of the Board of Directors are held once every four months and may be held at other times at the request of a Member State. Attendance by two-thirds of the directors from each Member State form constitutes a quorum for purposes of holding a meeting. However, if the required quorum is not met at the first meeting, the second meeting will be valid if attended by any number of the directors. The Chairman of the Board of Directors is authorized to invite representatives of international organizations and donor states and institutions to attend the Board of Directors’ meetings as observers.

The Joint Authority has an administrative secretariat, as well as technical, administrative, legal, and other staff. The Board of Directors appoints an executive general manager for a renewable three-year period.

In addition, a Regional Project Steering Committee was formed from the Joint Authority’s directors to approve the work plan and budget and to review recommendations from the Regional Technical Review Committee. The Regional Project Steering Committee meets once a year, or as necessary. The Regional Technical Review Committee includes representatives from the NSAS Member States, the Center for Environment and Development for the Arab Region and Europe (“CEDARE”), the International Fund for Agriculture Development (“IFAD”), the Islamic Development Bank (“IDB”), the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (“UNESCO”), the Arab Center for the Study of Arid Zones and Dry Lands (“ACSAD”), the Sahara and Sahel Observatory (“OSS”), and the Technical University of Berlin.


The Joint Authority and the secretariat cooperate with the International Atomic Energy Agency (“IAEA”)/United Nations Development Program (“UNDP”)/Global Environment Facility (“GEF”) Nubian Project, which has the long term goal of establishing a rational and equitable management of the NSAS for sustainable socio-economic development and the protection of biodiversity and land resources. The Nubian Project’s four main short-term objectives are to: (a) identify priority transboundary threats and their root causes; (b) fill key gaps in data, methodology, and capacity for strategic planning decisions by using appropriate technical approaches with a focus on isotope techniques and applications under the supervision of the IAEA; (c) prepare a Strategic Action Program (“SAP”); and (d) establish a framework to implement the SAP.

CEDARE has also been very involved with the NSAS.


Under Article 8 of the Joint Authority Agreement, the decisions of the Board of Directors are taken by majority vote. However, a two-thirds majority is required for consideration and approval of the budget, proposals for cooperation with regional and international organizations and donor states, and the establishment of new offices in the Member States.


No specific provision.


Data is consolidated in the Nubian Aquifer Regional Information System (“NARIS”)—which has the following functions: (a) stores and documents different data relating to the NSAS; (b) processes, analyzes and displays the data; (c) prepares input parameters for different models of the Aquifer and provides comparisons of the results; and (d) provides a link among the Member States to exchange information.

Additionally, the Member States have agreed to share information on yearly extractions, representative electrical conductivity measures, and water level measurements.


No specific provision.


In addition to donations from national and international institutions, organizations and donor states, each Member State is supposed to contribute funds to the budget of the Joint Authority. Member States are supposed to contribute on an equal basis to the budget and to observe a timely payment schedule.


No specific provision.


The Member States agreed to monitor and report key information regularly. See Data Information Sharing, Exchange, and Harmonization.


No specific provision.


There is no specific provision for termination of the Joint Authority Agreement. However, the Board of Directors may amend items in the Joint Authority Agreement with the approval of two-thirds of the Board of Directors.





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