Formulation of an Action Programme for the Integrated Management of the Shared Nubian Aquifer

The Nubian Sandstone Aquifer System (NSAS) is one of the largest aquifers in the world covering approximately two million square kilometres of Northeast Africa in Chad, Egypt, Libya, and Sudan. The NSAS is the world’s largest fossil aquifer system with its reserves estimated at 375,000 km3. In the arid desert areas of those countries that share the aquifer, groundwater is a primary source of water for human populations and the indigenous ecosystems. With growing population pressures, and decreasing water available from other sources, there is increasing pressure to enhance the abstraction of this tremendously valuable resource that, under current climatic conditions and based on current knowledge, appears to be only marginally rechargeable. This increased pressure to use these shared groundwater resources, despite unclear knowledge of the transboundary impacts, represents a potential threat to a precious resource that if unchecked, could lead to deterioration of water quality and/or irrational water use with the potential to harm biodiversity, enhance land degradation processes or even lead to transboundary conflict.

This is a region that is wrought with water shortage amidst growing human populations. Destruction of ecosystems is leading to increased desertification and loss of habitat. One challenge in developing an adequate management strategy is the continued lack of sufficient knowledge about the aquifer needed to develop a rational use of the aquifer resources that can benefit the four countries. Further issues include poor management of water currently being exploited from the NSAS including loss of springs due to poor allocation of wells, change in the natural environment including species and habitats, poor understanding of local legislation and water rights, inadequate understanding of interactions between horizons, and impacts of development on the local and regional sustainability of groundwater. In general, there is a lack of a proper database and capacity to synthesize available information as a basis for determining and undertaking future investigations and developing strategies.

The Long-term Goal of the project is to establish a rational and equitable management of the NSAS for sustainable socio-economic development and the protection of biodiversity and land resources. To achieve this goal, the Immediate Objectives of this MSP project are as follows:

i. Prepare and agree on a Shared Aquifer Diagnostic Analysis (SADA) to jointly identify, understand and reach agreement on the priority issues, threats and root causes of the NSAS;
ii. Address and fill key methodological, data and capacity gaps needed for strategic planning decisions, using appropriate technical approaches with a focus on isotope techniques and applications under the supervision of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA);
iii. Undertake the preparation of a Strategic Action Programme (SAP) to outline the necessary legal, policy and institutional reforms needed to address the priority threats and their root causes as identified in the SADA for the NSAS with a focus on the environmental aspects of aquifer management;
iv. Establish a framework for developing an agreed legal and institutional mechanism towards a NSAS convention for joint four-partite management and rational use of the shared NSAS System.

The overall expected results would contribute to strengthening the institutional, legal and analytical frameworks for the sustainable management and use of the shared NSAS. The project will result in a clear understanding of transboundary issues, problems and potential solutions (SADA), a process for and significant progress in achieving a jointly developed and agreed strategic approach and action programme (SAP) to address real and potential problems, as well as a framework for developing an appropriate legal mechanisme.g. a convention etc. to underpin transboundary cooperation represented by a strengthened Joint NSAS Authority. This enhanced framework and intensified cooperation will set the basis for better management of the shared aquifer resources. Links and networks between international and national organizations to ensure future co-operation will also be established. A full integration of the NSAS activities in the respective natural resource management programmes at a national and regional level will be promoted. The basis for establishing an operational monitoring system will be available to enable the observation of any changes in the water regime and related ecosystems. Consideration will be given to the inter-relatedness of water resource management issues with the Nile River Basin in Egypt and Sudan and thus cooperation will be assured with the Nile Basin Initiative as appropriate.

The impact of the project should support the development of sustainable socio-economic conditions in an area that depends heavily on the availability of water. Furthermore, it will be beneficial to all involved countries in terms of the control of desertification and the protection of biodiversity.


Nubian Sandstone Aquifer System (NSAS)


Documents & Resources
General information
GEF ID 2020
Project type Medium-Size Project
Status closed (Project Closure)
Start Date 03 May 2006
End Date 28 Feb 2011
GEF characteristic:
Focal Area International Waters
GEF Allocation to project USD 975,000
Total Cost of the project: USD 7,926,100
YES - See results data (2020)
Chad , Egypt , Libyan Arab Jamahiriya , Sudan , Regional

United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)

Project contacts
Andrew Garner Programme Coordinator
Lofti Ali madi GEF National Cordinator
Ahmed Ragab Allam Project Manager
Osman Mustafa Ahmed Mohamed National Coordinator of Nubian Sandstone Aquifer System Project
Eric Jonathan Cole Project manager
Ismail Musa Mohamed National Coordinator
Ahmed R Khater Project National Coordinator
Paul Gremillion Co-Director
Vladimir Mamaev UNDP/GEF Regional Technical Advisor for International Waters for Europe, CIS and Arab States
Andrew Hudson Head of Water & Ocean Governance