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The Nile River Basin in Crisis: Water Sharing and Transboundary Conflict or Cooperation

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Date and Time

Nov. 10, 8 a.m. PST





In 2020 and 2021 Ethiopia completed the first and second phases of filling the GERD reservoir. It projects that the Dam will be fully operational by 2023. The Nile provides about 90 percent of Egypt’s freshwater supply, meaning the source of these waters lies in the upstream countries. The Nile Basin countries could become involved in the open conflict because of their high levels of dependence on Nile waters. Ethiopia sees the hydroelectric dam as a defining sustainable development project; Sudan has seemed open to the promise of the new availability of the cheap electricity the GERD offers and the expanded agricultural production that it promises.

In contrast, Egypt is primarily seeing the possible loss of Nile waters as an existential threat. As the process of filling the Dam has proceeded, tensions have arisen, primarily between Egypt and Ethiopia, but also now between Sudan and Ethiopia. There is a growing fear that these countries could be drawn into the open conflict because of disagreements bearing on their perceived national security interests.

How real is the claim that Ethiopia’s ability to control the flow of Nile waters is a looming threat to Egypt’s national security? Is the mistrust among the governments of Egypt, Ethiopia, and Sudan so high that inter-state hostilities might become militarized sooner or later? Or is progress being made behind the scenes to lessen and even resolve major disagreements? What is the impact of Ethiopia’s internal tensions on the situation? And could the GERD ultimately become the source of cooperation rather than conflict?

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