Nubian Aquifer

Enabling Implementation of the Regional SAP for the Rational and Equitable Management of the Nubian Sandstone Aquifer System

Project Information

2018 - 2022

The project aims to initiate the implementation of the endorsed Strategic Action Plan (SAP) for the Nubian Sandstone Aquifer System (NSAS) shared by Chad, Egypt, Libya and Sudan. The project aims to achieve this by supporting capacity development, facilitate national reforms on policies needed, address knowledge gaps utilizing the results from pilot actions and identifying financial assistance for implementation of the SAP. 

The Nubian Sandstone Aquifer System (NSAS) is one of the largest aquifer systems in the world covering approximately 2.6 million square km in Northeast Africa. The riparian countries - Chad, Egypt, Libya and Sudan - of the aquifer system face similar problems of arid climate, scarce surface water resources, persistent droughts and fragile ecosystems. The aquifer is a critically important source of water in this arid desert region and will be increasingly in demand in the future. Hence, all four countries have given priority to linking the NSAS groundwater exploitation to national development strategies and plans. Growing pressures on the aquifer system pose threats to both the quantity and quality of the resource and could, if not appropriately managed, lead to transboundary/shared problems and tension.

To address any potential tension that may impede the rational and equitable management of the aquifer system, a technical data‐gathering element of the project, Shared Aquifer Diagnostic Analysis was prepared and a regional Strategic Action Programme (SAP) for the aquifer system formulated and approved by ministers from four countries on the 18th September 2013 in Vienna.

With further support, the goal of the endorsed SAP can be achieved within the Nubian Aquifer Sandstone System (NSAS). While there have been significant advances in the understanding of the hydrogeology of the NSAS, there is still a need to develop and enhance capacity to assess and protect the ecosystems dependent on the water resources of the aquifer, in particular to mitigate the potential impacts of climate change and variability within the region. In addition, the NSAS Joint Authority needs further strengthening to develop and implement effective management actions.

This project will initiate the implementation of the agreed SAP through: 

  • Address gaps in knowledge on the NSAS resources and dependent ecosystems;
  • Support capacity development at local, national and regional levels to ensure the Joint Authority and the national authorities are best able to manage the water resources and dependent ecosystems.
  • Facilitate national reforms on policies necessary to successfully implement the SAP and support 
  • the formulations of National Action Plans linked to the SAP; 
  • Utilize  the  participation  and  results  from  four  pilot  actions  to  demonstrate  improved management approaches at the national and local level using practices encouraged through the project and experiences from other regional initiatives;
  • Identify future financing options to assist the countries and the Joint Authority in the longer term to implement the agreed SAP. 

All project activities will follow a gender strategy to be developed in the inception phase and will, as a minimum, record sex‐disaggregated data on all participants. The activities to initiate the implementation of the SAP will assist the four governments in collaborative actions that will both strengthen their capacity on environmental management and improve the livelihoods of the local population dependent on the resources of the NSAS.

Project objectives

This project aims at initiating regional SAP implementation through legal, policy and institutional reforms and addressing gaps identified in the SAP, supporting rational and equitable integrated management, socio‐economic development and the protection of the ecosystem and resources of the NSAS in the four riparian countries. Since the SADA and SAP were prepared, valuable information and data have been generated, through the activities of national organizations as well as researchers and scientific institutions, and will serve as a basis for the activities that will be undertaken in the framework of this project.  

The project will address key targets identified in the agreed SAP on reforming /updating legal, policy and institutional arrangements, strengthening capacity and implementing collective measures within the  four countries  and  at  the  regional  level  to  protect  the  resources  of  the  NSAS  and  associated ecosystems. Through strengthening national institutions and the regional Joint Authority, this project will result in assisting with sustaining the effective operations of the Joint Authority to co‐ordinate the management of the NSAS.

The project will be undertaken through four inter‐linked components and supported by a regional project management unit (PMU) planned to be co‐located within the offices of the Joint Authority. 

  1. Component 1 will further improve the technical understanding of the NSAS and associated ecosystems  to  provide  a  common  basis  for  the  future  joint  management  of  the  resource within the region;
  2. Component 2 will address the SAP priorities to strengthen national and regional capacities on water resource and ecosystem management and assist in increasing awareness within the wider stakeholder groups (including the local population) on ecosystem management and protection.
  3. Component 3 will further enhance the implementation of the SAP at the national level through strengthening policy and institutional reforms through National Action Plans;
  4. Component 4 will implement a range of pilot demonstration activities (based on preliminary recommendations in the SAP) that will act to catalyze national and regional interest in up scaling and replication.
  5. Component 5 will undertake pre‐feasibility studies to aid future investment strategies and to identify appropriate donors to build on this catalytic project initiating the implementation of the SAP.