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The Nile river is subject to political interactions. It is the world's longest river flowing 6,700 kilometers through ten countries in northeastern Africa – Rwanda, Burundi, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia, South Sudan, Sudan and Egypt with varying climates.
Considering the basin area of the Nile, Sudan has the largest size (1.9 million km²) whereas, of the four major tributaries to the Nile, three originate from Ethiopia – the Blue Nile, Sobat and Atbara. The modern history of hydropolitics in the Nile basin is very complex and has had wide ramifications both for regional and global developments.
The following table sort of demonstrates  the water availability in each country within the Nile basin, and researchers' estimates of decrease in water availability to these countries, due largely to an increase in the countries' populations.
|Country||Population 1995 (millions)||Population 2025 (millions)||GNP per capita 1996 (US $)||Population below the poverty line (1US$/day) (PPP) (%)||Per capita water availability 1990 (m³)||170||655||269|
Sudan also has hydraulic potential and has created four dams in the last century. This has resulted in the development so far of 18,000 km² of irrigated land, making Sudan the second most extensive user of the Nile, after Egypt.
While Egypt is highly dependent on the Nile, there are factors that may lead to the necessity of conflict over the distribution of the Nile's water supply. For example, Egypt has such an agriculturally-dependent economy. Further, Egypt is already dependent on virtual water imports, a strategy which may lead that country to attempt future water conflicts. Ethiopia's tributaries supply about 86 percent of the waters of the Nile. Egypt has historically threatened war on Ethiopia and Tanzania over the Nile river. Egypt armed Somali separatist rebels in Ethiopia during and since the Somalia invasion of Ethiopia in the 1970s. Over the years, the involved states have put agreements and treaties into place so that conflict can be controlled.
Egyptian civilization has sustained itself utilizing water management and agriculture for some 5,000 years in the Nile River valley. The Egyptians practiced basin irrigation, a form of water management adapted to the natural rise and fall of the Nile River. Since around 3000 BCE, the Egyptians constructed earthen banks to form flood basins of various sizes that were regulated by sluices to floodwater into the basin where it would sit until the soil was saturated, the water was then drained, and crops planted. This method of agriculture did not deplete the soil of nutrients or cause salinization problems experienced by modern agricultural methods.
In 1875, the Conservative government of Benjamin Disraeli bought the indebted Egyptian ruler Ismail's 44% shareholding in the Suez Canal for £4 million to secure control of this strategic waterway, a channel for shipping between the United Kingdom and India since its opening six years earlier under Emperor Napoleon III. Joint Anglo-French financial control over Egypt ended in outright British occupation in 1882. In 1898, the British reconquered Sudan, cleared vegetation along the Nile River and created alternative drainage paths to divert water and improve flow.
Treaties have resulted in inequitable rights to the use of Nile water between the countries of the Nile Basin.
"To the Italian government: The fact that you have come to an agreement, and the fact that you have thought it necessary to give us a joint notification of that agreement, make it clear that your intention is to exert pressure, and this in our view, at once raises a previous question. This question which calls for preliminary examination, must therefore be laid before the League of Nations."
"To the British government: The British Government has already entered into negotiations with the Ethiopian Government in regard to its proposal, and we had imagined that, whether that proposal was carried into effect or not, the negotiations would have been concluded with us; we would never have suspected that the British Government would come to an agreement with another Government regarding our Lake."
When an explanation was required from the British and the Italian governments by the League of Nations, they denied challenging Ethiopia’s sovereignty over Lake Tana. Not withstanding, however there was no explicit mechanism enforcing the agreement. A reliable and self-enforcing mechanism that can protect the property rights of each stakeholder is essential if the principle of economically and ecologically sustainable international water development is to be applied.
In effect, this agreement gave Egypt complete control over the Nile during the dry season when water is most needed for agricultural irrigation. It also severely limits the amount of water allotted Sudan and provides no water to any of the other riparian states.
The Nile Basin Initiative (NBI) is a partnership among the Nile Riparian states that “seeks to develop the river in a cooperative manner, share substantial socioeconomic benefits, and promote regional peace and security”. It was formally launched in February 1999 by the water ministers of 9 countries that share the river – Egypt, Sudan, Ethiopia, Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Burundi, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo with Eritrea as an observer.
During the colonial period, Britain effectively controlled the Nile through its military presence in Africa. Since Sudanese independence, Sudan has renegotiated with Egypt over the use of the Nile waters. The 1959 agreement between Sudan and Egypt allocated the entire average annual flow of the Nile to be shared among the Sudan and Egypt at 18.5 and 55.5 billion cubic meters respectively, but ignored the rights to water of the remaining eight Nile countries. Ethiopia contributes 80% of the total Nile flow, but by the 1959 agreement is entitled to none of its resources. However, the agreement between Egypt and Sudan is not binding on Ethiopia as it was never a party to it. Since the early 1990s, Ethiopia has successfully countered Egyptian and Sudanese resistance to water development projects in Ethiopia to increase irrigation and hydroelectric potential. Since May 2010, Ethiopia and the other upper riparian states have launched the Nile Basin Cooperative Framework Agreement in a bid to ensure an equitable utilization between all the riparian states of the Nile.
Egypt continues to be the primary user of Nile water. According to Swain and Fadel, political instability and poverty in the other nine riparian countries has limited their ability to move toward socioeconomic development of the Nile. According to Lemma, the greatest question facing the Nile riparian states is: Will the Nile Basin Initiative help them overcome the unjust and unequal distribution of Nile water resources? 
While most of the river’s water quality is within acceptable levels, there are several hot spots mostly found in the irrigation canals and drainages. Sources of pollutants are from agricultural, industrial, and household waste. There are 36 industries that discharge their pollution sources directly into the Nile, and 41 into irrigation canals. These types of industries are: chemical, electrical, engineering, fertilizers, food, metal, mining, oil and soap, pulp and paper, refractory, textile and wood. There are over 90 agricultural drains that discharge into the Nile that also include industrial wastewater. The water exceeds the European Community Standards of fecal contamination and there is a high salinization and saline intrusion in the delta. Salinization happens when there’s a buildup of salts in the soil. The soil cannot retain water which prevents anything from growing. Saline intrusion is when the ground is saturated with saltwater. The northeast Nile Delta region has a high incident rate of pancreatic cancer that is believed to be from high levels of heavy metals and organchlorine pesticides found in the soil and water. Exposure to cadmium is most commonly known through smoking, though it is believed that in this region, the exposure is from contact through the heavy metals and pesticides found in the soil and water. Schistosomiasis (a disease caused by parasitic worms) has been found in irrigation canals along with benthic cyanobacteria forming mats. 
Agriculture is the largest consumer of water in Egypt using about 85% of available water. Drainage water from the agricultural fields contains pollutants such as pesticide residues, toxic organic and inorganic pollutants, salts and treated and untreated domestic wastewater. In the East – Delta drains – Faraskour, Serw and Hadous, samples of the water contained high levels of hookworms and other intestinal helminth eggs. In villages where the only available water is from irrigation canals, women use the water for domestic purposes and also dump the used water back into the drainages. In some areas, low water levels do not reach the waterways, so farmers build illegal waterwheels to get the water up the canals to irrigate their land. Lack of drainage canals and the enforcement by officials to address these problems contribute to pollution of land and water. Villagers drinking polluted water have been affected with kidney and liver diseases. Animal manure, dredged sediments from drains and sludge for fertilizer are leached and the contaminants are a major source of pollution. Agricultural drainage water reuse is used by farmers legally and illegally. Improper irrigation and lack of education on effective irrigation methods and crop production contributes to crop failure and polluting of canals. In areas where there is no formal operational structure for pumping water of individual diesel pumps, the tail-end users usually are not getting enough water to maintain crops.
There are twenty-five agencies, under seven ministries that are involved in maintaining water quality, yet their communication and data sharing between agencies is underdeveloped. Water user associations which are non-governmental associations of farmers who organize an irrigation process of all agricultural land, maintain diesel pumps and deal with conflicts between farmers and water management. They have been around since 1988, but have lacked structure and the inclusion of women. Women are seen as contributors to pollution of irrigation canals since they wash clothes, dishes and animals in the drainages. The lack of planning and corruption within governmental departments, the neglecting of concerns and disbursement of low-quality land to the poor, and the improper education of safe handling methods and improper irrigation and crop management for men and women, all contribute to poor water quality. Though money is a major factor in improving these areas, in the case of erasing corruption and improving interdepartmental communication, stricter rules and enforcement of them is something that can be done immediately. Increasing Water User Associations (WUAs) and establishing a communication chain between these associations and government departments is recommended. Appointing field supervisors for designated areas to oversee WUAs and educate farmers on irrigation methods (like drip irrigation that applies water to the root zone which can reduce water use by 30 to 60 percent), effective water distribution during crop cycle, crop rotation and soil management. Field supervisors can also monitor water levels, check on the maintenance of pumps and report on drainage structures. The World Bank has financed the agricultural drainage program in Egypt since 1970. This program equips agricultural land with subsurface drains. These drains are made of plastic pipes produced in government-owned plants in the Nile Valley and Delta. Landholders pay for the installation of drains on a 20-year interest-free annual installments. Subsurface drainage has shown to improve soil conditions and crop yield. Educating farmers on the functioning of these subsurface drainages are needed to prevent a disruption of water supply to all connected fields. Since these drainages cannot be seen on the surface, if a farmer closes a drain to keep more water in his field it will prevent water from reaching users beyond.
Somaliland takes part Nile river solutions agricultural lands are not charged for water, but are for irrigation and drainage improvements, WUAs should be responsible for payment as it would produce a group responsibility of all members. Monitoring of water and soil quality should be left to the WUAs and reported to field supervisors which then report to the Ministry of Water Resources and Irrigation (MWRI) office. Since the effort to produce clean water will take time, steps that can be taken as short-term results are: Tapping into shallow wells for drinking water obtained from fields and unlined canals; since the soil acts as a filter it can remove contaminants. Consulting with farmers when designing irrigation systems for optimal performance should be taken into consideration. (IWMI, 2006) Informing the public of safe handling of food methods, the use of manure and mulching crop residue, less evasive tillage and rotating crops that do not need the same nutrients to improve the soils ability to hold water, and switching to short duration crops to decrease water consumption is advised. Proper application of reused drainage water during a crops growth cycle is optimal. In Giza, they have the largest governorate discharge of agricultural, industrial and domestic sewage that goes directly into the Nile through three drains without treatment. A solution is to construct three wastewater treatment plants with “activated sludge” and “high capacity”. “Activated sludge” is the cheapest technology that reduces E. coli and biological oxygen demand (BOD) concentrations and switching the Abu-Rawash treatment plant from primary to activated sludge. Public and industrial awareness should also be promoted to reduce illegal dumping. Public awareness can help achieve efficient water usage and cleaner water. Increased monitoring of discharged areas and enforcing fines of illegal dumping should be integrated in already established government offices. Monitoring of these enforcements should be done by an outside source like the World Bank since they have provided Egypt with financing for improvements of water usage. If the World Bank finds the government has not enforced the established fines, then they can add exceptions to their loan agreements that would create incentives for enforcement of fines.
Some scholars downplay the geopolitical importance of water. Jan Selby and Thomas Gnyra, for instance, argue that whilst oil has been a principal cause of regional economic growth, adequate water supply has been a product. Selby claims the 'water wars' is also weak in terms of failed forecasts, and that conflict in the last century was more often due to oil than water.
Others argue that there are more important foreign policy concerns than water, which relate to ideological, economic and strategic relations with neighbouring states (and with outside powers), and access to 'goods' such as foreign aid and investment, oil revenues and remittances, illegal economies and military hardware make water conflict a marginal concern.