Research claims that reusing untreated wastewater in the Nile delta contributes to irreversible and large-scale heavy metal pollution.
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According to recent research from the USC Viterbi School of Engineering, extensive heavy metal pollution, coastal erosion, and seawater interruption severely damage the Nile River Delta. The pollution put 60 million people in Egypt in danger who depend on its resources for every aspect of life. The Nile River Delta is a crucial resting place for migratory birds traveling along the East African flyway.
Essam Heggy and his research group from USC Viterbi Innovation Fund Arid Climates and Water Research Center conducted the research. On Tuesday, March 7, the journal Earth’s Future published the study.
Egypt, the most populous and desert country downstream of the Nile, is mainly affected by pollution because the country depends entirely on the river for drinking and agricultural cultivation. After decades of decreasing water supplies, large-scale wastewater reuse and its effects have been unexplored until now. Egypt is one of the most significant water budget deficits in Africa presently.
The Heavy Metal Pollution
Research shows that around 20,000 square km is becoming contaminated by poisonous heavy metals. Around 60 million people are affected by water pollution in Egypt. The civilization inhabited beautiful water surroundings for more than 7,000 years, nowadays challenging the reality of irreversible, widespread environmental devastation.
The researchers examined eight heavy metals to determine water pollution levels. The grain size and pollution levels in bottom sediment samples have been taken from two sites of the Nile river delta by researchers from the United States and Egypt.
The researchers concluded that heavy metal contamination in the deposit near the Nile river’s delta includes cadmium, nickel, chromium, copper, lead, and zinc. However, untreated agricultural drainage and urban and industrial wastewater are the primary sources of contaminants. Heavy metal concentrations increase when recycled water is not treated correctly and remains in the riverbed permanently, unlike organic pollutants that break down over time.
The Negative Impact of Construction
The increase in the dam on the Nile river makes heavy metal concentrations worse. However, mega-dam construction interferes with the river’s natural flow and residue fluidity. The Projects negatively affect its capacity to discharge contaminants into the Mediterranean Sea and cause poisons to accumulate over time in sediment.
According to experts, heavy metal poisoning is irreversible. Science-based protection can halt environmental deterioration and restore the ecosystem of the Nile river delta.
Dr. Abotalib Z. Abotalib, a postdoctoral researcher at USC Viterbi and co-author of the study, commented that the rapid population growth in Egypt reached above 100 million. It has put local authorities in a dilemma to focus on providing enough clean water for the dry farming industry to secure the food supply through reusing untreated agricultural wastewater or to preserve the health of the Nile river. Although the balance is challenging, both options have measurable effects.
The Research Outcome
Dr. Heggy said there is a need to study the environmental effects of recycled untreated water. The variation in river turbidity is caused by greater upstream Nile damming projects. Future discussions and partnerships among nations in the Nile river basin that share a common interest in preserving the healthy river system will be a good initiative.
One of the most significant water fiscal deficits in Africa is experienced by Egypt. It primarily comprises the extensive reusing of untreated agricultural effluents in the Nile Delta. Untreated water reuse effects on rising soil pollution levels are poorly understood. However, widespread pollution can harm crop yields and water quality. The researchers use integrated pollution indicators, statistical modeling, and source analysis to assess the number of contaminants in the Nile Delta, such as heavy metals. It pinpoints their origins and investigates the effects of damming on heavy metal concentration.