|In the mid 1990s, water levels in Lake Nasser on the Nile River approached the reservoir's storage capacity of 183 m above sea level. Excess water was released through a spillway, which flowed into the Toshka Depression in the Western Desert. Over the next several years, continued overflow created a series of lakes on some of Egypt's most arid land. After peaking in 1998, reservoir levels declined and flow through the spillway stopped in 2001. Since that time, water levels in the Toshka Lakes have been declining as well, primarily by evaporation and to a lesser degree by infiltration.|
In January 1997, the Egyptian government began construction on a network of canals to continue carrying Lake Nasser water to Toshka with the goal of irrigating 3 360 km2 of land in the Western Desert. The project, called the New Valley Project, is intended to relieve overcrowding within the densely populated Nile Valley and provide economic development.
The project is an enormous undertaking with a cost over US$1 000 million. Critics of the project are concerned that the anticipated withdrawal of 5 000 million m3 of water per year will reduce water available to farmers on the delta, leave Egypt more economically vulnerable to drought, and reduce resources available for other development opportunities. Much of the needed infrastructure is already in place and crops are already being produced on irrigated land including fruits and wheat (green around the lakes, 2007 image).
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