Africa > Egypt / Sudan

Lake Nasser: The Reservoir on the Nile

lakeLake Nasser
countryEgypt, Sudan
surface area5,250 km2
maximum depth180 m
average depth25 m
lake typeReservoir
length550 km
width35 km
catchment area2,849,002 km2
altitude183 m
volume132 km3
inflowsNile
outflowsNile
shore length7,844 km
mixing typeMonomictic
settlementsAswan
dam height111 m
dam year1970

Lake Nasser Information and Facts

Lake Nasser is one of the largest man-made lakes in the World, located in Southern Egypt and Northern Sudan. The lake is stocked with food fish, making it one of the best fishing sites in Egypt.

Geographic Facts

The name Nasser only refers to 83% of the lake’s territory belonging to Egypt. The Sudanese call it “Lake Nubia”, which is administered by Wadi Halfa Salient, an area which often gets flooded. The lakeshore is made up mainly of desert landscape, and is either hilly and rugged, or flat and sandy. The area is sparsely populated, with only a few peasant fishermen, Bedouin camel and sheep herdsmen living around Lake Nasser.

Construction of the Dam

Before the construction of the dam began which eventually led to the formation of Lake Nasser, there was another dam in the region, called the Aswan Low Dam, completed in 1902. The dam proved to be inefficient, since it nearly overflowed by the middle of the 20th century, even though it was raised twice. Instead of raising it for a third time, officials decided to construct the Aswan High Dam, across the rivers of the Nile between 1958 and 1971.

Before the High Dam was built, 93% of the total annual suspended load of 124 million tons of sediment flowed directly into the Mediterranean Sea every year. The High dam came in aid of this problem and retained 98% of the load within the reservoir, with only 2.5 million tons making it to the Sea yearly. Although the dam proved to be pretty efficient, it was not immune to overflow; when high levels of rainfall occurred new lakes were formed in the 1990s. Through the new Lake Nasser the water level of the Nile beneath Aswan is regulated all year round, so there aren’t any seasonal floods like there were before.

The lake was named after Gamal Abdel Nasser, the initiator of the project, who was one of the leaders of the Egyptian Revolution of 1952 and the second President of Egypt. The creation of the lake involved the submerging of ancient historical sites such as the tombs and temples at Philae and Abu Simbel. To avoid this, the government asked the help of UNESCO, and many monuments were dismantled only to be reconstructed on safer ground. But not all historical sites could be salvaged, for example the massive fortress of Buhen was flooded and now lies at the bottom of Lake Nasser. Ancient ruins weren’t the only thing to be removed. The area used to house Nubain villages with hundreds of thousands of people, who needed to be relocated. The Sudanese port, railway and the town of Wadi Halfa was actually rebuilt.

The dam has doubled the electricity supply of Egypt and was significant in increasing the amount of agricultural land in the region, providing irrigation opportunity. It also plays a major role in Egypt’s fishing industry, producing 15-25 000 tons of fish per year.

Flora and Fauna

The lake region is home to more than 100 species of birds including wild ducks, Egyptian geese, pelicans, herons, egrets, hawks, kites, falcons and eagles. A number of crocodiles and monitor lizards also inhabit the area. The desert fox, Dorcas gazelle and a number of jackals represent the mammals living around Lake Nasser. The lake is known as one of the best freshwater fishing spots in the World, especially for Nile perch and Tiger fish, having 32 different species of fish. Several catfish can also be found (including Vundu), as well as 2 species of Tilapia.

Climate

The lake is located in an arid region, with hot summers and winters which are generally warm during the day. The maximum annual temperature is 50OC, whilst the minimum is 5OC. The wind flows from the north and the northeast, with frequent, strong sand and dust storms occurring.

Tourism and Recreation

Lake Nasser is a preferred site for fishermen, who fish either from the shores or from boats. Lake cruises are organized daily from surrounding cities and villages, often encompassing a day on the Nile as well. The best way to see the lake is from a boat.

Lake Nasser Fish Species

Catfish
Tigerfish
Perch