TAMU-CC Researchers to Explore Egyptian Desert for New Water Source for Bedouins

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – Under the parched landscape of one of the most arid regions in the world, researchers from Texas A&M-Corpus Christi will use geophysical technology to locate a new fresh groundwater source for an Egyptian Bedouin community.

Dr. Mohamed Ahmed, Assistant Professor of Geophysics at the Center for Water Supply Studies and the Department of Physical and Environmental Sciences at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, received a two-year, $99,887 grant from the Geoscientists Without Borders program at the Society of Exploration Geophysicists. The purpose is to define optimal locations for drilling sustainable groundwater wells in southern Sinai, Egypt.

Freshwater resources in Sinai are scarce, coming from groundwater, piped Nile River water, and desalination plants.

“The desalination plants mainly serve hotels and tourist-centric facilities and are too expensive for Bedouin (indigenous people) to use in daily activities,” Ahmed said. A recently established 250-kilometer pipeline project to transfer Nile River water to Sinai might not deliver any water to Bedouin people.

“Groundwater resources represent the only sustainable solution for the Bedouin,” Ahmed said. “However, the Bedouin lack a basic understanding of how these resources are developed, distributed, and protected, and how to use them sustainably.”

For Ahmed, who is from Egypt, the project covers familiar territory.

“When I was an undergraduate student at Suez Canal University, I used to go on a lot of field trips to the Sinai Peninsula,” Ahmed said. Some of his Ph.D. research work was conducted in Sinai, and he helped colleagues collect field data there.   

Other objectives of the project are to raise local awareness of how to sustain and protect the currently available groundwater resources, particularly in Bedouin communities; gather local input and buy-in about other humanitarian issues; and teach students who participate in this project about all phases of geophysical surveys using modern field equipment and the latest computer processing and interpretation tools.

An A&M-Corpus Christi graduate student will travel to Egypt, if conditions permit, and other Islander students will be involved.

“Students will participate in planning field surveys and in acquiring, processing, and interpreting field data,” Ahmed said. “They will receive practical training on geophysical methods in the field (e.g., resistivity, seismic, and ground penetrating radar) as well as applying fundamental hydrogeological principles and methods, such as water level measurements, water table maps, and groundwater sampling.”

Students will interact with and learn from their peers in Egypt.

“This will enable cultural exchange as well as the exchange of scientific ideas,” Ahmed said. “Students will interact with the local communities in the investigated areas. They will participate in developing and delivering outreach presentations as well as educational brochures/flyers to the local communities and schools.”

Outreach efforts will explain the approaches to sustainably use the available groundwater resources as well as the project’s technology, benefits, and outcomes.

“It is very important for our students to get involved in this and similar research,” Ahmed said. “Such research will enable them to be exposed to different geologic settings and environmental problems than they are seeing in their local environment.”

Ahmed said students also will gain valuable experience for future job opportunities.

The project is slated for March 2021-February 2023. It is the first project funded by Geoscientists Without Borders to serve the Egyptian community and the first TAMU-CC funded project.

“The GWB funds projects that benefit communities in need facing environmental hardship and natural hazards due to resource shortages and natural and human induced disasters,” Ahmed said. “This program serves as a catalyst bringing capable scientists together with communities to solve their problems.”