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Conquering Groundwater to Protect Egypt’s Antiquities

​Egypt Ministry of Antiquities, USaid EGYPT
CDM Smith’s award-winning dewatering systems at Temple of Edfu mitigate groundwater’s corrosive effects, enable exploration and conservation, improve public health, and support Egypt’s vital tourism economy.

Egypt’s Pharaonic monuments in the Nile River Valley hold some of ancient civil­i­sa­tion’s most respected treasures. However, many were dete­ri­o­rat­ing from rising groundwater caused by urban­i­sa­tion and agri­cul­tural practices. Also, the porous sandstone blocks from which Egyptian monuments are constructed absorb water. Corrosive salts concentrate as water evaporates, causing mechanical and chemical destruction of the stone blocks over a relatively short period of time.

The goal of this programme was to preserve significant archae­o­log­i­cal sites for the benefit of Egypt and the world’s heritage, increase the potential for archae­o­log­i­cal discoveries, and enhance the economic development value of tourism in Egypt. Determined to mitigate the water’s corrosive effects at the prominent Temple of Edfu, CDM Smith applied 3D numerical hydro­ge­o­log­i­cal modelling to design dewatering systems.

groundwater drawdown
age of Temple of Edfu
length of gravity trench drains

Leveraging our earlier work at Luxor West and an exceptional understanding of the region’s unique geology, we could minimise invasive work, maintain the project schedule during Ramadan and Egypt’s recent revolution, and build trust with the Ministry. To ensure long-term success, we conducted community outreach to identify and incorporate benefits for local residents, simplified operations and maintenance, drained entire sites efficiently and built local human capacity to maintain the programme into the future.

To ensure long-term success, we conducted community outreach to identify and incorporate benefits for local residents.

The award-winning protective systems have successfully achieved targeted water levels, enabling exploration and conservation work to continue unhampered by high groundwater, improving public health, providing immediate and long-term job opportunities, and supporting Egypt’s vital tourism economy. Fulfilling our pledge to protect Egypt’s antiquities, we secured contracts for two more groundwater lowering assignments at Kom El Shokafa and the Temple of Kom Ombo. 

It was a team effort to develop and implement the field programmes while respecting the sites’ social and cultural signif­i­cance. 
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2015 NGWA Award
CDM Smith’s groundwater lowering project to protect Egyptian antiquities has earned the Outstanding Groundwater Project Award from the National Ground Water Association for outstanding science, engineering, or innovation in the area of protecting groundwater.

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