Enabling implementation of the Regional SAP for the rational and equitable management of the Nubian Sandstone Aquifer System (NSAS)

Lead country

Regional - Arab States

Participating countries

Egypt, Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, Chad, Sudan

Project status

Under implementation

Implementing period

From October 9, 2018 to October 9, 2022

SDGs addressed by this project

SDG targets

  1. 15.1 Conserve, restore, sustainably use terrestrial, freshwater ecosystems
  2. 6.1 Achieve access to safe, affordable drinking water
  3. 13.2 Integrate climate change measures into national policies, strategies and planning.

Project ID: 4736

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Technical team

  • Oceans and Water Programme

Technical area(s)

  • Climate resilient access to water supply & sanitation
  • Protection of transboundary surface & groundwater resources in a changing climate


  • FreshWaters
  • Deserts


  • Aquifers
  • Semi-arid (cold winter) deserts

Transformed sector(s)

  • Forestry and other land use

UNDP role(s)

  • Data collection and analysis
  • Institutional mechanism and system building
  • Capacity development / Technical assistance


  • Governance
  • Finance economy
  • Mitigation adaptation


  • Institutional framework
  • Partnerships
  • Transboundary governance
  • Nature finance
  • Ecosystem mitigation and adaptation
  • Drought Mitigation/Early Warning

Social inclusion

  • Youth/Children
  • Women
  • Local community/CSOs

Gender equality


Gender result effectiveness scale



  • Systems pathway

Risk reduction target(s)

  • Hazard control/mitigation

SDG target(s)

  • 15.1 Conserve, restore, sustainably use terrestrial, freshwater ecosystems
  • 6.1 Achieve access to safe, affordable drinking water
  • 13.2 Integrate climate change measures into national policies, strategies and planning.

Conventions and protocols

  • Strategic Action Programme
  • National Action Plan

Private sector(s)


Hot topic

  • Nature-based solution
  • Multi-stakeholder collaboration

Project description

The Nubian Sandstone Aquifer System (NSAS) is one of the largest aquifer systems in the world, stretching over approximately 2.6 million square km in Northeast Africa. It extends about 1,600 km East-West and North-South across Chad), Egypt, Libya and Sudan. Fresh groundwater reserves in the aquifer system is estimated at 372,950 billion cubic metre (BCM), out of which only 3.9% is recoverable with present-day technology.The riparian countries sharing the aquifer system face similar problems of arid climate, scarce surface water resources, persistent droughts and fragile ecosystems. The aquifer is a critically important source of water in this arid desert region and will be increasingly in demand in the future. Hence all four countries have given priority to linking the NSAS groundwater exploitation to national development strategies and plans. Growing pressures on the aquifer system pose threats to both the quantity and quality of the resource and could, if not appropriately managed, lead to transboundary/shared problems and tension. To address any potential tension that may impede the rational and equitable management of the aquifer system, a technical data-gathering element of the project, Shared Aquifer Diagnostic Analysis was prepared and a regional Strategic Action Programme (SAP) for the aquifer system formulated and approved by ministers from four countries on the 18th September 2013 in Vienna.Without further support the goal of the endorsed SAP will not be achieved within the Nubian Aquifer Sandstone System (NSAS). While there have been significant advances in the understanding of the hydrogeology of the NSAS there is still a need to develop and enhance capacity to assess and protect the ecosystems dependent on the water resources of the aquifer, in particular to mitigate the potential impacts of climate change and variability within the region. In addition, the NSAS Joint Authority needs further strengthening to develop and implement effective management actions. This project will initiate the implementation of the agreed SAP through:• Address gaps in knowledge on the NSAS resources and dependent ecosystems;• Support capacity development at local, national and regional levels to ensure the Joint Authority and the national authorities are best able to manage the water resources and dependent ecosystems;• Facilitate national reforms on policies necessary to successfully implement the SAP and support the formulations of National Action Plans linked to the SAP;• Utilise the participation and results from four pilot actions to demonstrate improved management approaches at the national and local level using practices encouraged through the project and experiences from other regional initiatives;• Identify future financing options to assist the countries and the Joint Authority in the longer term to implement the agreed SAP.All project activities will follow a gender strategy to be developed in the inception phase and will, as a minimum, record sex-disaggregated data on all participants. The activities to initiate the implementation of the SAP will assist the four governments in collaborative actions that will both strengthen their capacity on environmental management and improve the livelihoods of the local population dependent on the resources of the NSAS.

USD $4,140,000

Grant amount

USD $17,730,000

Leveraged amount (co-financing)


Source(s) of fund

Sources of fund


  • Global Environment Facility – Trust Fund ($4,140,000)

Implementing partner(s)

  • United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization

Related resources

Geospatial information

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Project reports and documentation