Water of the Middle East and North Africa

Water Use in Sudan

irrigation sudan - Water Use in Sudan
Photo 1: Gezira irrigation scheme, Gezira , Sudan. ( Source: Water, Land and Ecosystems, Flickr)

Current Water Use in Sudan by Sector

There are no official data on the total water use by sector or region, and data collected by international institutions and United Nations’ (UN) agencies are scant. Agriculture is the main consumer, although cultivated areas have shrunk significantly. For example, only a seventh of the area of the Gezira Scheme is currently being farmed, whereas the Blue Nile and the White Nile Schemes have been dismantled (Figure 1 and Table 1).

Nile water resources



Figure 1: Water Sectors’ Use from Different Resources.[1]

Table 1: Water Demand Projection to 2027 (BCM).[2]

YearIrrigationAnimals & othersDomestic SupplyTotal
202032.65.11.9 39.6
202540.3 5.3 2.5 48.0
202742.5 7.32.8 52.6

Water use in Agriculture

Sudan has the second largest irrigated area in Africa, after Egypt. Irrigation is vital for Sudan’s agricultural production and economy, especially with increasing drought events and rainfall vulnerability in recent years. Irrigation consumes about 96.2% of Sudan’s total Nile share at 18.55 BCM, according to the 1959 Nile Water Agreement.[3]

Sudan has nearly 292 million feddans (122.6 million hectares) of land suitable for agriculture, almost half of the country’s total land area. Out if these lands, 29.5 million feddans (12.4 million hectares) are under rainfed agriculture. 96.1 per cent of land used for cereal cultivation across the country are included in this category. 15 million feddans (6.7 million hectares) are under semi-mechanized rainfed agriculture, constituting a belt running through the states of Kassala, Gedaref, Blue Nile, Sennar, White Nile and South Kordofan. 80 percent of these lands are cultivated with sorghum. Other crops include sesame, sunflowers, millet and cotton. Agriculture mechanization has a deteriorating impact on the environment in Sudan, such as deforestation, soil erosion and land degradation. Another 8.3 million feddans (3.5 million hectares) are under irrigation, where the main crops cultivated are millet, wheat, cotton, groundnuts, sesame, sugar cane and vegetables such as potato, onion, okra and tomato.[4] Table 2 shows Sudan’s irrigation schemes.

Table 2: The area of irrigation schemes in Sudan. [5]

SchemeCropped FeddansCropped HaEquipped FeddansEquipped Ha
Blue Nile System2,165,840909,6533,140,8951,319,176
Abu Naama10,0004,20030,00012,600
Pumps u/s Sennar135,00056,700180,00075,600
Hurga and Nour-el-deen2,2709,353100,0042,000
Genaid (Sugar)40,00016,80053,33322,400
Small Private Pumps Schemes178,57074,999238,095100,000
Waha (Blue Nile)22,5009,45030,00012,600
Gezira - Managil1,400,000588,0002,016,000846,720
Rahad I235,00098,700300,000126,000
Suki Scheme67,50028,35090,00037,800
NW Sennar Sugar35,00014,70053,46622,456
Haddaf / Wad Al faddul15,0006,30020,0008,400
White Nile System189,08079,414333,950140,259
Kenana Sugar Scheme71,40029,98895,20039,984
Kenana - mixed crop11,2504,72515,0006,300
Asalaya (Sugar)35,00014,70043,75018,375
White NIle Pumps71,43030,001180,00075,600
Atbara System210,00088,200500,000210,000
New Halfa180,00075,600462,500194,250
New Halfa Sugar30,00012,60037,50015,750
Main Nile System170,00071,400226,67095,201
Merowe - Dongola75,00031,500100,00042,000
Hasanab - Merowe20,0008,40026,67011,201
Khartoum - Hasanab75,00031,500100,00042,00

In recent years new irrigation schemes have been established as a result of dam development, such as the heightening of Roseires dam in 2014, the construction of Merowe dam in 2009, and the construction of the Upper Atbara and Setit Dam Complex in 2019. These dams’ ability to store water and regulate the flow of the Nile River and its tributaries will enable Sudan to utilize more water for irrigation. Table 3 shows the planned development of the irrigation schemes, which are predicted to consume Sudan’s unused Nile share.

Table 3: The area of planned development of irrigation schemes in Sudan. [6]

SchemeCropped Areas (F)Developed Areas (F)Crops
Public Pump Schemes150,000550,000Various
Private Pump Schemes150,000400,000Sugar and others
rahad Scheme160,000300,000Cotton, groundnuts, sorghum
Es Suki Scheme60,00090,000Cotton, groundnuts, sorghum
El Guneid Scheme60,00080,000Sugar, cotton, groundnuts
New Halfa Scheme180,000450,000Sugar, cotton, groundnuts
gezira Scheme1,200,0002,200,000Cotton, groundnuts, sorghum
Kenana Sugar Scheme80,000100,000Sugars
NW Sennar Scheme10,00017,000Sugar
Abu Naama Scheme8,00030,000kenaf
Seleit and others15,00040,000mainly livestock

Water use in Domestic sector

The domestic sector consumes only 3.5% of the used water in Sudan.[7] The coverage of water services in Sudan is low, with only 60.2% of the population with access to at least basic drinking water services in 2017 [8]. The percentages are lower with sanitation as only 60% of the urban population and 24% of the rural population access safe sanitation services. In the same year, the mortality rate of unsafe water constitutes 17.1 for each 10,000.[9]

Water use in Industry

The industrial sector accounts for 0.3% of Sudan’s used water. This share has been increasing gradually and is primarily consumed in oil production, sugar manufacturing, food processing and construction.[10]

[1] Elamin, A.W.M., 2013, ‘Water Resources in Sudan’, Available at : https://www.researchgate.net/publication/275016737_Water_Resources_in_Sudan, accessed [19/8/2017].
[2] Ministry of Electricity and Dams, 2012, Dams Implementation Unit. Available at : http://www.oicvet.org/Presentations/Water_Management_Symposium/Sudan/Sudan.pdf, accessed [19/8/2017].
[3] FAO, 2015. AQUASTAT Information System on Water and Agriculture. Sudan Country Profile. Available at http://www.fao.org/nr/water/aquastat/countries_regions/SDN/index.stm
[4] United Nations Environment Programme, 2020. Sudan: First State of Environment and Outlook Report 2020. Available at https://www.unep.org/resources/report/sudan-first-state-environment-outlook-report-2020
[5] Ibid
[6] FAO, 2015. AQUASTAT Information System on Water and Agriculture. Sudan Country Profile. Available at http://www.fao.org/nr/water/aquastat/countries_regions/SDN/index.stm
[7] Central Bureau of Statistics CBS, UNICEF Sudan (2016). Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey 2014 of Sudan, Final Report. Khartoum, Sudan. Available at http://mics.unicef.org/files?job=W1siZiIsIjIwMTYvMDUvMTgvMjEvNTkvNTEvODg3L1N1ZGFuXzIwMTRfTUlDU19FbmdsaXNoLnBkZiJdXQ&sha=32907fc39e6e2e6e
[8] The World Bank Data. Available at https://data.worldbank.org/country/sudan
[9] Ibid
[10] FAO, 2015. AQUASTAT Information System on Water and Agriculture. Sudan Country Profile. Available at http://www.fao.org/nr/water/aquastat/countries_regions/SDN/index.stm