file under: Federal Government, Middle East/Africa, Water

Groundwater Lowering Project to Protect Egyptian Antiquities Earns NGWA Groundwater Protection Award

work preserves historic sites, furthers exploration, protects public health and supports tourism

October 27, 2015

BOSTON—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.

The project, which took place from April 2007 to June 2014, focused on groundwater modeling conducted to define design parameters for dewatering systems to protect antiquity sites in Egypt — four sites on the Luxor West Bank and one site in Edfu.

Pharaonic monuments in Egypt’s Nile River Valley—among the world’s oldest and most valuable sources of information about ancient civilization—have been deteriorating because of rising groundwater with elevated salinity levels, attributable to urbanization and changing agricultural practices. By the process of capillary rise, corrosive salts concentrate as water evaporates, causing mechanical and chemical destruction of the sandstone blocks over a relatively short period of time.

Egypt’s Ministry of Antiquities requested assistance from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Government of Egypt through the National Organization for Potable Water and Sanitary Drainage (NOPWASD) to develop a program that would mitigate the damaging effects of high groundwater at a number of these valuable monuments. CDM Smith was hired by USAID to design the dewatering systems and provide construction management services to install the systems.

CDM Smith developed a 3D dimensional numerical hydrogeological model, which were based on field investigations that included soil borings and test pits, grain size analysis, water levels from piezometers, and aquifer performance tests. The protect conducted geophysical surveys to support the subsurface data from boring logs and to provide a broader extent of investigation, and then they tested and refined preliminary design concepts and estimated design parameters by performing numerical modeling of the dewatering system.

Based on 2014/2015 data collected, target water levels are being achieved at all of the antiquity sites. The project work directly benefits the people of Egypt, supporting Egyptian’s long-term tourist economy, and providing important local job opportunities. Other benefits include: 

  • Conservation and restoration work are no longer hampered by high groundwater
  • Critical historic exploration of these sites can continue and to greater depths
  • Local to the Luxor site, water logging has been reduced, and crop production and soil characteristics have improved
  • Public health has improved, due to lowering of groundwater that was affected by leaky wastewater infrastructure

CDM Smith provides lasting and integrated solutions in water, environment, transportation, energy and facilities to public and private clients worldwide. As a full-service engineering and construction firm, we deliver exceptional client service, quality results and enduring value across the entire project life cycle.