what resources does the nile river provide

What resources does the Nile River provide? Who doesn’t know about the world’s longest river?

While you may know it is the longest, you may not be as aware of its vital role in shaping the culture, history, and livelihoods of people across northeastern Africa.

And it has been doing the same since ages. But, really, what resources did the Nile provide? And how is it today?

The Nile River provides resources, such as water for drinking and hydropower for energy, which helps shape history and support people in the region. 

The Nile River and Its Importance in Ancient Egypt

nile's vital role in ancient egypt

It is difficult to think about the River Nile without imagining it flowing by the temples and monuments of Ancient Egypt.

The Nile was and still is, the country’s life force. Its predictable inundations allowed the birth of one of the major ancient civilizations.

It was a country where grain was plentiful.

And it was more than enough to feed the thousands working on Pharaoh’s latest building project in their stable pay of bread and beer.

As well as feeding the nation there was often a surplus stored as insurance against failed inundations

How Was Nile in Those Old Times?

how was nile in those old times

The Nile then was the super highway of its time.

It helped bring materials and trade goods into Egypt from the other 10 east African countries the Nile runs through or borders.

It flows south to north, emptying into the Mediterranean from a wide delta and helps in many ways.

Here is a bit more about it:

Key AspectsDescription
FlowNorthward through northeast Asia
Watershed areaOver 3.3 million square km
SourcesThe Blue Nile and the White Nile
Cultural significanceImmense
Fact: The annual flooding makes the delta soil particularly rich but the Nile’s banks are fertile down much of its length, some 4000 plus miles. 

What Resources Does the Nile River Provide?

nile river's provided resources

If you dig deeper into the details, you will realize that the Nile River serves as a great resource in so many ways.

For instance:  

Primary Source of Freshwater Supply

Without the Nile, Egypt, and the other Nile basin countries would have no significant fresh water supply.

The result is best seen from above as lines of verdant green running on either side of the river. 

Nile in Older Times

nile in older times

The steady supply of freshwater supported great Egyptian cities and the Nile was venerated as the god.

To them, the river was everything. It not only carried their influence and gave them an identity, it shaped every aspect of daily life.

And it was from how they viewed their world and kept track of time to what happened after they died.

The visiting Greek historian Herodotus noted that the land was given to the Egyptians by the river.

Of course, he was unaware of how far from the south its waters had traveled and how many other countries also benefited from its fresh drinking water.

Fact: It is no exaggeration to say the Nile brings life to an otherwise inhospitable desert. 

Supports Agricultural Irrigation

supports agricultural irrigation

Although 11 countries have access to the Nile, they do not benefit equally.

Only Egypt had sufficient access to the delta’s superrich soils to be agriculturally self-sufficient.

The country remains so into modern times, contributing 11.3 per cent of Egypt’s GDP and 25% of the jobs, rising to 55% mid- delta. 3.45 million hectares is a vast irrigation area.

Although in ancient times this was gravity driven, these days water pumps provide ready access to groundwater. 

An Important Consideration

Today, in the north, many subsistence freeholders have combined to form associations and co-operatives.

They plant and harvest various crops to meet the demands of international markets

Provides Water for Domestic and Industrial Use

provides water for domestic and industrial use

For millions, the River Nile is a constant but there have been regular attempts to control it in efforts to maximize both its domestic and industrial potential.

The first dam, Sadd el-Kafaera was an earth embankment built around 3000BC but perhaps the most famous is the Aswan High Dam (Saad el Aali).

It’s a huge technological achievement, planned by the British and built by the Soviets and completed in 1970.

Its purpose was three-fold:

  • To provide water for irrigation
  • To control the flooding
  • To provide much needed hydroelectric power
Fact: the Aswan High Dam holds back the world’s largest reservoir, Lake Nasser but also traps the nutrient rich silt, making it somewhat controversial.     

Produces Hydropower for Electricity

produces hydropower for electricity

Egypt is a developing country with the majority of its population living along the Nile’s banks.

Although rich in history, it is a country that is poor in natural resources. Coupled with a fast-growing population, progress into the 21st century hasn’t been easy. 

More about Hydropower

Many of the hydroelectric sources already in place are seriously outmoded.

The Andrtiz Hydro was commissioned in 1903 and in operation since 1920. It re-opened after modernization in 2017.

Updating it and others like it, represents a massive green-energy investment by the government.

Fact: At the moment, only 9% of the electricity supply in Egypt is hydro energy but there are plans to develop solar and wind power. 

Creation of Fertile Soil

creation of fertile soil

In ancient times, the Nile flooded into the Nile Basin annually. It carried nutrient rich silt down from volcanic uplands.

The extensive flooding also washed away salts left in the soil by the previous year’s evaporation in an annual renewal of the soil’s fertility.

Now the waters are dammed and tamed, it is under threat. It is because of the Aswan High Dam and its resulting high-water table.

Soils have grown increasingly more saline.

Although some can be attributed to seawater intrusion, most salination is down to years of using poor irrigation and drainage methods.    

Fact: In Egypt, around 30 to 40% of the delta is officially salt-affected. 

Supports Agricultural Activities

supports agricultural activities

Egypt was founded on agriculture. It has always been vital for the economy.

The country is self-sufficient in all kinds of:

  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Cereals
  • Cotton
  • Sugar
  • Livestock

However, climate change and a population increase of over 100m most living on just the 3% of land along the Nile have changed everything.

It is expected to challenge the country’s agriculture and food production. 

Fact: To date, there are several government bodies tasked with implementing various scientifically sound policies with the aim of achieving food security.    

Supports Fisheries

supports fisheries

The Nile is rich in life, providing habitats for various plant and animal species, including crocodile and hippopotamus.

Its diversity provides subsistence in the Nile basin far beyond Egypt’s border. There are vast permanent wetlands and several large lakes.

A good example is Lake Victoria, the largest expanse of freshwater on the African continent lying in Tanzania and Uganda.

Commercial fisheries there raise Nile perch and tilapia, both introduced for commercial fishing, and one native fish from the cyprinid family.

Fact: On Lake Tana in Ethiopia, there are some 400 individual fishermen as well as commercial fisheries harvesting African catfish, barbs and yellow fish.  

Facilitates Trade and Commerce

facilitates trade and commerce

The Nile has been a busy trade route since ancient times, transporting:

  • Gold
  • Linen
  • Papyrus
  • Cedar wood
  • Ebony copper
  • Iron
  • Silk
  • Spices
  • Glass

The Nile put Egypt at the center of global commerce, linking Europe and Asia with Africa and two major branches of the Silk Road. 

An Important Consideration

The Nile was the heart of a huge ancient commercial enterprise and Egypt is still leading the way.

Since 2013 it has been working with the other Nile basin countries to establish the Nile as a viable trade route linking Lake Victoria with the Mediterranean

Attracts Tourists for Recreational Activities

attracts tourists for recreational activities

The River Nile is a busy waterway with history on its banks stretching back millennia and these days, the Nile is as much about tourism as it is trade.

Egypt is a popular destination, a holiday of a lifetime that wouldn’t be complete without a trip on the Nile.

The things are getting even better as the industry has diversified into:

  • Sporting events
  • Festivals
  • Ecotourism
Fact: Tourism generated around 9.5 billion USD for Egypt in 2021, approximately 57% of the total African tourism market. 

Contributes to Economic Growth

Egypt is recovering well from the disastrous impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

Although revenues fell from 15% the national output to zero, they eventually rose by 43.5% to a record $4.1 billion.

A new world-class museum displaying new treasures has helped but the whole tourism industry is ripe for investment.

contributes to economic growth

Many less-than-traditional ventures have sprung up along the river so that tourists today can enjoy the scenery while:

  • White water rafting
  • Swimming
  • Kayaking
  • Quad biking
  • Horseback riding
Fact: Innovative thinking and massive investment mean the industry in Egypt is expecting record highs again for 2023. 


What resources does the Nile River provide? The Nile River is a testament to the richness and resilience of nature’s blessings.

Its resources have always been helping people to survive and thrive in that region.

There are so many ways the Nile plays a role in keeping Egypt afloat.

And recognizing its immense value and resources truly helps us learn more about how to achieve a brighter future for people living in that part of the world.