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The valley of Wadi El-Rayan, 65 km southwest of Fayoum city, in Egypt, is home to two large artificial lakes created to divert excess agricultural drainage water from Fayoum oasis. It is also home to the country’s only waterfalls.

The Fayoum oasis originally drained into Lake Qarun in the north. But the lake can take only a certain volume of drainage water. Anything over this capacity and the lake level would rise and flood the surrounding land, often doing irreparable damage because of the waters high salt content. This means that the amount of water that can be used in the Fayoum is limited by the region’s maximum drainage capacity. Consequently, until recently water-intensive crops such as rice and reeds could be grown only in very small quantities. Furthermore, no new land could be reclaimed without causing swamping of existing farmland near Lake Qarun. There was a pressing need to find an alternative drainage basin, and the large depression of Wadi El Rayan was found to be suitable.


Photo credit: Roland Unger/Wikimedia

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