With the end of World War I, it became clear that any regional development plans for the Nile Basin would have to be preceded by some sort of formal agreement on water allocations. In 1920, the Nile Projects Commission was formed, with representatives from India , the United Kingdom , and the United States . The Commission estimated that, of the river's average flow of 84 BCM/yr, Egyptian needs were estimated at 58 BCM/yr. Sudan, it was thought, would be able to meet irrigation needs from the Blue Nile alone. The Nile flow fluctuates greatly, with a standard deviation of about 25%. In recognition of this fact, an appendix was added which suggested that any gain or short-fall from the average be divided evenly between Egypt and Sudan . The Commission's findings were not acted upon.
The same year saw publication of the most extensive scheme for comprehensive water development along the Nile , now known as the Century Storage Scheme. The plan, put forth by the British, included a storage facility on the Uganda-Sudan border, a dam at Sennar to irrigate the Gezira region south of Khartoum , and a dam on the White Nile to hold summer flood water for Egypt .
The plan worried some Egyptians, and was criticized by nationalists, because all the major control structures would have been beyond Egyptian territory and authority. Some Egyptians saw the plan as a British means of controlling Egypt in the event of Egyptian independence.
As the Nile riparians gained independence from Colonial powers, riparian disputes became international and consequently more contentious, particularly between Egypt and Sudan . The core question of historic versus sovereign water rights is complicated by the technical question of where the river ought best be controlled-upstream or down.
Attempts at conflict management
In 1925, a new water commission made recommendations based on the 1920 estimates which would lead finally to the Nile Waters Agreement between Egypt and Sudan on 7 May 1929. Four BCM/yr. was allocated to Sudan but the entire timely flow (from January 20 to July 15) and a total annual amount of 48 BCM/yr. was reserved for Egypt . Egypt , as the downstream state, had its interests guaranteed by
Having a claim to the entire timely flow. This meant that any cotton cultivated in Sudan would have to be grown during the winter months.
Having rights to on-site inspectors at the Sennar dam, outside of Egyptian territory.
Being guaranteed that no works would be developed along the river or on any of its territory, which would threaten Egyptian interests.
In accord with this agreement, one dam was built and one reservoir raised, with Egyptian acquiescence.
The Aswan High Dam, with a projected storage capacity of 156 BCM/yr, was proposed in 1952 by the new Egyptian government, but debate over whether it was to be built as a unilateral Egyptian project or as a cooperative project with Sudan kept Sudan out of negotiations until 1954. The negotiations which ensued, and carried out with Sudan's struggle for independence as a back-drop, focused not only on what each country's legitimate allocation would be, but whether the dam was even the most efficient method of harnessing the waters of the Nile.
The first round of negotiations between Egypt and Sudan took place between September and December 1954, even as Sudan was preparing for its independence, scheduled for 1956. The positions of the two sides can be